Don’t Run For The Train

19 08 2011

Well, that would be another reason not to run for the train. Photo from ManiacWorld

How many times have you missed the train by just that smallest fraction of a second?

How many times have you run onto the platform, only to have the cruel train doors slide close in your face?

And how many times have you thought to yourself, if I had taken a shorter shower, or had chewed my toast more quickly, or walked a slightly faster pace, I wouldn’t have missed the train?

I’m sure we’ve all had those painfully annoying moments.

But what if we were to take this entire mindset and flip it upside down on its head? What if, instead of running madly for the train, we instead teach ourselves not to run for the train?

It sounds high-brow, perhaps even naive and idealistic,  but the concept is somewhat appealing. Nassim Nicholas Taleb introduced the idea in his book The Black Swan. Here are some of his words of wisdom:

Snub your destiny. I have taught myself to resist running to keep on schedule. This may seem a very small piece of advice, but it registered. In refusing to run to catch trains, I have felt the true value of elegance and aesthetics in behaviour, a sense of being in control of my time, my schedule, and my life. Missing a train is only painful if you run after it! Likewise, not matching the idea of success others expect from you is only painful if that’s what you are seeking.

You stand above the rat race and the pecking order, not outside of it, if you do so by choice.

He sums up this idea with some powerful words:

It is more difficult to be a loser in a game you set up yourself.

In Black Swan terms, this means that you are exposed to the improbable only if you let it control you. You always control what you do; so make this your end.

Hm. Idealistic? In a sense, yes. After all, you can’t justify, say, failing an exam by proclaiming ‘I wasn’t aiming to pass it anyway! I’m above the pecking order, I don’t need to play the exam game!’. In another sense, it would definitely feel infinitely fulfilling to walk up to a just-departing train, and think, ‘Ha! You haven’t snubbed me. You think you’re so important?! I wasn’t running for you anyway, you egotistical sleazebag!’

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One response

12 09 2011
Laure

Very interresting post. But you should put the picture at the end.
Else a Western reader like me ends up wondering for the entire time she reads how on Earth someone dares use “embarassment” as a reason not to do something on a public campaign. Culture shock.

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