Predicting the Future, Part II

January 13, 2010

I love statistics.  I love gathering information, making it understandable, examining how one bit of data relates to another.  I love how it helps me understand where I’ve been, how it illuminates a way forward.

I’ve recently participated in two shooting matches, and my overall score in each of them was pretty similar and it seemed like not much had changed.  But when I looked at the data (my scores on each of the stages, and the order I shot the stages in) I learned two key things:

  • I’m consistently shooting better in the first half of the competition.  Likely, I get tired after that.
  • My scores in 7 of the 8 stages where significantly better the second time – it was one not so good stage that increased my second score significantly so that the overall score was similar to the first time.

Data in hand, I’m now predicting that I’ll continue to improve in the next competition.

But data is not the only basis for prediction.  The first competition was pretty overwhelming; the second one a lot less so.  I talked more with people who knew what they were doing, and I’m learning to recognize where the significant challenges are in each of the stages.  Gaining familiarity and resources makes it easier to be in the feeling of the experience, to align with it.  Even if the second experience had brought no change in performance, I’d be predicting improvement from here just on the basis of establishing relationship to the people and the environment.

But wait!  There’s more!  Getting my gun out of the holster more smoothly, gaining speed in my trigger pull, developing more autonomic body memory of proper position – these are things I’ll be practicing between now and the next match.  And bringing a good lunch to the match (since forgetting to eat may have contributed to poorer scores in the second half).  My intent is to shoot better, and I’m committing actions to making that happen – and therein lies a third basis for prediction.

Data, relationship, action.  Each of these tells us about the past and the present in a manner that helps us prepare for the future.  The mystery is still there, but now we’re dancing with it.

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Predicting the Future

January 8, 2010

My habitual pattern is to drop my car keys on the kitchen counter.  That means it’s a pretty good prediction most days that the kitchen counter is where my car keys will be.

But that’s not true every day.

What if I arrived home last night really really really needing to pee?  The kitchen counter might not have been my first stop.  (Hopefully not, really.)

If I’m not paying attention at that point, those keys might be harder to find today.  But just the thought, “I better put these keys in the kitchen,” (followed by doing so) would restore the pattern, making today’s prediction of keys on counter a pretty darn accurate one.

Alternately, I might arrive home, keys in hand, enter the kitchen and think, “I’m tired of having things strewn on the counter – I need a new system.”  So, I find a basket or a hook or suddenly the potted plant by the door looks like just the right home for them.  Now the prediction of keys on the counter becomes a pretty bad prediction.

Knowing the future relies on these three things:  seeing the pattern that has come before, assessing the degree to which that pattern is in place in the present, and realizing how human awareness is operating in relationship to this pattern – either deliberately restoring a pattern that’s been disrupted, or intentionally instigating a change in pattern.

The future is easy to predict if it’s easy to see the pattern in the past, not much has changed in the present, and there’s little human awareness affecting how this pattern will move forward in the future.  But shift any of those and the future just grows in its mystery.