Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Are You Prudent?

Mariners speak of prudence all the time. What would the prudent mariner do? We criticize poor judgement when we say "he failed to do the prudent thing." This week, David Brooks of the NYT wrote a column about politics - completely unrelated to anything maritime. But he wrote two paragraphs defining prudence that are so concise and elegant that they deserve to be repeated here for all the prudent mariners reading RedRightReturning.

What is prudence? It is the ability to grasp the unique pattern of a specific situation. It is the ability to absorb the vast flow of information and still discern the essential current of events — the things that go together and the things that will never go together. It is the ability to engage in complex deliberations and feel which arguments have the most weight.

How is prudence acquired? Through experience. The prudent leader possesses a repertoire of events, through personal involvement or the study of history, and can apply those models to current circumstances to judge what is important and what is not, who can be persuaded and who can’t, what has worked and what hasn’t.

"It is the ability to grasp the unique pattern of a specific situation." That sentence sums it up beautifully, doesn't it? To recognize that something is different; either in what you expected, or that the event is outside your previous experience. I like that he connects the unique pattern to a specific situation. The prudent mariner must evaluate every situation on its own, and resist the tendency to be complacent when things get too familiar.

[read the entire column here] warning - this op/ed piece is decidedly and pointedly political and may cause some fans of RRR distress.