Investing in the Unknown

Our society has morphed from one founded entirely on the unknown to one where we seek out guarantees for everything. It is my personal opinion that as a result of the enormous bounty this country enjoys, our ability to absorb certain losses has resulted in a gradual policy drift from ensuring baseline societal needs are addressed to fervent pledges that each and every harmful impact will be fully remedied, so no harm done. I won’t burden you with my theories as to why I think this is, but I am setting out my premise as the start for this post.

We want assurances that “someone” is going to make us “whole” should we suffer any loss. And my definition of “we” runs the gamut from individuals to political parties to our entire system of government. But, the fact of the matter is this life doesn’t come with any guarantees other than death. We all know we’re gonna die. Other than that, we don’t know. We don’t know what direction our lives will turn and we don’t know all the impacts which may follow from certain choices or actions. We can guess, but we can’t truly be sure. For those of us who like to believe we have control over our lives, this is an especially problematic thesis.

As Re-booters, we’re aware that certain parts of our lives aren’t working for us, for a whole host of reasons—some of which we understand and some of which we don’t. The way forward to a more personally integrated and satisfactory life is unclear. What makes it worse is that we feel caught between continuing to lead our lives in the dysfunctional manner that we know isn’t right for us (but at least we know what to expect) versus striking out in a new direction which has no promise of success. What holds so many back is the lack of a guarantee that some “new way” is going to work. And the stakes only get higher the more invested we feel in our familiar but deeply flawed current model.

In order to find what works, we must be willing to try strategies that may fail.

Yuck, even reading these words makes me shudder. So this is when I call upon my best, most optimistic and creative self to take the lead in this debate. We can scare ourselves silly with tales of despair and epic failure. Chronic joblessness and the lethargic economy have inflicted suffering on so many in this country; it’s understandable that there’s an atmosphere of fear and loathing to taking a risk. But, here’s when it’s most important to call upon our smartest, most resilient self. Even if you give Plan B your best shot and it falls short, the next move is Plan C, enhanced with the knowledge that previous failures haven’t killed you.

So far, I’ve employed the quotidian example of employment, but let’s apply this line of reasoning to other arenas of our lives. For instance, there’s no assurance that a second (or third) marriage is going to work, so why pledge your troth at all? Since the economy is a mess and employers can get away with murder, why invest your time and savings to return to school to study something that interests you? Why, after building a reputation for painting landscapes, would you abandon it in order to create abstract pieces? With so much competition to produce new sources of energy—by people far better connected and funded than you—are you really going to spend the next umpteen months trying to make this work while putting the rest of your life on hold? You do it because you believe in yourself and your efforts enough to take that risk.

In my life, what I’ve learned is that failure has given me several things: the knowledge that I can survive it; greater understanding of what went wrong so the next strategy I try will be informed by this experience; and, most importantly, maybe what seems and feels like a botched effort isn’t all that terrible. I’m coming to learn that I need to make peace with a certain amount of failure and remain unbowed by it in order to find that shining moment I seek. Repeat after me: failure is a necessary part of the process.

The difference between Re-booters and the rest of the world is that we’re desperate enough and imaginative enough to seek out a different way to live our lives, to freshen our attitudes and revise our perspectives. So, we invest our time, our resources, our pride, and ourselves in something that has no guarantee of succeeding. Look at me. Here I am struggling, struggling, struggling to rebuild a life and a career and I still don’t know if I’m going to make it. All this time, effort, and moving across the country may be for naught, but what I do know is this: I had to escape a situation that was bad for me, and while I don’t know how things will resolve themselves, I firmly believe that I’m way better off now (even with all these unknowns) than I was before. Maybe the stars will align and I’ll have my moment of triumph, but for now, I’m investing in new things currently available for me to try. Things like this blog, which you so graciously read. Things like redefining expectations and repairing important relationships—including that with myself. I don’t know what’s going to happen next or what door may open, but I’ll give it a shot. I hope the same for you as you consider new directions in your life.

What I’m rambling on about is how important it is both to take risks—risks that involve significant costs and consequences for us—and still be ok if and when they fail. Keep in mind: a whole host of fantastic discoveries reveal themselves through experiments gone wrong. You know this already, I know. But, it’s a far cry to understand something in theory than it is to apply it to your own life, when you are the one who may fall flat on your face. There’s no way to move forward in life if you are unwilling to try and fail.

Here is a link to an 8 minute video that may inspire you (I peripherally helped work on this project). The researchers profiled investigated topics that most would assume was a complete and utter waste of taxpayer dollars—things like studying lizard venom or playing fantasy games of matching up potential spouses. There was no guarantee of practical applications.


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2 Responses to “Investing in the Unknown”

  1. Jim Patterson Says:


  2. grasshopper Says:

    Great blog! And cool video….

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