Thursday, September 13, 2007
Someone, I don't remember who, out here on the blogospheric plane rec'd the book "The Black Swan", which I picked up recently and have begun - very slowly - to make my way through.
Like many books I've read (the Fountainhead, Blink, Hey Whipple... etc.) it has caused me to pause and reflect. For a moment.
Lives have definitive moments. Cultures and generations have definitive moments. Definitive not because they encapsulate what's going on in our lives at that time, but rather because they are an unforseeable interruption in a seemingly forseeable future.
Every day I will (hopefully) wake up. I will (hopefully) go to work. I will(hopefully) do my job well enough to (hopefully) continue to make all my loan payments and (hopefully) eat a barbecue sandwich for lunch before (hopefully) heading home for soccer practice and (hopefully) a cold beer from my (hopefully) still-functioning refrigerator. And I have insurance for most of those contingencies, but I will (hopefully) never need any of it.
I like this part of my life. I like predictable. I have investments that I'd like to see returning at 8 percent or better. I have loans that will be paid off in less than thirty years. I'm banking on them.
There are predictable unpredictables:
My family, for instance, seems to surprise me daily. A four-year-old helps you think about things you haven't thought about since you were four. "Why is Darth Vader bad?" I haven't thought about it since 1977. It was just kind of assumed he was bad because he was dressed in black and sounded like an asthma attack in a drainage pipe.
My wife helps me think about things other than, well, me. And my four year old. In a good way.
My job is to simulate unforseen interruptions in a (hopefully) somewhat predictable way. "Holy SHIT! This laundry detergent will CHANGE MY LIFE!" etc. Ironically, I'm working on a TV campaign that aims to "break through the clutter" while "copy-testing effectively." I'm expected to deliver creative that will break new ground for clients' businesses with forecasted results. If we deliver (or, better yet, overdeliver) within this matrix, we have done our job. As predictably as possible.
And yet, in doing so, as unremarkably as possible. Unremarkable would be good. Steady growth would be good. Everyone keeps their job with steady growth. Not rocking the boat would be good. Easy would be good. Can we all make a lot of money and go home at the end of the day with as many friends and as few agitated aneurysms as possible? That'd be great.
But it never happens that way.
Steady is a sitting duck. People can see steady coming. And outmanuever it. Smart people (and good chess players) see cruise control and look for where the opportunities will be. Where the mistakes WILL happen. Cruise control is a good way to get passed. Or forget you're driving at all.
As we reflect on September 11, Black Swan that it was, we shouldn't be hoping that thing will "return to normal". Embrace the fact that "nothing will every be the same." And take comfort in it.
Cruise Control is death.