Actually doing this on a sunday but oh well
I guess I’ll be back writing about big life ideas this week despite my best intentions from last week hahaha
I’ve been thinking today a little bit about how we encounter oppportunities
I’m talking about all sorts of opportunities. Opportunities for a new job, a new friend, a new apartment, romantic opportunities, artistic opportunities, and smaller everyday stuff too- opportunities to go to a party
It seems as though there are 2 ways in which they come about. You can either seek them out, or be handed them.
I spend a decent amount of time in life seeking out opportunities when I need them. It’s something actionable, something active: I need x so I go looking for x. I need an apartment so I go online and I make lists, systematically contact people, and time out my work on this project of finding an apartment. You could do the same for anything, a car, a girlfriend, a job etc. It’s something that you have to get up and do, you are the searcher, the detective for this thing. Spending hours comparing and contrasting, deciding what you want and how you want it, until finally you use this precise mathematical methodical model to choose which of the available opportunities is right for you and go through with it.
The alternative way in which opportunities come about is through spontaneity. Through word of mouth, coincidence. Someone you know or meet offhandedly mentions an opportunity, and all you have to do is go and check it out. You meet a woman at a coffeeshop or at a party, or on the street. You get a job because of a reccomendation from a stranger. In theory this mode of opportunity appearance should be a much rarer, less dependable option than the first one (the actively seeking mode). But I have found the opposite to be exactly true. Almost all of the succesful opportunities that are presented to me come in the form of coincidence, of information from a passive source, one that I could never seek out because I didn’t even know of its existence beforehand. It’s especially intersting when one of these opportunities presents itself in the midst of an active search.
I’m not exactly sure what to do with this information. The passive approach has evidently shown itself as mode with better outcomes, and requires almost no work. The best you can do to assist the passive mode is to simply attempt to seek out more situations in which passive opportunities might present themselves (this involves taking social risks and also leaving the house). But this doesn’t garuntee anything, it just improves your odds of a passive opportunity finding its way to (as do all passive opportunities by definition).
For some things the passive approach is perfectly appropriate. A month or two ago, my wristwatch broke. I was always particularly pleased with the watch, and found that it fit my style perfectly: a beloved object. But it broke, and it no longer made sense to fix it as it had broken in the same way twice before already. I had to get a new one. For the time being I bought a five dollar watch, an interim watch, because I recognized that between the passive and active approaches, the passive one would suit the search better. I could bide my time with 5 dollar watches for however long it took until the right watch found me. Rather than having to look for a new watch, the correct watch would sort of materialize in a store window on the street and declare itself the one, and I would have a new watch.
I knew this to be the case because my last watch had found me this way. I was in a store with no particular intentions, and I saw a watch that I thought was fantastic, and it was on a massive sale, and I bought it. The watch I had before that watch I had spent a long time picking out, considering many details, like greatly, and then lost in about a year. So now with two data points, I move forward with the confidence that without any effort, another good watch will find me.
And in a way I have seen parallel anecdotal evidence for all of life’s big decisions. I know the feeling after searching for a friend or a girlfriend for a long time, usually the people I connect with seem to materialize out of nowhere, from places that I would never find on an active search. The same often has been true of other life opportunites.
The issue I grapple with is the interim period. My interim watch tells the time just fine, looks alright. Maybe not as stylish as I would like, but it serves the purpose well enough until my platonic watch reveals itself. And the transition between interim watches is effortless, there is no difficulties in my relationship with the interim watch, it won’t get upset if I throw it in the garbage when I find something better. This relationship with my interim watch is in fact quite one sided.
But what about those life things? What does it mean to have an interim girlfriend? an interim life passion? That sounds sort of messy. To live on faith of the existence of the better platonic watch is easy. It requires little sacrifice, and little friction when change must be made. But living an interim life feels more like not living at all. A constant waiting, sitting around the house, being a little bored and occupieng yourself waiting for the interim life to end. And when it’s often difficult to find even the interim thing, the absence of the “true thing”, the “real thing” has an impact on your life, much than the absence a watch.
To start the active search again feels in some way like an impracticality. Changes are driven on a track, like a cart, moving forward, and the opportunities wait in the distance, appearing when they appear. Once you understand this it feels meaningless to seek out the opportunities.
Of course this is not the whole truth. Many opportunities live in some middle area between active and passive discovery. In my personal examination of my life I feel again and again that things happened in a coincidental manner, in a way that wasn’t under my control even if I wanted it to be. But there is an active component here. The coincidences happen with a factor of probability. The more times you open yourself to failures, the more you open yourself to success. Perhaps there opportunities do not lie on a track, with a fixed distance of time, but with a fixed distance of chance. In 17 more failed social interactions, there will be a good one. But you must burn through the bad ones first. You must be active in this way, to take the first step and stick your thumb out on the highway. The passive opportunities will only reveal themselves once you have failed enough. Therefore the only way to succeed is to seek out experiences where you might fail. The way to actively seek passive opportunity is to actively seek failure.