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Retrospectives and Flukes

@Morganhousel wrote a fantastic post yesterday outlining how each person’s trajectory is riddled with ‘flukes’. Humanity constantly evolves from a quagmire of possibilities and there’s very little merit in looking in retrospect. I think the likelihood of a successful forecast can only be enhanced if we work with the factors in the present – not the past, not the future. The past is barely helpful and you’d rather not rely on those from the future. (Odd I say that after all those years I spent churning numbers as an actuarial analyst.) Ultimately what trumps is that humans find it really hard to delineate emotions from decision making. As much as you’d like to disagree, you see it in every realm – Medicine, Finance, Sports, Academics, Health just to name a few.

In 2016, we had a fascinating close call on I-15 S while heading towards New Haven. (Fascinating because, I learnt it the hard way and everyone who drives a car and has a floor-mat should be aware of this.) Accidents tend to give you that moment for retrospect and back then I jotted something similar to the thoughts I have today:

The proverbial – ‘Everything happens for a reason’ is just not true. I believe the human brain does a wonderful job in assigning a reason to the cause and quite conveniently this is always subtly and retrospectively done. In its quest to find reason, it ends up triggering neural connections that emotionally and logically seem reasonable. So when and how do we draw the line while making choices and how do you substantiate the choices you’ve made? Or is the whole premise that as a logical and emotional machine you’re feeding good and bad data (choices) as a stimulus to train the body to better react to unforeseeable situations in the future?

I’ve taken quite some risky shifts in my career over the last decade. Most driven by what I felt at that very moment – Gut instinct. Absolutely none that I regret. And most have been very rewarding. So when it comes to making a choice at that critical moment, I try and keep retrospectives at bay. Every once in a while, I do catch myself careening from this golden rule. That’s when I take a good pause, stop connecting the dots and look at just that isolated dot at that moment. It’s worked wonders before and I trust that streak to continue. Irony being, my previous statement moots everything I said before! What can I say, we’re a good bunch of optimistic morons.

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