The Wrong Birds

In The Black Swan Taleb discusses how we worry about the things that don’t happen — specifically in Chapter 9 he mentions a casino’s risk management strategy of managing losses from cheaters, dealing with the high rollers, etc. But they failed to anticipate a tiger freaking out and maiming an irreplaceable performer, a lazy employee hiding IRS forms in his desk instead of filing them, etc. It’s not that the casino refused to consider the unexpected, but they planned for the wrong misfortunes.

I’m reminded of how my mother relentlessly prepared for an earthquake, but then got slammed with inoperable cancer. As I went through her things after her death, she had the sets of extra clothing, the food and water kits, blankets, radio, etc. — all the proper emergency items safely put up in a waterproof storage container in a shed behind the house.

I too have my favorite set of potential disasters to obsess over … and most likely none of them will occur, going by past experience. Other bad things will happen however, things I haven’t thought of or planned for.

Either I should figure out how to worry more accurately or quit altogether. I tell myself this, but the wings of worry still beat in my head regardless of utility.


7 responses to “The Wrong Birds

  1. I too would love to figure out how to worry more accurately, but then it starts turning way too meta for me! Worrying about worrying? Sounds like a quick and dirty way to a nervous breakdown. :^(


  2. Well, you know, I mostly obsess positively over good things that will never happen. Bad things–fuckem– I’ll just deal with it. I’m a good person in a crisis, because I don’t panic, because I’m sure I can handle whatever, even if I can’t.

    Which isn’t to say I don’t prepare. I do. But I don’t have an earthquake preparedness kit. I have caches all over, with a flash light, knife, food, blanket, etc. I try to prepare in the most general way to be ready for any eventuality.

    The stuff that sneaks up on me and makes my life miserable is the little things. Like insurance.


  3. It’s like research: they study mainly what’s easy to study, things with one controllable variable. It doesn’t matter where you dropped your keys: you look where there’s light to see.

    You can prepare (a little) for an earthquake. You can’t prepare for cancer. Even if you do everything you think you can to eat right, excercise, yadda yadda yadda–and all that positive thinking bullshit–you might get cancer.

    Be better to plan for what you want to do and do it. Fuck the rest. Shit will happen.


  4. Suddenly, I don’t feel bad about not being prepared for anything dire. Thanks, Paula! 😀


  5. Reminds me: I should make spare keys. Other day I lost them at work and they hadn’t been turned in — yet; they were after about an hour. I couldn’t leave and even if I did call my ex and grovel for a spare set of car keys, I’d still have to call the apartment manager. It was awful. Have I gone and had spare keys made? What do you think?

    Don’t have a first aid kit either. Of course, there are never any earthquakes or floods where I live.


  6. Love the idea of worrying accurately.

    Duct tape and plastic sheeting, right? And supposedly I’m supposed to have a “go bag” since I’m in one of those areas that might get hit with a storm surge if a Cat3 or Cat4 storm hits. The idea of trudging over the GW Bridge toting a go bag, a Sherpa carrier, and a week’s worth of canned catfood just made me want to lie down and take a nap. So I did.


  7. Pingback: Risk Management | Light Motifs

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