The Downsides of Being a Mastermind

I’m a plotter.

This is distinct from being a planner, someone who comes up with an executes a plan. No, I’m a plotter, someone who creates plans within plans, working out unlikely contingencies and thinking about how things might go wrong. It’s not simply enough for me to drive to the store to pick up some food, I need to think about the precise time to optimally make the trip, the routes I’ll take at that time, what other things I can do on the way and while there, and in what order those are best accomplished, and what I’ll do if there’s unexpected difficulties– there’s traffic on my route, they’re out of what I want, and so on.

D.W. Frydendall, "Plotting"

D.W. Frydendall, “Plotting”

I’ve described the way I think to other people, and I’ve frequently heard the comment that it sounds “exhausting”. I wouldn’t know– I get agitated and stressed when I’m not thinking multiple steps ahead. When I take someone out to dinner, I’m thinking of what I’m going to wear, where we’re going to go, two backup places in case the place I chose is closed / busy / not to taste, I’ve probably looked at the menu and decided what I’m going to order before I go, put gas in my car, look for parking nearby… and if I don’t do one or some of these things, I’ll worry about them. I don’t get excited about things unless I’m watching all of the pieces fall into place, at which point it’s usually already happening and I’m feeling relief.

I’ve had friends call me a mastermind; it’s certainly what my Myers-Briggs profile uses, and it seems apt. I’m most comfortable when I’m making an effort to predict what’s going to come next. When I don’t adequately plan, I find that things don’t go well. If I plan to go out during the weekend, and I don’t have an explicit idea of where I’m going to go and with whom, I often find myself listlessly sipping a drink, bored and often regretting my choices. Even the places I frequent are places where I know ahead of time will have something for me to enjoy. I’ve found that if I don’t plan and make sure things are going to work out right, I’ll spend a lot of time sitting, bored. When I arrive somewhere, my first instinct is to look around to see who I might want to talk to and start thinking about how to approach them; if I don’t, I’ll wind up just sitting and wondering why I bothered. I’m very rarely surprised, partly because I’ve thought about things well in advance, and partly because if I haven’t, things tend not to happen.

bored-by-charles

As a result, I tend to only get excited when a plan is coming together nicely, when I think something unexpected and good might happen (exceedingly rare), or after I’ve gotten an unexpected, awesome surprise (also very rare). In recent memory, the latter two have only happened once (well, twice, at the same time), and it’s one of my most cherished memories of the past year. As a child, I got so good at guessing my birthday and Christmas presents that my mom simply stopped trying to surprise me, because I could deduce what she was going to get me. My dad has always been able to surprise me; he plays the game better than I do and is able to think further ahead than me, so he’s consistently been able to get me gifts I didn’t realize I wanted. It’s probably where I get it from; he also gets “pleased” that things are going well rather than “excited” that something is happening.

This blog is a conscious attempt for me to break out of my plotting habit. Except for the occasional series, I don’t think ahead to what I might write about before I’m sitting in front of the computer, and even when writing series, I have a vague idea but conscientiously avoid specifics until I’m actually writing. I do one draft and submit, doing only a cursory check for errors (more often editing them out later). It forces me to think on my feet, and write something without mulling over it beforehand.

thinker

In the past year, I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten better at spontaneity, especially when it comes to collecting my thoughts. I’m less worried about breaking from a plan or going off-script, and can adapt better than I was able to before posting regularly. Since moving to a five-day-a-week schedule, this has only gotten more noticeable. I’m forcing myself to think in the moment rather than having everything planned ahead, and it has simultaneously made me calmer about changing situations and more obsessive about making sure my plans are perfect and executed on point.

At this point, it’s undeniable that regular blogging has significantly changed my behavior, and I’m interested to see where else it goes. I still don’t get excited about things, and I still lean heavily towards planning than not, but it’s not at quite the same incorrigible level it used to be.



Source: Digital Initiative
The Downsides of Being a Mastermind

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