Today and Tomorrow
Many nights, I am dissatisfied when I reflect back upon my day. Some days, I lack motivation and don’t do much. Some days, I do a lot, but none of it is worth keeping. Some days, my work is unfairly judged. Some days, it is unnoticed altogether.
In Fooled by Randomness, Nassim Taleb looks at our ability to evaluate life. One of the tools he advocates is considering alternative histories:
One can illustrate the strange concept of alternative histories as follows. Imagine an eccentric (and bored) tycoon offering you $10 million to play Russian roulette, i.e., to put a revolver containing one bullet in the six available chambers to your head and pull the trigger. Each realization would count as one history, for a total of six possible histories of equal probabilities. Five out of these six histories would lead to enrichment; one would lead to a statistic, that is, an obituary with an embarrassing (but certainly original) cause of death. The problem is that only one of the histories is observed in reality; and the winner of $10 million would elicit the admiration and praise of some fatuous journalist (the very same ones who unconditionally admire the Forbes 500 billionaires).
…[I]n time, if the roulette-betting fool keeps playing the game, the bad histories will tend to catch up with him. Thus, if a twenty-five-year-old played Russian roulette, say, once a year, there would be a very slim possibility of his surviving until his fiftieth birthday—-but, if there are enough players, say thousands of twenty-five-year-old players, we can expect to see a handful of (extremely rich) survivors (and a very large cemetery).
Are the handful of extremely rich survivors any wiser than the thousands in the ground? Certainly not.
Are we looking at a grave or the cemetary when considering day’s work? Are we even looking at the right thing?
Once upon a time, Alice sought help from the Cheshire Cat at a crossroads:
…‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t much care where—’ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
It doesn’t matter which road we take when we don’t know where we are going. It doesn’t matter what we do when we don’t know who we are.
Back to my nightly reflections…Did today’s work align with who I am?
Yes? Good. There’s always tomorrow.
No? Good. There’s always tomorrow.