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More than 2500 years ago the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus stated that the “only thing that is constant is change.” Even though change might be constant it is rarely unfolds in a straight line.  A ‘slow, fast, slow’ model that outlines the trajectory of change and describes a vast range of natural and historical phenomenon is the Sigmoid Curve (S-fxn).  120818_stacked_s-curves-thumb-600x358-2254.jpg Stephen J. Gould’s description of evolution in the form of punctuated equilibrium, Joseph Schumpeter’s creative destruction, and Thomas Kuhn’s paradigm shifts in science can all be explained by S-curves. The S-fxn is intimately related to the Gaussian curve via a differential. The “slow, fast, slow” of the sigmoid curve becomes the “low, high, low” of the bell curve.  The universe is filled with S-curves, however, the nature of the relationship makes them mostly invisible to us.  They are more surprising the longer we have been waiting for it, and maximally surprising, right before they happen.

On a personal level, learning, skill building, expertise development all follow the S curve – slow, fast, slow. We grind along the initial ‘slow phase’ utilizing the following framework:

  1. Setting clear, well-defined goals that are sufficiently challenging but also realistic and attainable
  2. Developing a plan to achieve the goal and become immersed in the activity to achieve the goal.
  3. Constantly measuring progress with appropriate metrics and readjusting the goal when milestones are met.
  4. Sustaining involvement by wholeheartedly committing to the goal and concentrating on the task. It is the depth of involvement in the activity that will remove distractions and keep the involvement sustainable.

In French, the verb essayer means to try, to attempt, to embark upon. I hope to use these essays for personal growth in search of the mysterious in-betweenness and symmetries of phase transitions. As the historian, Will Durant so eloquently stated, “the only real revolution is in the enlightenment of the mind and the improvement of character, the only real emancipation is individual.”

 

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