Skip to main content

The impossible choices


Life is filled with choice, moment to moment. We are therefore led to believe that every choice is free to be made. Some choices are bounded by time - if you don't make that Black Friday choice, your deal is gone. Some choices are bound by space - you have to live here, or there.

But some choices are impossible to make after a particular amount of time has gone by. These choices aren't the normal everyday ones. These are hard ones. What to do after losing a loved one, what to do when you lose everything, or what to do when you've reached the place of your dreams as a child.

The problem with these kind of choices is that you are almost always too late to the game if you are thinking about it after the fact.

Even rarer are those choices, not about space or time, but about the mind.

If you are at a fork in one of these choice-roads, the curious thing is this: if you are looking at yourself AT the fork, you're too late - either choice leads you to get neither! You lose both ways, no matter which way you turn.

You have to make these choices early, before you get to the time when the choice is made. This is where some of the old tools are effective. Pick your favorite: religion, ritual, custom, norms, growing-up - these are all tools to make those choices early.

Why do we, as children, learn rituals? Meaningless symbols and actions perhaps, but they help form habits that may be useful in very unrelated areas of activity in our future, much like the "head fake" effect. Rituals make habits, and when they are effective, they give us autonomy to do something more. While the habits formed from the rituals kick in at the lower level of activity, our conscious self can become free and elevate our game at the highest levels. Rituals are rote memory - they form the flooring of your mental palace. If you are the master of your floor, you can build a roof that reaches the skies. Learning is a choice.

Why do we teach ourselves to grow out of our dependence - on childhood friends,  toys, and even parents - as a youth? It helps us deal with their absence, and come to terms with our own short time here. It helps us give our time to those activities that matter for N generations, not just us. You let go of the lower happiness, to pick a higher level of happiness. This helps us treat our children as if they will also choose their path - we free them up for handling the future games that we can never imagine will come to pass. Independence is a choice, something that makes you bond closer through exchange, trade or altruism. 

Why do we teach some to believe in God (or Science, or Hacker-ethic, or whatever other framework of results you pick)? To make sure we have tools that can fill us with purpose. Evolution is a humblingly, staggeringly, mindlessly impossibly large and beautiful game, but it doesn't help us, in the NOW, to know that. The anchor of reality is purpose, the unique reason that fits the unique experiential body-brain-mind conglomerate that is us. Without purpose, our infinity of choices don't get made. Purpose making is a choice.

These impossible choices can be turned into the possible, if you act early enough.

The earlier generations made choices that were rooted in multi-generational thinking - most of our parents and grandparents looked forward to a life that provides for 2 or 3 generations. Some cultures extended their thinking to seven generations. These were great, honest choices.

We no longer have that luxury though. One might think time is moving so fast, we have to only think of our own generation.

Nothing can be further from the truth, though.

In a flat geographical world, we don't just have to make choices that work for multiple generations, but we are responsible for making choices for infinite generations of every culture and life. Our life's value is the net present value of all impact in the future, not just our small lifetime's value in living it.

It sounds strange, and difficult.

But try this frame of thought today. It could potentially elevate all of your future innovations, bring you a larger purpose, make more freedom. And hopefully, a much better executed life of skill and passion.

[to be contd....]









Popular posts from this blog

Why PI is not 4, math is great, and other mysteries.

The other day, I found myself with an interesting problem of approximating a circle with the enclosing square which seems to prove pi = 4.

The paradox was forwarded by a most interesting puzzle collector, Surajit Basu, a friend and life long inspiration. See Sonata for Unaccompanied Tortoise for why!



Here is the offending paradox:

























This is an example of how counterintuitive questions can be answered with a little calculus.

The key is to realize that no matter how closely we approximate the circle, the orthogonal lines of the approximation formed by inverting the square corners will never actually be tangential to the circle.

Note carefully that as you get closer to 90 degrees, the horizontal line is much longer than the vertical. Same goes with the approximation at 0 and 180 - the vertical line is much larger than the horizontal component.

If we take a quadrant of the circle - let's say the top left quadrant, moving counter clockwise from top to left -  we can imagine that each inf…

Ambition vs. Fear.

Most important things in life don't come to us. Nor do we get them by seeking/wanting them. It comes from letting go of the unimportant stuff.

The hardest part is letting go of the tendency to take the world as is. This is a habit of our past successes.

But success is not a destination, it is a STOP sign. You stop, wait, and move on. Too often, we are paralyzed by success into the fear of the new. We stall on the road to a new life. We need to break our inertia and move.

Our thoughts and thought habits are hard to break. But that is where we have to spend the most energy. Thoughts are always competing strands  - of worries of the past and anxieties for the future. For some of us, they are cleanly separated into rivers that nurture every place they travel. For most, they are like the torrents and trickles -- competing, rushing somewhere, stopping completely elsewhere, always mixing, morphing, competing, winning, losing.

Our thoughts are the potential difference between the two pole…

Meta leadership

Leadership The word leadership has a rather large spread and reach. It can mean a diverse set of behaviors. It can explain a wide variety of positive outcomes. It can effect a wide scope of results - from moving individuals within one's sphere of direct interaction, to moving an entire world far beyond one's direct influence. 
At its core, leadership is an attitude for influencing and executing transformation. It is a skill that results in exponential outcomes with a linear quantum of resource: Oneself. In this process, you leverage many sources both within, and outside, clear lines of control - resources, people,  organizations, domains of expanding knowledge, mental models, systems for doing things.

In today's world, leadership is probably the most important skill at every level of activity one wants to be successful at. This is simply because we are now connected to potentially billions of people within the palm of our hands, or within the reach of a keyboard.

Countles…