Definition of Insanity

I absolutely hate the following quote, and I have been seeing it all over the place lately for some reason in relation to guild’s learning how to kill internet dragons:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results

It regularly gets attributed to Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, Samuel Clemens (see wut I did there?), etc…  The most credible source according to my 3 minutes of internet research seems to be Rita Mae Brown Imagine what the world would be like if average people were to harness the power of the internet for verifying things before continuing to spread them…

I find it especially annoying when I see people using this quote when dispensing advice about leading raids and figuring out how to slay internet dragons as an organized group activity.

Wait... didn't Mario end up rescuing the Princess because he kept "doing the same thing?"

The obvious contradiction to the “wisdom” of this quote should reveal itself to anyone that tries to apply it to anything remotely challenging that requires some degree of practice to get any good at. I used to be a fairly avid golfer once upon a time, and I couldn’t possibly count how many golf balls I have hit at the driving range. Trying my damnedest to do the exact same thing over and over again trying to train my muscles to do what I wanted them to be doing and generally failing to meet my expectations every time.  Expectations which of course were the exact same hopeful outcome of a perfectly straight shot with just the right loft and spin that every golfer in the world is chasing. Now while we could debate whether or not every golfer is also insane… I promise you, their insanity has nothing to do with their repetition of the same action without any adjustment in their expected outcome.

I have a short analogy to describe what I have seen far too many raid leaders use to “figure out the proper strategy for their guild.”  Imagine if you will that you are your raid, and the task at hand (a.k.a. “the boss”) is to balance a pen/pencil on the end of your finger for 5 seconds. I am going to guess that the majority of us cannot do this. I just tried, not even close.

Let’s examine the basic strategy I used to attempt this task.  With the index finger of my right hand outstretched, I used my left hand to attempt to balance my pen before releasing it, hoping that it would stay balanced on the fingertip.

The fact that after 5 unsuccessful attempts MUST mean that I am doing something wrong right?  Perhaps I should try a different writing utensil, I have a whole jar of them here on my desk.  Should I try each one 5 times?  If after trying all 30 (pseudo-random number generated using my brain, which means it is not at all random) writing utensils 5 times, I still have yet to accomplish my task, something else MUST clearly be wrong with my approach right?

What if I try a different finger?  Should I try each of my writing utensils on each finger 5 times, just to make sure I don’t overlook the one perfect combination?1?1 sounds like a solid plan to me!

So after trying 30 pens, 5 times each on my index finger, 30 pens, 5 times each on my middle finger, 30 pens, 5 times each on my ring finger, and 30 pens 5 times each on my pinky finger without success I began to despair! I was an utter failure and MUST be using the wrong “strategy” to accomplish this task…  A HA!!  My THUMB!!!

Progression Raiding, 95% wiping to dumb stuff, 5% total awesomeness

After 23 different pens, 5 times each, I finally found the exact right “strategy” to complete this task.  The blue Bic pen that no longer writes and looks like someone tried to chew through balanced on my thumb will stay upright for an average of 5.5 seconds 3 out of every 5 attempts.  Forever after, I will carry this exact pen around because I have conclusively proven that in order to complete this task I must be using this exact pen, balanced upon my thumb!  Imagine how awesome it would have been if I had only tried this exact pen/finger combination right off the bat, it would have saved me a couple of hours sitting here failing to balance crap on my finger…

 

The Moral of the Story:

  • My eventual success had nothing to do with some magic combination of variables, it had to do with the fact that I spent 4 hours and 715 attempts to balance something on my finger.
  • Which do you think is likely easier to balance? An unsharpened pencil on your index finger, or an obscenely chewed pen on your thumb? Perhaps it would have only taken 500 attempts had I only stuck with the original setup and didn’t change pens/fingers every few attempts.

When your group is learning a boss fight for the first time, you need to exercise some patience and give everyone in your raid enough time to actually learn the strategy that you are attempting BEFORE you make any kind of significant changes.  Depending on the skill level of your weakest raider, this could easily be 50-200 attempts for some of the more complex encounters.

You need to decide as a leader, and your guild needs to decide as a group, whether you are going to invest the time and energy to help each other get better, or start replacing anyone who gets identified as the weakest link.  Changing the basic strategy every 2-5 attempts under the misguided impression that there must be some sort of perfect strategy tailored to your individual group and you just need to keep switching things up until you find it though is my definition of insanity.

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