Entropy is a wonderful concept. It measures the degree of disorder or randomness in a system. If you really think about it, being able to measure how messy something is it’s actually mesmerizing. Because if we know how fucked up things are, we can also have a rough idea about the effort required to get everything back on track.
We’re dealing with entropy on a daily basis. Our reality is by default in a continuous state of disorder, it’s just that we spend a lot of effort imposing predictability on it. We create routine and rituals, we develop attachments to persons and places, we adjust and adapt in such a way that we make sense of the world.
And in this process we draw a mental map of what consider to be a safe space to move in. In the middle of this map, there’s total predictability, and as we go further away, we enter risky territories, in which we deal with more and more randomness.
In the middle of this map we may have our relationship with the significant other, we have families, close friends, maybe our job. At the outskirts, we find unknown persons we just crossed path with, unpredictable events or just random situations that we most of the time have no idea how to manage.
Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
Needless to say, this tension between the middle of the map and its boundaries, between comfort and risk, is a good thing. We should keep trying to enlarge our mental map, we should keep uncovering unknown, or even risky situations. In this process, we create a larger, more profound space, which in turn will feed us more self-trust and energy.
This continuous discovery process has two possible approaches. It either oversimplifies everything, assuming we are already prepared for everything and anything that reality may throw at us, or it stops everything in its tracks, waiting for more data, for more confirmation, for just one more piece of information, bringing everything to a stall.
It’s oversimplifying versus analysis paralysis.
On one side, oversimplifying gives us courage. If we trust that will somehow manage anything, then there’s nothing stopping us. The downside is that we can’t, indeed, manage anything. Sooner or later we’ll meet some sort of resistance or unmanageable conditions that will force us to stop or do some radical changes, in order to adjust and adapt.
On the other side, analysis paralysis will keep our mental map frozen. We may never get out of our comfort zone (like, literally, this mental map is our comfort zone) and we will never bring in more data in our systems. The upside is that we will feel, most of the time , secure.
Small, Spicy Risk
The approach that seems to work most of the time, at least for me, is small, meaningful increments. Small raids outside of my comfort map, driven largely by curiosity.
During these raids, I need to assume that things will turn out ok, or at least they will be somehow manageable, otherwise I won’t make any move. Before engaging, I also need to gather as much data as I can, but there’s a small caveat to it: I try to gather data only relevant to the size of the trip.
For example, if it’s something life altering, like moving to a new country, then I allocate quite a lot of research to this phase. And I’m not actually moving any resources until I have at least a rough idea about the risk involved. But if it’s something that doesn’t span for more than a day (like, for instance, where am I going to work from today) then I just oversimplify everything and push forward. Actually, generating more data, or analyzing too much for this specific situation, will take out most of the fun from it.
Needless to say, this applies even better in investing (whether it’s money invested, or time, or emotional involvement, it’s irrelevant). If there’s a significant alteration of my portfolio, then I do a lot of research. Most of the time, I end up not moving anything. If my portfolio (of assets, time or emotional involvement) is not suffering a massive alteration, then I just oversimplify and jump in.
Most of the time, the benefits of these jumps are way more than the portfolio invested. It may not be an immediate return, like I won’t make significantly more money (although sometimes this is happening too), but I will definitely learn something that, in connection with all the other parts of my mental map, will help me increase profits, at some point in the future.