If you want to see wisdom and maturity in action, look for someone (or a community) investing in infrastructure before it’s too late.
Part of what makes my part of the country so lovely is that the trains work, the water is clean and the health department inspects restaurants.
But for the last fifty years, around the world, few communities have invested enough to maintain the systems they were smart enough to build. Now, my block loses power for days at a time after a storm… And it’s far more dire elsewhere.
In our personal lives, we can coast on a particular credential or bit of knowledge for years. And then one day, we realize we’re obsolete. The idea is the same:
We need to plant our trees before we want the shade, and fix our systems before they break.
Our life is filled with projects. We invest time, effort or money, and perhaps we get a result.
It’s useful to have a portfolio of projects, because not all of them are going to work.
The 2 x 2 grid looks like this:
It might be simple, but it’s not always easy. Success doesn’t always mean money, it just means that you got what you were hoping for. And while every project fits into one of the four quadrants, there’s no right answer for any given person or any given moment..
Here are some of the traps that are worth avoiding:
All your eggs are in a low-chance basket. You’re taking a wild gamble, and it’s your dream. And you want a shortcut. The problem, of course, is that this isn’t a resilient long-term plan. Someone has to win the lottery tomorrow, but alas, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be you.
You’re hoping to come out ahead by doing something that depends on scarcity, but you’re doing it in the top right quadrant. The problem is, so is everyone else. All of a sudden, your odds just went down. It’s easy to start an Insta account, but once everyone does it, the chances of becoming a top .01% traffic generating influencer are close to zero.
You focus on only high-probability, low-value successes, even if the outcomes are not really worth your time. Getting a $3 an hour gig on a freelance site is easy, but it might not be worth it.
On the other hand, consider a portfolio of projects. Some of them have a very high likelihood of working out, and each one of these outcomes is pleasant, if not game-changing. Play often enough, though, and your persistent generosity will pay off.
And then, mix into that some of the moonshot projects that most people are afraid to take on. They’re afraid because they have equated “low chance of success” with “risky.” They’re not the same. Risky implies that failure will cost a lot. It won’t. You can thrive with this strategy because you have a portfolio, and because you realize that “unlikely” is not the same as “not worth trying.”
The best portfolios are persistent (because patience is a rare skill), they’re generous (so others root for you to succeed) and they build on each other (because then, even the ones that don’t work increase your chances for the next one to work out).
Here’s to a new year filled with possibility.
January 1, 2021
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