From Form to Function: How To Think Your Way to Clarity
Level 5: Master Player
Ever feel like you SHOULD use or do a particular thing?
As a copywriter, I'm supposed to do things a certain way. I'm supposed to do certain things with calls to action. I'm supposed to structure all my copy in a particular way to get a particular person to take a particular action.
When I was in my 20s, I thought I was supposed to get into a serious relationship and work hard to stay with that person.
The other day, I found myself yet again procrastinating on securing the loose toilet seat because I didn't have the proper tool in the bathroom. My wife got tired of it, leaned over, and tightened the fastener with her hands.
5 years ago I got really into regular weight lifting, and got into the best shape I've ever been in my adult life. I let the pandemic tear that all down (maybe that’s just my excuse), and now life is completely different - I'm married and have kids. But I've been spending time trying to make that same fitness routine work because I thought that's what I really needed to do, that’s the thing that’s always worked.
Sometimes it's a small thing. Delaying fixing a loose screw because I need to go find a screwdriver or buy one at the store.
Other times it's your entire life. It's spending 7 years in a relationship that was terrible because I thought that's what I was supposed to be doing.
That's a focus on the THINGS.
The discussion of Function vs Form comes up frequently in the Guardian Academy, because as humans we so easily get stuck on the form, and fail to serve the function.
And even though we may be aware of this dichotomy, we are still confronted with the challenge of figuring it all out. This is made all the more difficult when we believe we’re doing what we need to do, when we believe “The Form” we’ve chosen is correct (or we may believe a form we’ve chosen is actually a function).
How do you figure out deep challenging personal questions when it feels like THE FORM is a critical part of the picture?
What if you run a business, and you feel like you have to keep running that business no matter what? But it's really hard. You can't make all the pieces work. But you keep pushing because you can't give up the business without giving up what you want in life.
Or a relationship. You feel like you have to keep this relationship going because that's what you want in life, even if it's going really poorly and you aren't happy.
These are hard discussions.
Because maybe those things, maybe those forms ARE important. Maybe they really ARE the forms you need.
How do you think through it all to make sure you are serving The Function in the best way possible?
What are we really trying to solve?
I think no matter what, it's always useful to ask yourself "what am I really trying to solve?" Or put another way, "what do I really want?"
Without knowing the answer to that question, you are - as we like to say - trying to get Google Maps to give you directions without putting in an end destination.
(Furthermore, you also run into problems if you don't know where you're starting from, but we're about to explore that).
Does everything come down to "Solvable Problem?"
Well ... if you're trying to figure out what to do, then I think yes. That's why I wrote about The Solvable Problem for Life1. It's not just about making money. It's about getting what you want in life. And to get what you want in life, you must know what you want, where you are, and then you can make moves which get you closer.
(If none of that really made sense, go read about The Solvable Problem2)
Knowing what we are trying to solve and where we are now helps us make the move that gets us closer, faster, and with the least amount of risk.
Nail stuck in a wall - Do I need to go find or buy a hammer? Or could I just walk into the next room, grab a butter knife and leverage the nail out in 30 seconds?
We go back to that kind of story often because most people look at a problem and START their problem solving with "what's the right tool to do this?" So it looks like "nail stuck in a wall? well I need a hammer now."
Ok? That's where we're at.
Where we want to be is making clearer, more useful decisions which get us closer to what we want, with minimal risk and maximum options.
A New Framework for Thinking
What happens if the solution to your problem LOOKS like a FORM?
What happens if you keep thinking "BUT I REALLY BELIEVE I NEED THIS HAMMER!"
Or to take an example from A Guardian on a recent Guardian Call3
He found himself working in a store which employs autistic adults. He very much enjoys the work and it allows his gifts to shine.
But he was questioning ... is this where I really want to be? Is this the right thing I want to be doing? Do I want my own store? Do I want to work with autistic people?
All great questions to ask.
I've been there myself with email marketing. I transitioned from my own business to working as an email copywriter with other businesses for a few years. I knew there were aspects about what I was doing which fit my gifts very well, but I also knew I needed to do something a bit different.
How do you figure this out when there are parts of, or even all of a FORM which makes so much sense for your own game?
Ascend your thinking to get your thoughts closer aligned
The framework of thinking I'm going to give will allow you to validate the FORM you believe in, but in a way which will help you see the FUNCTION that the FORM is serving, such that you can make a clearer decisions about whether you want to use that form, or whether another form will be more in alignment with Your Game.
Let me make that a little clearer.
Think owning a coffee shop is what you must need and have to do?
I'm going to show you how to think about that problem in such a way that you can uncover the function that coffee shop serves for you and your solvable problem - and then you'll be able to answer clearly if you really want to be making that move.
This is ultimately an exercise in moving up and down "The Clarity Compass." This is a concept developed by Lukas Resheske, which I've elaborated on several times as it's a highly useful framework for several things, including:
- evaluating decision making
- clarifying your next best step