The Daily Flailing

None of Us Knows What We’re Doing

Here is the truth. None of us knows what we’re doing. We are all just winging it. Yep, that’s right. Even Fortune 500 CEOs, Nobel Prize winners, and U.S. presidents — all are really good at winging it.

There are days I sit here in a crumpled heap because of the overwhelmingly uncertainty of basically everything. Every variable has branches that have tinier branches that then have leaves …


Each contingency branched at several places; she learned them all until she could close her eyes and see the entire great structure, decision tree after decision tree branching and rebranching, dozens of them. As new data came to her from hard-copies or from Sandaleros, she mentally redrew every affected branch. For each decision point she assigned a text from the Quran or, if there were conflicting possible applications, more than one text. When she could see the enormous balanced whole spread out behind her closed lids, she opened her eyes and taught herself to see it in three dimensions within the cell, filing the space, palpable growing branches like the tree of life itself.

Beggars from Spain by Nancy Kress

… but look at any tree and you know the leaves don’t last. Sometimes the entire tree goes too.

I nearly always feel as if I’m doing nothing but flailing.

The sooner you realize that no one knows what they’re doing, the sooner you’ll lose your fear of uncertainty and just go for it. Successful people aren’t by necessity any smarter than the rest of us.

Maybe this is why I despise and have absolute contempt for the strutting done by others. They should damn well know better than to do that. Life will eventually make them pay for it by upending everything they thought they knew. And then where will they be?

Most likely, still not humbled enough.

The folks who succeed have no way to know if their success was due to talent, skill, and planning, or merely dumb luck.

Boldfaced emphasis in the original.

Where would Apple be had it never seen what became the iPod?

Inside Look at Birth of the iPod

Knauss, who acted as the primary liaison between Apple and PortalPlayer, quit the company in 2001. According to Knauss, the iPod originated with a business idea dreamed up by Tony Fadell, an independent contractor and hardware expert who’d helped develop handheld devices at General Magic and Philips.

“Tony’s idea was to take an MP3 player, build a Napster music sale service to complement it, and build a company around it,” Knauss said. “Tony had the business idea.”

Knauss said Fadell left Philips and set himself up as an independent contractor to shop the idea around. Knauss said Fadell approached several companies and was turned away by all of them, except for Apple.

What if Fadell had dropped dead or been hit by a bus before ever making that appointment with Apple?

iPod Nation

Steve Jobs noticed something earlier this year [2004] in New York City. “I was on Madison,” says Apple’s CEO, “and it was, like, on every block, there was someone with white headphones, and I thought, ‘Oh, my God, it’s starting to happen’.” Jonathan Ive, the company’s design guru, had a similar experience in London: “On the streets and coming out of the tubes, you’d see people fiddling with it.” And Victor Katch, a 59-year-old professor of kinesiology at the University of Michigan, saw it in Ann Arbor. “When you walk across campus, the ratio seems as high as 2 out of 3 people,” he says.

Variables, variables. All is variables.

So, I flail.

Do you?

Previously here:

The Illusion Of Wealth
Not Every “White Person” Is “White”
Goddam Unpredictable
Unemployed? Are You A Victim Or A Winner?


Filed under Personal, Reference

3 responses to “The Daily Flailing

  1. Keishon

    The folks who succeed have no way to know if their success was due to talent, skill, and planning, or merely dumb luck.

    I tend to believe that it’s a combination of all those things but what do I know. *shrug* You know the old adage: there’s only two things certain in life: death and taxes. I guess we’re all flailing to a certain degree.

  2. What a great post! Of course I flail. Nothing is ever certain. More to the point, nothing is ever finished, which realization pleases me no end. There’s no beginning, middle, or completion, just the muckety-muck of Now. That’s another reason why I’ve given up on politics—besides the horror & corruption of it all.

    Nobody knows anything. We’re all winging it. We’re never finished. The only guideline then becomes, “so what do you WANNA do?” I hope I learn that before I shed my mortal coil, but considering the above, I surely won’t!

    Maybe this explains those Zen stories where the monk sees a leaf falling from a tree and laughs his ass off. Maybe it doesn’t.

  3. This is a great post. It cuts to the heart of it.

    It’s the Crossroads… the dusty dirt-track down in the Mississippi of your mind… a place where many have stood.

    I flail too and am acutely aware of it. Most days I’m considering the many, many options of what I could do, which direction to take. And you can’t know which is the right one. So there is a case for consulting the Koran or the I Ching, or tossing a coin or a die like The Dice Man.

    …And that could be as good a way as any too. It could make you a billionaire or a pauper. But going with it and deciding is the best way, and the most exciting way. Be valiant.

    Nowadays my focus is strong, like a crystalline pinpoint – for my main mission. For the other aspects, I endeavor to follow The Book of Five Rings and Bushido. Lines like “The way of the samurai is in death…” That’s a good start to the day. Why? Because stops you wasting your life.

    Other lines in these books recommend thinking out of the box and being unpredictable. You might not do that to order. Instead, you take a different route to the store or when you go about your business. Or you climb up some tree, or go to a normally hidden part of town – like those urban explorers do. You be unpredictable to yourself – then it comes out in ideas and definite focus. Your subconscious tells you which direction to take. You no longer flail – because your subconscious knows what to do…

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