3 min read

Tiny Thoughts: Who Knows What’s Good or Bad?

Tiny Thoughts: Who Knows What’s Good or Bad?
Photo by Eugene Chystiakov / Unsplash

Sliding Doors

  • A sliding doors moment is a seemingly insignificant moment that has a massive impact on future events.  This weekend I was supposed to be in Montreal with some friends.  But while at the airport, 10 minutes before boarding my flight, I received a phone call that required me to cancel my trip and head home.  Fortunately, the incident provoking this change turned out to not be as serious as originally thought.
  • On the train ride back, I found myself thinking of how this decision could have just set my life on a different path.  I was a bit sad at the loss of a fun weekend with friends but also a bit happy to be there for my family.  So I started reading about sliding doors, a term popularized by a movie of the same name.
  • I’m not sure yet what the real take-away is, other than that these little decisions over a course of a lifetime can have massive impacts on how things turn out.  Tiny things that we have no control over sometimes can drastically alter your life trajectory, whether you know it at the time or not.
  • Tom Brady, only became Tom Brady because of one freak hit on a scramble play by then star of the Patriots and $100 million man Drew Bledsoe.  If that hit never sidelined Drew, Tommy boy might never have gotten his start that season.  One in which he ultimately led the Patriots to the Superbowl.  Drew ended up being traded and never made it back to the big game.
  • I almost never met my wife.  More than a decade ago I was living on my cousin’s couch Monday through Friday trying to make it as a day trader in New York City.  It was Superbowl Sunday and my cousin had invited me to join her and friends at a bar to watch the game.  I had just missed my train on Sunday afternoon and decided I’ll just watch the game at home and go to the office Monday morning.  But my dad was insisting I go hang out with my cousin and he volunteered to drive me 40 minutes away to another train to make it.  That night I met my wife at the bar.  Twelve years later we have two kids and are still married.
  • These types of moments happen more than we think.  I’m sure you have some in your own life.  There is no way to tell in the moment what the future ramifications of a decision will be.  So we should not spend too much time ruminating on regret or what could have been.  But we should at least appreciate and respect how the decisions we make everyday can have a massive impact on our life.

Who knows what’s good or bad

  • All this unknown impact on future events reminds me of an ancient Chinese parable.  Note: there are many translations of this story, but I copied the translation below from here.
When an old farmer’s stallion won a prize at a country show, his neighbor called round to congratulate him, but the old farmer said, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”

The next day some thieves came and stole the valuable animal. When the neighbor came to commiserate with him, the old man replied, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”

A few days later the spirited stallion escaped from the thieves and joined a herd of wild mares, leading them back to the farm. The neighbor called in to share the farmer’s joy, but the farmer responded, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”

The following day, while trying to break in one of the mares, the farmer’s son got thrown and fractured his leg. The neighbor called to share the farmer’s sorrow, but the old man’s attitude remained the same as before.

The following week the army passed by, forcibly conscripting soldiers for the war, but they did not take the farmer’s son because he couldn’t walk. And the neighbor thought to himself, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”
  • So with your sliding doors moments, appreciate how your decisions can impact your life but try not to dwell too much on the past or the future.  You will never know for sure what impact certain decisions or events can have down the road.
  • As I write this, instead of waking up slightly hung over in Montreal with a full day of hanging out with friends, I’m greeted by two kids waking up with poops that need changing.  But, who knows what’s good or bad?