What the FBI vs. Apple Case Can Teach Us About Goal Achievement

By: Martin Grunburg

Chances are good you know of the recent controversy regarding the FBI’s demand that Apple help the agency crack the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. The FBI also wanted Apple to provide backdoor access for future iPhone models and iOS iterations. Apple quickly recognized that complying with such an order would set a dangerous precedent. So, instead of complying, Apple wrote this letter.

However, this post isn’t so much about the FBI vs. Apple situation as much as how it seems almost everyone loves a good controversy — and, better yet, digging in their heels and choosing sides!

Twitter and Facebook blew up! The “Ban APPLE” tweets were rampant, accusing the tech giant of somehow deliberately aiding terrorists. On the other side, many liberal and mostly anti-government people dug in their heels: KEEP THE GOVERNMENT OUT!!!

It was an intense standstill that appeared likely to be headed to the Supreme Court. And, with the amount of cash Apple has in reserves these days, I’m not sure this would have gone well for the government. Read this

During all the drama, though, there were a few people — a select handful — who wondered, “Isn’t there another alternative?” Couldn’t a third party hack the phone (which was the issue at hand)? Was there not some middle and common ground where BOTH sides could save face, protect their highest interests (security and privacy) and still win?

I’ve written extensively about this idea in The Pressure Paradox: how our (Western) society and our upbringing has thoroughly ingrained an “us-vs.-them,” “right-vs.-wrong” mentality — as though every instance or controversy can be stuffed in a box and labeled “Winner” and “Loser.”

It’s a bit precarious to live with such a dichotomous nature all the time, a nature that reinforces simple, black-and-white thinking. This type of thought process ignores the thousands of shades of grey that are likely to exist in any situation. In my earlier days as a business owner, part of the counsel I gave to employees who exhibited this line of thinking was to offer a simple question: “How many Supreme Court justices are there?” The point is that if any situation were truly black and white, we’d just need one judge.

Dichotomous thinking is really a sign of poor critical thinking. One of my favorite quotes on the subject is from the great Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard: “If you take away paradox from the thinker, you have a professor.”

And, before I receive hate mail from the teachers and professors, please know, I love professors! Hold on to that email ; ).

A true THINKER in the Apple vs. FBI case is NOT likely to take sides,  to not see a black-and-white issue — to appreciate the complexity and seek the third option.

Recently, I saw this terrific NOVA episode titled “The Great Math Mystery.” At its core was the simple premise and question, “Is math invented, discovered or both?”

The answer, it turns out, proves to be (drum-roll) BOTH.

And now we can bring this home…

When it comes to goal achievement, it’s both efficient and effective to keep an open mind. To be rigid and to be flexible. To move quickly and to move slowly. To seek one answer and then an alternative, and of course another.

Are goals good or bad? Well, they could be both. Are habits good or bad? I’ll let you take that one.

And here is the great paradox of my favorite subject, HABIT (particularly as it applies to goal achievement): The idea that a “mindless” behavior — a habit — can be crafted mindfully and intentionally to serve our highest and most important goals. That may require a re-read ; )

We hear “experts” in achievement and “success” all the time tell us that MINDFULNESS is the key to a great life and happiness. But, where does that leave room for habit? I once had a very popular speaker and author tell me he didn’t believe in habits. Consider that for a moment. Of course, what he was trying to emphasize is that he wanted to be mindful all the time. 

To think that we must be mindful all the time is extremely dichotomous and, unfortunately, impossible. Not even the Dali Lama is mindful all the time. In fact, strap on your seat belt: His meditation practice is (you guessed it) a HABIT.

Until next time, embrace the duality and the oneness of it all ; )

~mg

 

 

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