Shipwrecks and Optimism

We’re always building ships. Whether we’re an entrepreneur, an employee or a work-at-home-mom: at any given moment, we’re trying to create a ‘ship’ – a way, a method, a means: to get from here to there. From A to B.

And cultural theorist Paul Virilio had it right, when he said: “When you invent the ship, you also invent the shipwreck”.

And while I’m all for optimism, I do know that there are rocky shores out there, and you know, I’d really like to avoid them.

Which is why a pre-mortem is so handy.

Which is a review of plans and potential outcomes, from the point of view of ‘well at least we’re lucky we made it out alive’ or ‘wow, we never saw that one coming’.

This isn’t pessimism btw: it’s sanity.

Sure, you know it’s going to work out. Of course your plan is excellent, and your drive and wits and experience are more than sufficient. You totally got this.

Except if things unexpectedly turn complicated or overly complex – and you hadn’t considered, solved for, those possibilities.

If you would have taken the time to think about ‘IF it goes wrong, HOW will it go wrong?’, at least you’ll see trouble coming before its here, and you’ll have thought about what to do if it does come.

Note that I’m NOT advocating pessimism or spending the next week pre-analysing every possible worst-case scenario. Instead, I’m suggesting you consider the difference between crashing on a shore, or *thinking about* crashing on a shore.

Because the harsh truth is, optimism is a terrific way to not avoid easy-to-avoid disaster. Most of us would rather pretend nothing can go wrong than to think about the possibility, which has the uncanny side-effect of it becoming more likely that something might go wrong. Funny how that works.

If you’re building a ‘ship’ right now… what ‘shipwreck’ are you also building? In which ways could things go wrong – and how can you avoid that or remedy it if it happens?



Also published on Medium.

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