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Everybody’s got a plan until they get hit

Category: Planning, randomness

With Purdy’s best chocolate, nut encrusted ice cream on a stick, we exited the mall and headed into the underground parkade. Ice cream makes you think you’re having a better day than you really are. Gazing down the vast line of parked cars neatly nosed into their parking stalls, I noticed one with its back end hanging well out into the lane. Someone had driven their car half way into its parking spot and left it there to go shopping. Inconsiderate people.

My legs started running before I knew why. It was my car that was hanging out into the lane. Even the ice cream wasn’t going to help this. There was a family of four with very long faces, standing, waiting for an hour, for the owner of the car to return, (me). They’d parked (nose to nose), directly facing me in the opposite spot. Their Dad had hit the gas instead of the brake and slammed into my parked car’s face. Very nice of them to wait.

My day, my car, my life, was re-routed not because of anything I did but because of an unforeseen event. Unplanned, rare, unlikely, yet here we were. This didn’t show up in my Daytimer. Two weeks, and $6500 later, (thank you ICBC), I have my car back.

I read Nassim Taleb’s “Black Swan” after reading “Fooled by Randomness.” I thought the first book was so good I didn’t care what Black Swan was about. In fact, it’s probably better.Taleb’s point with Black Swans is complex. Swans are white, but after you see a black swan, (the exception), your whole idea of swans changes. Black swans are improbable but cause everything to change. For example, the 9/11 World Trade Tower, the 2008 economic collapse, Russia moving into Crimea, health, divorce, the world is controlled more by black swans than by predictable historical events. You may not be planning for the very things that will direct your life. You can’t plan for black swans.

When I looked at my beloved G35, now renamed “Scarface,” I understood Taleb’s main point. What Taleb was saying was, “everybody’s got a plan until they get hit.” Or did Mike Tyson say that?

The thinking points that come out of this,

  • What happened before, in no way contributed to what happened after. History is not much use with black swans. Business requires history, yet black swans ignore what you think you know.

  • High impact, low probability events seem a long shot but when they happen, - they hit hard and all your plans will disappear.

  • Learning from the past, cumulative knowledge is no help. I’ve parked in one thousand mall parkades and have never been hit. 30 years of driving experience had worked against me. I thought I was safer than I was.

We have to worry about our own strategic thinking, our errors, our planning. The bigger issue is the other guy, the system, the unforeseeable. Don’t push it, overplanning moves towards paranoia.

In 2008 we all had a business plan, then the recession hit. At the mall, I planned my day, then my car got hit.

It could be the things you can’t plan for really run your life.

Thank you


Partner, Metrik Management Inc.

HR Management and Executive Search Consultants

p.s. Some related thoughts,“This morning I was asleep in bed, now I’m part of somebody’s plan.” - Woody Allan

“Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean I’m not being followed.” - Andy Warhol (?)

“If you see fraud, and don’t shout fraud, you are a fraud.” - Nassim Taleb

“Everybody’s got a plan until they get hit.” - Mike Tyson

The book, “The Black Swan,” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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