Sunday, September 6, 2020

You reap what you sow: Lottery and lightening

"You reap what you sow"

My mom loves quotes. Growing up, I heard this one a lot.

It always came after someone's downfall, as if they should've known better. As if the universe is governed by this simple phrase and life can be mastered by living within its bounds.

But, then, why doesn't life ever seem to go the way it's supposed to?

Consequences, good and bad

We all learn that talking behind someone's back leads to conflict.

We all learn that practicing leads to better performance.

In other words, the actions we take today produce the consequences we experience tomorrow.

But, I still didn't pass the job interview I spent hours and hours preparing for. The one I have over 10 years of highly relevant experience for.

And while I was failing my interview, the guy who was out partying when I was studying, the guy who was spending lavishly while I saved money for retirement.. that guy just made a million dollars trading options in the stock market.

Why isn't the universe operating like it's supposed to?

Why am I such a loser that even the universe bends its rules to show me how worthless I am?

There's fundamental truth in the statement that our actions have consequences. It's easy to understand. It's easy to observe.

It gives us an easy way to make sense of the things we experience.

And it makes it easy to overlook a harmful consequence of internalizing this framework.

If we see everything as a result of our actions, it becomes reeeally easy to blame ourselves for anything and everything that happens to us.

That interview I didn't pass? I should have studied hard. Oh, I did study hard? Well.. I don't know. I guess I'm just stupid.

If we see everything as a result of our actions, it's easy to miss the fuller picture and all the variables at play. It's easy to overlook and under-appreciate how much is outside our control.

Want to win the lottery?

Have you ever dreamed of winning the lottery?

Sure you have.. a song like Billionaire doesn't go 4-times platinum without a lot of people resonating with it's hook, "I wanna be a billionaire, so fucking bad".

Either way, the universe doesn't care.

We both know no one wins the lottery through sheer force of desire, no matter how much they want it.

The trick to wining the lottery's simple: Buy a ticket

The single pre-requisite for winning the lottery is buying a lottery ticket.

Here's a fun fact Your chance of winning the lottery is 1 in 14 million.

The trick to getting struck by lightening's simple: Stand outside in a thunderstorm

Here's another fun fact: Your chance of being struck by lightening in any given year is 1 in 500 thousand.

Wining the lottery's a pretty positive consequence of buying a lottery ticket.

Getting struck by lightening's a pretty horrible consequence of standing outside during a thunderstorm.

In both situations, we have some control over the thing we do or don't want to happen. But, we have very little control over it.

Sometimes, shit happens

The point of all this is that sometimes, shitty things happen to us. A lot of shitty things've happened to me, and I'm sure a lot of shitty things've happened to you.

I've also been fortunate enough to have had a lot of good things happen to me too.

These days, I'm less inclined towards attributing everything that happens in my life to my actions. I'm more inclined towards doing what I can to make good things happen, and recognizing how much outside my control contributes to all things that happen.

Takeaway: It's not your fault, but it is your responsibility

It's unhealthy to blame to ourselves (or to accept blame from others!) when things outside our control lead bad things happening.

It's healthy to accept responsibility for acting on things within our control to make good things happen.

Easy to say, difficult to internalize.

But, I'm optimistic that it can happen with practice, and practicing is something within my control. ;)


Genevieve, thank you for reading a draft of this and discussing the topic with me in so much depth!