In his book, The Black Swan, The Impact of the Highly Improbable, Nassim Nicholas Taleb furthers the argument (he introduced in Fooled By Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets) that in life there are rare events, normally outliers, with impacts that are decisive and often irreversible. Such events happen in a world called “extremestein”. The improbable always changes one’s life forever, 9/11, for example, was one such event.
I had my own version of a “black swan” today. It is not comparable to 9/11 or any other event which changed the course of life for many. But if not handled carefully, my own version of a black swan — small as it is — might actually change the course of life for many around me. So it is not funny at all that I lost all my important documents by an unconscious “touch” of a certain key on my PC, if that is what transpired. I am not sure what exactly happened. But it is drastic.
Instead of stressing and crying into the night, I decided I would dedicate my energy to random thoughts on words: PC, stress, organisation, folders and control. Over the past several months I have not been inspired to write a contribution for my Thought Leader blog. Not because there were no juicy or worthy topics, I was just not feeling the urge to write — ideas came and quickly evaporated into thin air. This I suppose is the fate of many writers — having to wait for that moment when you are inspired and really fired up to write endlessly whether from some stream of consciousness or from randomness. Today was one of those days for me. What I am about to describe could have possibly pushed me to temporary heavy drinking, sulking or, even worse, a sleepless night, seeing that it was almost nine in the evening when I just discovered the worst of all expected events in my world of operation. I am talking about losing important documents I have worked hard for a long time to compile.
I love the information technology revolution. My life has been easy ever since. I can work from any space — public or private — and yet today it seems as if I have just been made to pay back for all the ease. I have been so careful, creating folders in my inbox, marking them professionally with all kinds of names (conferences, personal files, programs, reports, proposals etc) and till today this seemed to be my daily routine. I read my emails and sent them to their rightful folders. Those that I think are not worth keeping, I delete and at the end of the day, I empty my trash folder. I have done this ever since I started owning an email address, work and personal. It has been great, well up till today.
Today my organised self was my worst enemy. I am not sure what happened but whatever it was it has shown me that I have no control over what is in my PC. Whether I deleted my folders unconsciously or unaware is neither here nor there, the point is I cannot get them. After frantically asking the IT person to retrieve them for me he came back with even more devastating news. “To restore the folder, we would have to set up a new server and restore everyone’s email accounts and then we would lose all email since last night’s backup. That sounds pretty disruptive,” he said. To be sure, it would be.
I have to accept that I won’t get these important folders back. Life must go on. I have become a slave of technology. When I was disrupted by this event, for a while I was clueless. I panicked, cursed myself, the PC and everyone who could have played a part. It was as if I had just hit rock bottom. I wonder what you would have done if you were in my shoes tonight?
I have just made a promise to myself never to be beholden to a PC and its machinations. Important as it is to me, I have decided to defy its rules and temptations. I will use it for my needs and not the other way round. Is it ironic that this unfortunate event drove me to writing again, an exercise I have not done for some months? Such is life — a crisis provides an opportunity to do things differently.