in Theories

The Picard Principle

Some journeys simply have to go the long way around.

Sometimes you have to experience being very different people in order to mature into who you will one day become.

I dub this the Picard Principle in honour of the Star Trek captain played by the impressive Patrick Stewart, and specifically the episdoe Tapestry that explores Picard’s back story. Ignoring the actual plot, the major theme of the episdoe is that Picard has not always been the man he is now. The cool, diplomatic, perspicacious and even wise captain was once an emotionally reckless, impulsive and even violent younger man.

But it’s not just about the fact that people change. The theme goes deeper: that Picard could never have matured into the level-headed, successful leader he did without having fully tested his limits when he was younger.

This theme impacted me a lot when I watched the episode as a teenager. I’d struggled a lot trying to resolve my love of adventure with a belief that harmony and balance were ideal life goals. Watching the story unfold helped me to realize that not only was it OK for me to not yet be the person I wanted to become: it might be necessary.

The Picard Principle is most obvious when people fail to understand it, and try to emulate the end result without understanding the process that’s involved.┬áMany times I’ve seen people try really hard to emulate one successful entrepreneur, and after failing, abandon the idea of business altogether. It’s because they missed the point. Jumping to success in your first business doesn’t make you a great entrepreneur: it’s the process of failure, recovery, learning, and success through change that hones great business leaders. Never take business advice from someone who hasn’t had significant failures.

You can see it in snowboarding, too: beginners want to rocket down the slopes like pros, never falling, but falling is an inescapable requirement of the learning process on a snowboard. If you seek never to fall, you will also stay at the top of the slope all day.

I see this especially when I teach swing dancing. It’s great to be focused on what inspires you in the dancing, but sometimes that focus moves people to try a linear A-to-B learning path that simply doesn’t work. In particular, where the Picard Principle applies is when people have a goal of smoothness. Smoothness is great, but ironically it’s often best learned by pushing the limits of the dance, because pushing is what teaches you where effort is needed and where it’s not. Skipping the stage of limit-testing tends to lead to wishy-washy, watered-down movement and ineffective partner connection.


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