If a traffic accident occurs directly in front of you as you barrel at 80 miles an hour, your reflexes and instinct take over to help you slam on the brakes, look in the mirror and maneuver the wheel to (hopefully) avoid being part of the imminent mayhem.

If the same accident happens when you are still five miles away, you have time to
plan one or more alternate routes or to call ahead with an alert that you’ll be delayed.

Both solutions are acceptable, given the circumstance. The action taken in our first scenario relies on quick reactions with virtually no planning. Decisions are automatic. People in similar situations often say, “I didn’t have time to think, I just reacted.”

The second example is altered primarily by having ample time to think. Multiple
solutions were considered and one of many was chosen as the most appropriate. Modern management culture culture praises the quick decision and drums its collective fingers when solutions are delayed by more than a millisecond. Malcolm Gladwell’s BLINK was a best-seller based on the premise that one should learn to trust one’s gut, because choices made in a blink are based on years of experience.

But, we’ve grown comfortable with automatic decisions and snap judgments. Making quick decisions is so much a part of our culture that we need a tool to help slow down our minds so we can actually think.

I’ve found one such tool to be haiku, the ancient Japanese style of poetry with
17 syllables in a strict 5, 7, 5 pattern.

Haiku isn’t difficult to write. The shortness of the verse makes the work go quickly. However, the strict structure of 5, 7, 5 forces you to think-repeatedly-about the various elements involved in the situation at hand. Finding just the right words to fit the format, forces you to think differently about the same thing, over and over.

The pay-off for this minimal effort can be a clearer picture of possible options, and a final decision based on intentional deliberation rather than automatic pilot. Here are two examples I composed while driving 75 miles an hour up the 101 above Ventura:

Budgets are tight, and
We need ideas that will
Move people forward.

We need ideas
That move us forward, even
When budgets are tight.

Writing haiku can become a valuable personal tool and it’s a good group activity
during a particularly intense meeting. Just remember: 5, 7, 5.

Until Next Month –

Jim Seybert

PS – Some more daring souls might want to try their hand at writing limericks and here’s
one I could not resist:

I hear you want fortune and fame,
And everyone else wants the same.
So go to great lengths,
To play from your strengths,
And you’ll have no one to blame.