Are you planning for the past or the future?

The data-driven analyst and the statistician are obsessed with what happened in the past as a means to predict the future. But if data of past disasters, wars, behavioral patterns are such a good predictor of future events, why is the world still so unpredictable?

I think the answer lies in the assumption that the future will only ever get as bad as we've seen the past get. We rarely plan for worse. Before WWI wars were straight forward and more localized (mostly), before 9/11 who would have thought planes would be used to such devastating effect, before the great depression of recession of 2008 would have seen those things coming?

Can the turkey accurately predict its population when it sees explosive growth in young turkeys, but doesn’t know Thanksgiving is looming at the end of November? Will his prediction be correct when he doesn’t know of that event?

We must build ourselves into fluid people who use the many small conflicts in life to prepare for larger aberrations–whatever they may be. It’s hard to predict what has never happened before.

Keeping things simple, keeping a fluid schedule, understanding your strategy for dealing with life in general, and embracing low-level conflict and difficulty will make you able to ride out the storm when something larger happens.

Sun Tzu talks about a rigid battle-plan that is shattered the moment the enemy doesn’t do exactly what you think and just like that your plans–and army–are defeated. He talks about having a fluid strategy instead of a rigid plan. This fluidity will wrap around problems like water.

When you throw a small stone into water, the water buckles and ripples and returns to normal. When you cast in a boulder you get larger ripples, but eventually, the water returns to normal as well. But the water had no means of knowing you were throwing anything stone into it.

So don’t plan for the future or the past. Plan on making yourself a person who is both resilient and who can become stronger in the face of chaos and uncertainty. Embrace these things and use the energy they stir up to make yourself and the world around you better and better.