Coastline paradox

Problem-solving, geography

You'd think it would be easy to define the length of a coastline of any given country. Just look at the map and measure the length of the coast, right?

Turns out, it is notoriously difficult to measure this. The closer you look, the longer the coastline.

The coastline paradox - Sketchplanations
Image: Sketchplanations

At what point do you stop zooming in? The problem is fractal!

Many problems in personal life or business possess a similar quality. Seemingly straightforward at first, but increasing in complexity the more you look at it. For example, say you want to be healthier. How should you exercise? How often and when? Should you take supplements or vitamins? What is best for your unique body composition or genetic tendencies? Or if you want to write content online, you can research all the keywords, best website builders, headline formulas, writing advice from gurus, note-taking approaches and tools... until the point where you spend 5% of your time writing and 95% zooming in on the problem!

Suddenly you're overwhelmed and won't even start.

The solution? Just go for a decent ballpark - the 80% solution - and stop overanalyzing. In the health example, just sleep more, move more, eat better, and forget about the small stuff. Don't get sucked into the fractal.

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