Strategies for the future: accuracy vs. resilience vs. denial

Seth Godin's daily thoughts are always provocative and thoughtful, but today's is a particularly timely and apt one for the new year. Godin describes three ways of coping with the future: Accuracy (correctly guessing what will happen); Resilience (admitting you can't make accurate predictions, so preparing to weather a variety of storms); and "Denial" (pretending nothing will change and getting clobbered as a result). I'm shooting for "Resilient" myself, but if I'm brutally honest, I have to admit that I have moments where I assume that I can be Accurate and where I'm too tired to do anything except Deny.

Accuracy is the most rewarding way to deal with what will happen tomorrow--if you predict correctly. Accuracy rewards those that put all their bets on one possible outcome. The thing is, accuracy requires either a significant investment of time and money, or inside information (or luck, but that's a different game entirely). Without a reason to believe that you've got better information than everyone else, it's hard to see how you can be confident that this is a smart bet.

Resilience is the best strategy for those realistic enough to admit that they can't predict the future with more accuracy than others. Resilience isn't a bet on one outcome, instead, it's an investment across a range of possible outcomes, a way to ensure that regardless of what actually occurs (within the range), you'll do fine.

And denial, of course, is the strategy of assuming that the future will be just like today.

Accuracy, resilience and denial

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  1. Do you happen to have a copy you could share? The journal's web page only goes back to Volume 3, 1997.

  2. Both Accuracy and Resilience assume the user has resources to put towards the dealing with the outcome. Sometimes what looks like Denial is just a person of no means.

  3. Perhaps it's working in insurance that's done it to me, but whenever I read these sorts of articles I find it completely bizarre that this isn't how everyone thinks! We call it "risk management", and personally I think the more people apply those principles to everyday life, the better-off they'll be. The process is applicable to almost any event with a probability of happening or not, including in the future. (Incidentally, my favourite example of this sort of thing not being used most people is their bizarre and irrational fear of their child being abducted.)

    In a nutshell, you a) identify the bad thing that might happen and what harm it might cause; b) identify the methods by which it can be prevented or its harm reduced; and c) implement those things that you consider to be cost-effective. People do parts of this process all the time, but they rarely string it all together in a way that makes any sense.

    I often get called level-headed, but I don't sleep soundly because I'm a denier - it's because I know I've taken all the actions I could come up with to benefit the situation, and everything else is up to the universe.

  4. The first time I encountered this distinction was when everyone was planning "earthquake kits" in the wake of Katrina hitting NOLA. The temptation seemed to be to try to throw anything and everything into the kit that might possibly be useful in a disaster. The resulting mess was dismantled and parted out in the divorce (a far more likely disaster that there seems to be no preparing for!)

    Since then, daily life has been enough of a disaster, it's hard not get denialist: who wants to think about things getting worse than this?

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