Going places

I am 29, to turn 30 soon. I’ve been out of school (grad) for six years now. Many of my friends have been out of college longer, the ones who went on to complete their Ph.Ds shorter. We have had many shared experiences over the years. More than ever before, though, change is all around me now.

My friends are in the early stages of moving up the corporate ladder, getting promoted to important positions, some are going to prestigious MBA programs, many are getting married, some are having their first kid, some buying their first house.

Me? I am trying not to get caught in the corporate rat race, avoiding rushing into an MBA program to change tracks, far from having a kid, not nearly close to getting married (if any cute girls are reading this, I’m just going to put this out there – I’m such a freaking good catch it’s not even funny!), and even further from the trappings of a mortgage.

So what am I doing? I’m putting most of my eggs into one basket. If you know me, you know what it is.
If it doesn’t work and one day I’m broke and unemployed, I might come knocking on your door to crash your futon. I promise to clean up after myself.

On Luck

At some point, most of us run into a person who just seems incredibly lucky in life. If you haven’t yet, you will. Things just sort of happen to these people. Opportunities seem to fall into their laps without much effort. You are amazed and jealous of such people. My belief, though, is that these people consciously or subconsciously live their life in a way that seems to favor fortune and good luck to fall on their side.

The vast majority of us will lead fairly straight-laced lives. It’s not as if we won’t get lucky – we will. But infrequently at best. Rarely at worst. And it has to do with that dreaded thing that most of us resist – change.

I don’t mean to say that effort does not matter. Luck is just a consequence of effort, on the right thing, at the right time, in the right place. Right place and right time is nothing but being able to read the signs.

Much of life is actually a series of random encounters – with people, with opportunities. We have less control over our lives than we think we do. Most of us will never get lucky, wildly, and often, simply because we tend not to indulge in changing things up. Someone spoke rightly when they said – “If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you will keep getting what you’ve been getting”.

Time and again, I’ve noticed that serendipity plays a crucial role in our lives. Serendipity, or chance happenings, exposes us to people and events that we otherwise would not run into if we keep on the same course as always. Of course, realizing that you’re in the presence of opportunity takes some intuition and experience. But that can be honed over time.

Can you do it?

It must have been some random weekend in 2005. Probably at an odd time in the wee hours of the morning. In a casino somewhere on the outskirts of San Diego, or Reno, or Las Vegas. I don’t remember. I was probably trying to appear nonchalant. Composed. Calm. This had become a routine thing. For a period of about 8-10 months, Jay and I would frequent casinos playing Blackjack. We were no professional players by any means. Neither were our pockets deep. But given the money we made in our jobs, we were betting beyond our means. But we weren’t simply betting money on pure luck. We were counting cards. It was thrilling and challenging. We would routinely see swings of a couple thousand dollars or more, up or down. We weren’t fools. Sure, gambling is a foolish activity. But I’d like to think it was a training ground for us in the fine art of taking risks and bearing the outcome of such risks.

In the card game of Blackjack, there is a play called Double Down. It’s my favorite play. You have two cards on the table that are considered favorable against the dealer’s weaker up facing card. This is a favorable hand and you want it as often as possible. You are allowed to double your bet. However, only one more card is dealt to you. Only one. It could be any card from one to Ace. It could put your hand in a very strong position or completely screw you if you draw a weak card. You need a good card for even though the the dealer is in a weaker position, the house could end up drawing a strong hand. You already have too much money on the table and have the opportunity of tripling it in one fell swoop. It could also all go bad and you’ll lose double the money. What do you do?

When you let go off fear, magical things can happen. Of all the times in your life, it is the moments where you put aside your crippling fear when you grow the most. From the very first time you stood up as a child. Your ability to take risks (and by risk, we mean calculated ones) is like a sharp blade that goes blunt over time. You must absolutely sharpen the edge at regular intervals.

Banish your fear of failure. It doesn’t belong. It is paralysing.

The wise ones know that the journey is the reward. The destination is just a place.

Endurance

There is something so deeply fascinating and attractive about endurance sports – running long distances, cycling, mountaineering. I find my adrenaline soaring when I watch videos about them. The grit, the determination, the perseverance, and the massive amount of stamina required to endure the pain in these sports is just incredible.

After all, life is an endurance sport, isn’t it? The race is long, and your ability to endure through life’s down and outs, and take them in stride shapes your path, your character. To emerge from them stronger, and thrive beyond makes the joys and the highs of life all the more beautiful.