Daniel Pink replies!

17 06 2008

I’m very glad to tell you that Daniel Pink himself has payed attention to my post about the first rule of Johnny Bunko and taken some of his valuable time to defend it. This is a man I admire very much (a real value adder in reference to the CMW-matrix in my post “Manifesting your dreams, part I”, check it out if you haven’t already!) and it feels quite absurd that I have the nerve to challenge him, but I’m sure that it’s an intellectual exchange that he appreciates very much! Check out the Johnny Bunko blog to read the post in it’s entirety but here’s mainly what he says:

“I actually don’t disagree too vehemently — especially the point that successful people do make instrumental decisions all the time. (Just look at McCain or Obama or any political leader.) But a life governed by instrumentality is a life that I’m convinced will be neither fulfilling in the personal sense nor successful in the material sense.

Do we all make trade-offs? Yep. Do we need to be instrumental occasionally? Damn straight. But when the instrumental reasons come at the strategic level, or when they exist largely because of the absence of fundamental reasons (or the unwillingness to acknowledge them), then I think people end up in a spiritual and professional ditch.”

I wholeheartedly agree with Daniel and what I’m advocating with my disagreement with the “there is no plan-rule” is not at all a Machiavellian lifestyle where instrumentality is the main ingredient. Again, my main disagreement is with the actual distinction between instrumental- and fundamental decisions which seem to support an underlying notion of that instrumental decisions deal with actions that are less valuable than those followed by fundamental decisions.

In his comments to the Daniel Pink post, Bill Bucy perfectly express what I also am trying to say:

“Too often people see instrumentality as a temporary diversion from fulfillment.
For instance, waiting to become a free agent until the kids leave home or the car is paid off is instrumentality gone wrong. Staying in a corporate job for an extra six months to build up savings prior to becoming a free agent is instrumentality applied to fulfillment.”

Something you do out of an instrumental decision can also be very valuable and fulfilling, for example going to college (x) in order to get a good job (y) when you’re done.

However, on a deeper level my point is that successful people use instrumentality within an area of their lives that they are entirely commited to and that is inherently and fundamentally valuable to them. That’s why I’m not fond of a separation that somehow see’s instrumental decisions subordinate to fundamental decisions, since all instrumental decisions are made in the name of the fundamental value that they are so commited to.

I would rather use a separation between primary and progressive decisions, where primary decisions are those concerning your area of fundamental value (what it is that you care about the most) and where progressive decisions concern improving and expanding this area.

I made some figures to try to better illustrate what I mean.


Fundamental or Primary decisions are those concerning your “arena of fundamental value”, it’s your arena of total commitment. They are called “primary” decisions only because they’re made before progressive or instrumental decisions. To Donald Trump, for example, Real Estate would be the arena of fundamental value.


Progressive decisions are those made within the arena of fundamental value with the aim of improving, expanding, contributing more and increasing ones value within this arena.

Come to think about it, Daniel Pink writes something in his reply that reflects a similarity of our views: 

“…when the instrumental reasons come at the strategic level, or when they exist largely because of the absence of fundamental reasons (or the unwillingness to acknowledge them), then I think people end up in a spiritual and professional ditch.”

The key words being “absence of fundamental reasons” because that is something I’m strongly deflecting from as well. Like I stated in the beginning of this post I’m not advocating a lifestyle with instrumentality as the main ingredient. 

To sum up, my disagreement with the “there is no plan-rule” is the distinction between instrumental and fundamental decisions and the sense that instrumental decisions deal with somehow less valuable actions.

Daniel mentions Senator Obama, let’s use him as an example to better illustrate my point (be sure to relate back to the figures above when reading the following). His arena of fundamental value is Politics (or one can perhaps even say that it is The United States) so his fundamental (or primary, in my preferred term) decision was to enter politics in the first place, running for President can also be classified as another fundamental decision. Instrumental decisions (or progressive in my preferred term) are those who aimed to getting him into politics, and now, it is those decisions aiming to make him the next President of The United States of America. So in a nutshell, my notion is that since he is absolutely sure that he would be the best President for this country, he will do whatever it takes (instrumentally) to become President, those instrumental decisions are hence extremely attached to the fundamental decision and should not be separated from it, let alone as something of less value… 


JOIN THE DEBATE!!! (Here or at the Johnny Bunko blog)  What do YOU think? 







2 responses

18 06 2008

Hi Leo, I like what you have set out to do on your blog and think that you put forward some strong arguments on this topic too.

After reading your Presidential analogy at the end of this post it made me think that there must be plenty of us who would like to learn more from Barack about the fundamental decision making that made him as you say “absolutely sure” that he would be the best President for the USA.

Keep up the great writing and good luck with the blog!

18 06 2008

Hi Diamondpg! THANK YOU for your kind words and for being the FIRST commentator on this blog! You win the LC Blog first commentator award! It’s invisible and doesn’t weigh anything…but it’s still a very honorable decoration 🙂

I agree with you, that would be very interesting indeed! But I must emphasize that I only used Barack Obama as an example, I’m sure John McCain is just as sure that HE would be the best President for the USA and thus his instrumentality is also tied to the value of his fundamental decision…

Thanks again!


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