Planning for Contingencies: The SHF

01Jun08

One way of planning for possible outcomes is to assign a percentage to each outcome.  If you think flipping a coin gives you a 50% chance of heads and a 50% chance of tails, and if you’re going to get $100 for flipping heads, then you average it out and you find that your average expected outcome is $50.

By that logic, let’s suppose flipping heads would give you, not $100, but $100 million.  Average it out and you get $50 million.  But that’s not realistic.  The choices are either $100 million or zero.  That’s all the difference in the world.

So what we have here is, basically, a “shit happens” factor (SHF).  Whatever you’re planning or imagining, there’s some tiny chance that quantum mechanics will do its magic and you’ll suddenly be transformed into a pretzel.  You don’t assign a percentage likelihood to that sort of thing; you basically disregard it and carry on as though weird things never happened.  You can’t plan for life as a pretzel, so there really is no alternative but to simply tell yourself that shit happens, but not to you.

Or maybe that’s not quite right.  You can’t plan for life as a pretzel, but you can plan for the end of life as you know it.  And maybe you should.  Get a bit of insurance, tell your loved ones that you love them, look at the flowers like you may never see them again.  No telling when a chunk of satellite will come flying out of the sky and hit you on the head.

There have been people, a lot of them, who got up in the morning and thought this was just going to be another day, and then it turned out not to be.  They got in a car accident, or their spouse called at noon to say they wanted a divorce, or an earthquake hit.  And then, suddenly, there was never a chance to go back and finish that crossword puzzle, or make that phone call, or get invited to join the varsity team.  Suddenly you were living in a tent, or they had put you on a bus to the juvenile detention facility, or whatever — and the rest is history.

SHF-informed planning does not just allow a bit of an adjustment in case of crisis.  SHF-informed planning asks what the hell we are doing here and now, when something in our hearts tells us that we are really supposed to be somewhere else.  To make SHF-compliant preparations for your life, it is advisable not merely to have your ducks in a row, but to be getting rid of ducks so you don’t have to worry about their proper arrangement.  No matter what some people may try to tell you, life is more than just ducks.

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