We spend lots of time worrying about loss, anticipating it, and sometimes taking active steps to prevent it. This costs substantial energy, or worse, causes suffering or even diminished health, all related to an event that has not actually happened. When I try to help people who are stressing over anticipating a loss, my usual angle is to highlight that it has not yet occurred, and may never. Today, I’m approaching the problem differently, and I would like to ask you plainly: how can you be certain that a loss will prove to be unfortunate over time?
The last camera I bought was supposed to be my last ever camera purchase. Boasting 14 megapixels, it claimed to be waterproof, shockproof, and able to survive a nuclear accident. It wasn’t even waterproof. On vacation in Hawaii, I took a couple of test shots just beneath the ocean surface, when it began to short circuit, and then promptly died. (In case you’re wondering Mom, yes, I closed all the compartments and seals, and no, it’s not still under warranty.) Naturally, I interpreted this as a “bad” event. I was out $200, and I still needed a camera for the world-class snorkeling and water activities I was going to experience over the coming days. If I told you that losing my fraudulent camera was a huge stroke of luck, would you believe me?
Shopping for a replacement, I stumbled on the $150 Intova, a dedicated underwater camcorder with still photo capability. To my delight, this device produced remarkably rich, high quality results! By the conclusion of my trip, 75% of my best shots had come from my new Intova, including nighttime footage of schooling manta rays that would never have come out clearly on my former camera, had it not failed. I had to lose that camera for the opportunity to get better pics and vids. That loss, which I had initially lamented, was lucky!
I used to think I could predict the future. Every time I applied for a graduate program and didn’t get accepted, left or lost a job due to poor fit, or faced the end of a relationship, I predicted, this will be bad for my life. Then I doubted I would ever again have opportunities like those. My predictions were completely wrong.
In reality, every one of those losses proved incredibly fortunate. Had I successfully enrolled in schools across the country, stuck it out with lucrative but soul-crushing jobs, or managed to hang onto those substandard relationships, my life would be dramatically altered from what it is today—and not for the better.
Obviously, I’m no longer a fan of predicting how certain non-catastrophic losses (jobs, relationships, cameras) might ultimately affect a person’s life. Instead of investing so much energy into anticipating and trying to prevent such losses, I prefer to spend it exploring the possibilities, and consider all the positive, lucky outcomes that could come to pass if given the opportunity.