Will it Stand the Storm?
The world is a fucking crazy place. Any one day or conversation could sway an entire life one way or the other. Accidents happen. Serendipity happens. Chatting with someone about your interests and theirs could lead you into a totally different field. The amount of our lives that are determined by chance is staggering.
I’m lucky to have been born into a family that values education. I’m lucky to have been born into a middle class family, and I’m lucky as fuck to have been born in the US (a country filled with a fuck-ton of abundance).
There are three different ways to respond to the amount of chance that plays into our lives – four if you count totally ignoring it.
First, there’s pessimism. There’s a ton of chance and luck in life, and it’s all working against me. Why even bother hoping for success – it won’t happen anyways.
On the other side of the spectrum is optimism. There’s a ton of chance and luck in life, and it’ll work out perfectly. Life won’t be just ok, that shit’s gonna be great!
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Smack in between optimism and pessimism is realism. There’s a ton of chance and luck in life? Cool. Let it do its thing.
Now, both extremes are a bit too over the top for my taste, but like I said – find what works for you.
Personally, I’m an optimistic realist. Now, you’re probably thinking something like, “Ben, you’re full of shit. What the fuck does that mean?”
I’m an optimist. There’s a fuck ton of chance and luck involved in life, but there’s even more abundance and opportunity in the world. I could worry about all of the things that could go wrong, but what good would that do? Instead, I choose to focus on all of the good things that can happen and the flexibility that I can deploy if shit hits the fan. I know things will work out well, and I’m confident that I can thrive no matter what happens.
I’m also a realist. I know there’s a fuck ton of luck and chance involved in life, and there’s no use in ignoring it. There’s a 400 trillion to 1 chance of even existing, and that doesn’t even consider the chances of being born into the life I was. There’s a fuck ton of risk in life, and I’m not going to ignore it. I won’t pretend it isn’t there. I’ll look that risk in the eye and give it a crisp high-five. It’s just a part of life.
What does being an optimistic realist look like?
In high school, I took a physics class that was largely project based. Our good friend Murphy liked to visit in the days leading up to the project days and ESPECIALLY on the project days themselves.
You know Murphy, right?
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Murphy could appear at any moment and wreak havoc on those poor students.
I had a ton of fun building the projects and limiting the places where Murphy could sucker-punch my grade. That wasn’t enough for me, though.
Each project day, I brought in a full Project Repair Kit. I brought a replacement for every piece of the project that I could, and you better believe I also brought the tools to fix that shit. I regularly commandeered my dad’s drill, my mom’s hot glue gun, and my brother’s cup of coffee (don’t judge, I was up late finishing it).
Prepare for the worst case. I know it most likely won’t come, but I want to be ready for when it does.
I don’t fear Murphy. I respect him. He’s playing his part, and I’ll find a way to work with whatever I have.
I don’t fear luck and chance. I know they’re both a part of life, and I believe they’ll play out to my advantage. If not, I’m not worried. I’ll be ready.
My goal is to build things that are resilient. To do so, I need to be aware of the relevant risks and have a plan for when shit hits the fan.
I can’t remember where I originally heard it, but I create with this question in mind:
Will it stand the storm?
When the winds are howling and the ground is quaking, will it stand? Will it withstand the 10, 25, and 100 year storms that will inevitably rage?
If I’m going to build it: fuck yeah.