I like the Bell Curve. It's one of those universal principles that can be applied in millions of different ways throughout your life to help make sense of things. Along with the bell curve, I think there's another graph we should all internalize and use to understand life: the jagged upwards line.
Just as the Bell Curve describes distributions, the jagged upwards line describes forward progress. And just as the standard deviation can vary in width and amplitude, the jagged upwards line varies in it's jaggedness and its slope.
When we imagine our path to reach a goal, we see a non-jagged line, gently sloping up and to the right, showing how as we move step by step, we'll get closer and closer to our goal. But that's not how things really work. What happens when we actually start working towards our goal and we hit a setback? We decide we must not be on that smooth straight line afterwards, and we get discouraged. Sometimes we give up.
It's important to understand that progress always happens on a jagged line, and that to get to your goal you must follow that line. That means that you must endure setbacks, and you must temper yourself during those short but ephemeral bursts upwards. You must remain steady, because your path is anything but steady.
My poker winnings follow the jagged upwards curve. On those days where I make a thousand dollars in an hour, I have to remind myself that they players aren't that bad, and I'm not that good. I'm just on my path, and it bursts upwards sometimes. A couple months ago I sat down at a table and lost $750 in less than an hour and a half. I didn't quit and I didn't get upset, though, because I knew that the dip was just part of my path.
More abstract pursuits in life follow the jagged upward line. If you approach one hundred girls in the course of a few months, the first one may go better than the last one, but the last ten will almost certainly have averaged to be better than the first ten. Some days you'll feel like Cassanova's long lost twin, and others you'll feel like Gollum's long lost twin. But over the course of those hundred approaches, you'll get better at talking to women.
Understanding variance is important because it's a part of life. If you're scared of variance, then you're scared of life itself. You won't take the risks necessary to reach your goals, and you won't develop the character of someone who has reached their peaks and been humbled as they slid from them to the valleys. You won't enjoy the luxury of seeing that jagged but steady climb as you look examine the path you've walked.
Heading to Japan next week. If you'll be there in early April and are interested in a meetup, let me know...
"If you're scared of _______, then you're scared of life itself." Fill in the blank, students of life. Possibilities: variance, pain, defeat, rejection, confusion, loss, success, love, obstacles, difficulties, injustice, imbalance, chaos, tumult, death. Feel free to pick anything from this list or any other list that you truly believe could fit well in that blank. Then comment. Make a list of your own choice of possibilities that you add here. Say what you like about Japan instead, maybe. You are too silent today, wherever you are.
Good post, Tynan.
So, there's no way to see who's passing out minus ones here. I wish I knew who could possibly object to either of the first two comments here, but right now they both have minus ones. And where is the legion of Tynan fans who normally weigh in here? I can't believe they've all gotten jobs in the last 2 weeks. Perhaps they've all been so inspired by recent posts here as to have 1)Stayed up all night playing poker, or 2)Begun to try to pick up as many women as possible within the shortest amount of time or,3)Are all on board a flight to Japan as I type this. I need to get back to work. Sayonara.
This is one of my favorites of your posts in a while, mostly because I definitely feel like I'm on a downward slope right now, and this is a great reminder. Thank you!
This is one of those posts that pack a lot of meaning into something very simple. It's great advice for young(er) people, and by that, I mean anyone in their early to late twenties. I wish I had realized as a child that life doesn't move in the smooth upward line----It would have saved me a lot of stress!
Thanks for the post : ) My Mom was famous for quoting the expression ' taking one step forward and two steps back' and it was always viewed as a negative, but when combined with your jagged line theory I can view it now as something just organic. Thanks again! : )
Tynan, could you give us your opinion on Earth Runner Quantam & Ultralite sandals? I believe you used the Quantum on your Peru trip, but I haven't seen you post your thoughts on them anywhere. I was trying to decide which model to get for everyday use.
Nice drawing! :) What's interesting is our innate desire to try to control nature and force it into a straight line. We see this with government GDP's, corporate pay raises, inflation, schooling.
I live in Sendai, northern Japan, and would be very interested in meeting up if schedules coincide. Please keep us posted as to your plans!
Nice, thanks for this. If I may add that sometimes the line of best fit will start off curving upwards until it reaches a steep slope and then tail off after a while, tending towards a plateau. Sometimes big jumps in results are a symptom of your overall progress starting to accelerate.
When I was in college, I bought a Rolex. In the week or so that I waited for it to come in the mail, I got really excited about the idea that I was going to have a Rolex. To me, someone who had a Rolex was a different type of person, simply because he bought a fancy watch.
The watch showed up, and it was obviously a fake. I took it to a jeweler, just in case, and he confirmed what I already knew.
But by then it was too late. In my head, I was a Rolex type of guy. So I bought another one-- a real one this time.
Recently I read the articles about no goals and about goal-less by Leo Babauta. While most of his posts let something resonate in me, this post felt somehow strange. Therefore I started to think about the topic.
His main argument is, you don't need a goal, things will come naturally. As long as you have goals, you will fail and while you fail you will suffer. A goal implies it's failure more or less from start up because we are humans and imperfect.
I give in into this premises and agree. Humans are imperfect and will likely fail. But I don't think, it's because of the set goal in first place. Leo gives a metaphor to explain his point of view:
Consider this common belief: “You’ll never get anywhere unless you know where you’re going.” This seems so common sensical, and yet it’s obviously not true if you stop to think about it. Conduct a simple experiment: go outside and walk in a random direction, and feel free to change directions randomly. After 20 minutes, an hour … you’ll be somewhere! It’s just that you didn’t know you were going to end up there.