Friday, August 15, 2014

Choosing Wisely...

"Life is always changing... growth, however, is optional... choose wisely"
I recently found myself on a coast-to-coast airplane flight.  With having nothing to read, I decided to watch an old movie playing on my seat-back TV, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  
At the end of the movie, Indiana Jones finds himself in a room with about 50 cups (Grail) on a table and he is told that one of the cups brings everlasting life whereas the other cups bring instant death.
"Choose wisely", said the guardian knight.
Indiana Jones

Having already watched one person die from drinking from the wrong cup on the advice from a trusted scholar, Indiana weighs what he personally knows of history and somehow manages to select the right cup to drink from...
Aah... Hollywood at its best...
After the movie was over, I began to replay the scene in my head... what would I have done in a similar situation with life and death on the line based on a single decision that needed to be made instantaneously.
Could I have made such a choice... especially with so many different options available to me?
Several years ago I was having lunch with a close friend of mine who is very successful financially.  My friend at the time was probably worth several tens of millions of dollars despite having started with almost no money some 20 years beforehand.
During our conversation, I asked him a simple question:  "You appear to have more money than you can ever spend in your lifetime... why do you keep working so hard?"
He responded with one word... "choices"...
He understood that when you had wealth, your choices were virtually unlimited.  You could go where you want... do what you want... and buy whatever you want.
I went away that day believing that my friend had stumbled upon a great formula of happiness...
Wealth = More Choices = Happiness
For many years thereafter I’ve given that formula great thought and have subsequently determined that the above formula is completely wrong... especially in today’s world.
More choices doesn’t ensure happiness... it just cause more confusion.
40 years ago... there were only 4 national TV channels that typically broadcast shows about 18 hours a day... ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS (plus perhaps a local TV station or two if you happened to be in a big media market).  All of your news and programming came via one of those four stations. 
Today there are literally a 1000 stations broadcasting coast-to-coast via cable or satellite.  Add to that number, programming now available via internet providers such as Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon.  Add to that... the tens of millions of professional and amateur videos available on YouTube, Vimeo, and now Yahoo... all broadcasting 24 hours a day... 7 days a week...
Are more choices better or just more befuddling?...

In fact... even with all those choices... 83% of all television viewers still limit themselves to only 15 channels... because this is what they know and that they feel comfortable with.
As a society, we have never had more choices available to us than today. 
The problem as I see it however is that we have too many choices...
Having too many choices is not a good thing... it can cause anxiety, guilt / remorse, and inadequacy among the population.
We are constantly being asked to make decisions based on far too many options for our brains to regularly process.
We are spending more and more of our time doing research trying to avoid the possibility of being wrong or choosing a less-than-optimal option.
We have become a society that is deathly afraid of being wrong or making a bad choice. 
In order to minimize the risks we now rely on reviews and opinions of others before making our decisions.  If someone else recommends it, then it can’t be all wrong.
We are intent in eliminating all risk... which is silly... because this simply can’t be done... there is inherent risk in everything we do or don’t do.
We are in the process of decoding the genome... mapping our brains... trying to understand what exactly makes us do what it is that we do and what makes us tick.
We do this because the idea of randomness is bad... whereas predictability is good...
We want to know, in advance, what the future holds for us... but what would happen if we actually knew for certain what was going to happen?
I suppose that we have the technology... why shouldn’t we take full advantage of it?
But in reality, do any of us really want to know the exact day when we will exit this earth?  Wouldn’t this cause us an incredible amount of stress actually knowing this information?
Yet there are thousands of people who have sent samples of their DNA to a laboratory to screen for potentially harmful diseases and conditions.
Are we to believe that those people who are aware of their DNA results live a happier life or perhaps are they bringing undue stress into their lives?

Are these people foregoing the present and trying to live their lives in the future?
In an ironic twist... the stress of knowing all of the probabilities of our final demise is more likely to kill us faster than the actual diseases themselves.
Some people actually thrive on ignorance.  They are the live-and-let-live types who like to live in the present and not in the future.  These people believe in trying new things, not because their Facebook friends told them to try it, but because they happened upon the opportunity.
To them... life is about living... taking the good with the bad... not spending all of their energies trying to avoid potential pitfalls.
My wife and I often do this in a small way.  
When traveling, we will walk through a city and take a chance on a restaurant that looks cute from the curb... we might go see a play without first reading a review... or buy a piece of art from a local artist because we like it... not because we think that someday the painting might have some financial value...
It takes a certain amount of courage to take a chance... because by taking any risk... it is quite possible that we’ll be exposed as possibly being wrong...
We have all seen those National Geographic shows where straying too far from the safety of the herd means danger... we can’t possibly be one of those people... risk takers... gamblers...
Taking a bit of risk makes the heart beat a little faster... it gives us a thrill knowing that we’re actually alive... and that living a fully enriched life is worth the risk...
So when given the opportunity to try something new... take the risk... be bold... be adventurous... and live a little... don’t wait for permission... just do it...
The small risk is worth the potential reward...
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we encourage others to try something new every now and then.

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