The other night as we settled onto the family room couch with a couple of blankets to watch a movie, my husband turned to me and said, "And don't ask me what's going to happen, because I haven't seen this either." This preemptive strike got a laugh out of all of us. I must admit I have an annoying habit of querying him, several times, at the scariest or most suspenseful points in a film. I'm surprised I still get invited to family movie nights.
Sometimes, I just can't stand not knowing what is going to happen. I think it's because I lose myself in a drama to the point where it becomes real. My husband can fall asleep in the middle of the part where the guy is standing on the ledge; I will hang in there until midnight, even if it's a terrible story. I steel myself for the journey from here to there, even if I have a pretty good idea how it is going to turn out.
It is human nature to want to know what tomorrow holds. We ask pundits and economists to take the guesswork out of it. If we could know, we could relax, worry less, plan better. In business, we would just follow that roadmap to produce a particular result.
The 24 hour news cycle also fuels this fantasy that if we talk about what's going to happen, we might actually figure it out. In a way, this does happen, especially in Washington. The political stalemates are self-fulfilling prophesies. The more we talk about the failure of government, the more it fails.
So now we have the army of prognosticators pointing to trends and telling us, based on what has happened under a set of particular circumstances in the past, what's going to happen this year. It's good to be informed of what could happen, or as the saying goes, we are destined to repeat our mistakes.
However, this information cannot assuage anxiety, and it is very likely to be wrong. Look at the black swan theory. Taleb's premise is that we cannot predict unpredictable events; we can only build in robustness to negative ones and be prepared to exploit positive ones. This in a nutshell means keeping your powder dry while staying nimble. And to stay nimble, I would argue, what you need most is a belief in yourself.
The courage of our convictions can help us stare down the future and take destiny into our own hands. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." This is a good time to get a firm hold on those dreams of ours and pursue them with a vengeance. We will become what we imagine, if first, we believe.
I don't know if I will ever break my bad movie habit, but I'm thinking it's a good place to practice. At least it will make for better evenings in front of the TV.