I’ve got a book recommendation for you, but make sure you read through the mind-blowingly massive Words of Wisdom thought. I know I’m biased, but it’s pretty cool. And the link at the end is one of my favorites.
I’ve either spoiled you or annoyed you the past few months because I’ve had multiple book recommendations each month.
This month, I only have one.
Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke
Annie Duke is a former professional poker player.
She discusses her career, but she spends most of the book tying lessons she learned through poker back to real-life situations.
One of my favorite takeaways was the idea that, too often, we look at our lives like a chess match.
In chess, you can trace back moves and find the exact moment that cost you the game.
Had you done something different, you could’ve won the game.
Well, life doesn’t always work like that. Given her background, she says life is more like a poker hand.
In poker, you can make the correct bets, you can play the correct percentages, you could have all the cards in your favor and do everything right… and still lose.
You could have a 98% chance of winning against your opponent, but then he or she gets that one card that could save them, and you lose.
I liked this explanation of life, and I enjoyed several other stories she shares in this book.
Astronomical Words of Wisdom
Can we talk about something that just absolutely blows my mind?
I geek out over really big things.
Or massive numbers.
Or the odds of totally random things happening all at the same time.
So, there I was, listening to the Game of Thrones books, when two thoughts hit me really, really hard.
First – these books are long!
Second – I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend these books in this newsletter, and I know they aren’t “real,” but the depiction of life in a dark-ages period makes me realize how grateful I am that I did not live in those times.
Unless reincarnation is a thing, in which case maybe I did live during those times, and I was a tall, skinny squire that was really good at handing lances to the knights on tall horses.
The wars, the disease, the general lack of humanity, the caste systems, the pillaging… I don’t know how anyone survived!
And this is where my epiphany came.
The odds of me even existing, based solely on my ancestors staying alive long enough to have kids seems remarkably low.
Factor in the even more reduced odds of every one of my ancestors finding a suitable mate to continue to the next generation, and the odds get even worse.
I’ve shared in previous newsletters how miraculous it was that I was able to persuade, or coax, or maybe blackmail is the right word… my wife into marrying me, and along both of our genealogical lines, I’m sure there are countless stories of some goofy boy trying to impress a fair maiden, only to make a fool of himself and get lanced through the chest during a jousting tournament.
Game of Thrones makes it sound like this happened All. The. Time.
And what if one, just ONE of my great-great-greats wasn’t suave enough to make it happen with a gal?
Well… then I wouldn’t be here.
And same goes for you.
Not saying we are related.
More of a general – your ancestors had to deal with all of that, too – kind of thing.
So Many Choices
History, on a large scale – and then our individual lives, on a micro, more personal scale – are made up of choices.
Like… a silly amount of choices.
And I like to imagine the culmination of those choices forming a massive mosaic.
The scene formed from all of these choices is huge, and it’s complex, and it’s beautiful.
It is full of the most vibrant colors you can imagine, and it forms the most astounding, indescribable scene of who you are as a soul.
However, now I want you to imagine walking up to this mosaic and getting really, really close.
You pull out a magnifying glass (those still exist, right?) to look even closer at what makes up this beautiful picture.
You hold that magnifying glass up close and you hone in on one of the individual pictures that represents a single choice you made during your life.
And as soon as it comes into focus… you recoil in horror.
Because this particular choice, the one that you just so happened to land on, is dark.
You are embarrassed.
Not just embarrassed, but you are ashamed of having to acknowledge that you, yes YOU, made this decision.
You’ve tried for years to forget this moment. And not only this moment, but the six or seven moments surrounding it, because they are similar colors, and they carry similar, unpleasant feelings.
You throw down the magnifying glass on the floor. It shatters into a thousand pieces, and you turn your back to this beautiful mosaic of your life, and you most definitely do not feel beautiful.
Life can be hard.
For some, it is hard to lift themselves out of this feeling.
For some, it feels impossible.
Those things happened.
Those decisions were made.
There’s no denying nor forgetting.
I hope that you, and I hope that I, can get up off the floor, ignore the shattered magnifying glass, take a step back, and recognize the miracle that is you.
And not just you, but every one of those millions of people who came before you.
They lived and they loved and they died so that you could exist – against all odds, just like you live and love and sacrifice and teach and fight so that those you care about don’t have to suffer quite as much as you have.
I don’t know how many more choices I’ll have in my life. I hope it’s A LOT more.
And, I know a lot of those choices are going to be wrong, and I’ll find myself sad and discouraged.
But I also know that there have been so many cool and amazing things that I’ve been able to experience.
For whatever reason, my mind centers on love.
The last monumentally impossible experience.
We have the gift, or the ability, or maybe the cosmic whoopsie that allows us to love.
I have been loved to a degree that I could never understand until I became a parent.
I have found people in my life who I love more than life itself, and I’ve surrendered my heart and soul to them in a way that transcends those dark and disgusting moments of life. I’ve felt brotherly love, romantic love, paternal, and maternal love.
I dunno, hopefully, you are in a place to acknowledge this about yourself as well.
Hopefully, these letters arranged in some semblance of a cohesive thought triggers some pleasant memories of the people and places and animals and foods and songs that give life more meaning. And if you are feeling these things now, try and pass along those feelings to someone else.
If you’re not in that place right now, for any number of intense emotions that have resulted from choices you’ve made, or that have been made by others, or the results of just pure bad luck, please know that you are not alone.
Even the most vibrant pictures have specks of darkness that make the light that much more beautiful.
Don’t let a handful of dark images distract you from the whole scene.
It’s hard to imagine that I exist at all, and maybe this is all a simulation, but in this relatively short time we all have on this spinning ball, I hope we can all find hope and love in ourselves and in the world around us.
Hey, if you made it this far, have a wonderful day until we can chat again through this blog.
PS – Someone actually did their best to calculate our odds of existing and it’s pretty mind-blowing.
Highly recommend you check this out:
The Odds of You Being Alive
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