Sunday, September 21, 2014

Levers to Adjust Risk and Reward - And The Truth Behind Our Biggest Moments

Falling into the best things in life, and falling off into the worst, are both unforeseeable.

The majority of risks we take when we wake up are because of conscious decisions we make to satisfy some desire or need. For example, although driving a car or riding public transportation is risky, we did it because of something else we needed to do or wanted to do. Unless you are homeless, in which case you ride public transportation just to ride it. No, even then, you ride it to get out of the weather.

You can decrease risks like that by simply not driving or riding public transport.

Then you increase the risk of homelessness, however, as you might find it hard to keep a job without going into the office ever.

You can decrease the risk of homelessness by showing up to work every day and doing whatever your boss asks you, even if he asks you to stay late.

But then you increase the risk of poor health and decreased life expectancy (and perhaps, divorce).
You can decrease your health risks by sleeping more and not staying at work past dinner time, but then you increase the risk of being passed over during promotion time.

So, there are all sorts of risks. You have levers for every one of the adjustable risks.

But you have to optimize how much risk you are willing to bear in each category: the risk of being passed over, the risk of poor health, the risk of homelessness, the risk of a failed marriage, the risk of a broken family, the risk of piling debt, the risk of decreased creativity.

How do you optimize?
Easy, silly. Excel Solver.

Once you've done your analytics, of course, you have to act like a manager over your life and implement the decisions. This much sleep, and no less. This much broccoli, and no less. This much bourbon, but no more. This much MTA transit at rush hour, but no more. This much phone calls to mom, and no less.

And then, even then, yes--you will realize that really crappy things happen to your health, and you will be shocked to find that sleeping a lot didn't reduce your cancer risk enough, and that loving your family didn't prevent an untimely death, and that being great at what you do didn't prevent the 2008 economic crisis or your subsequent job loss.

And then, even then, yes--you will discover that wonderful things that you could never have imagined will happen to your friends, family, and even you. People you originally weren't drawn to will draw you into their circles and bless your evenings with knowing looks and warm hugs. Bosses who give no favors will toss you opportunities that all the rules say you shouldn't get, and you will take them and transform into a leader. Even when you budget and refuse to ride taxis, you'll find yourself sharing a taxi with someone that could have been you ten years ago, and find yourself telling her to have the courage you never had, to see the way through, to push open the doors and make a place for herself at the table.

Those are risks and rewards that you have no levers to control. Isn't that what all of these books are written about anyway? Preparing yourself, clearing your slate, living expectantly---so that when moments like those come along, you are ready. For calamity and death, for exaltation and birth. As if it is possible to be prepared for things you think are impossible.

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