The cosmic lottery

As Ben Carey has pointed out:

“There is 1 chance in 140 trillion that the Earth should exist. There is 1 chance in 795 billion that life should have evolved on earth. There is 1 chance in 89 billion that life should have evolved into mankind. There is 1 chance in 12 billion that mankind should have created the alphabet and thus civilization. There is 1 chance in 6 billion that your parents should ever have met and got together. There is 1 chance in 90 million that you should have been the lucky sperm that fertilized your mother’s egg…”

You’ve won the genetic lottery. You’ve beaten the odds to be here in this moment, in this time period, with all these resources, with so much extra.

Yet, we are still not happy. We are still not satisfied. We lose focus on the important and replace it with the urgent: work, bills, social media.

Life is so fragile. In fact, so fragile it’s easy to sit back and say we’ve made it this far, why rock the boat?

On the other hand…

Why stop now?

It easy to forget where we came from because it’s not easy to see. And when we forget how resilient the human spirit is to travel so far, we limit how far we can go forward.


We see the world through our lens: what we touch, what we smell, what we see and taste and what we hear—so how can you prove anything exists outside what our senses pick up?

We can’t disprove it because it’s impossible to absorb all that the world has to offer, we have to make assumptions.

We assume the world is round, even though we’ve never traveled in space.

It’s called closure. Closure is a phenomenon of observing the parts but perceiving the whole.

And as Scott McCloud has pointed out that with comics books all the action takes place in between the panels. We use closure to fill in these gaps.

Our lives work like a comic book. All the action of who we are and what we are trying to become happens between the panels. In the end, we don’t remember every single detail of our lives but rather snapshots.

For one day

One hundred and four years ago today, World War I had begun.

The next six months that followed, millions of people would die in one of the worst conflicts in human history.

For one day, that all stopped.

The armies of France, Britain and Germany put down their weapons for a brief moment to celebrate Christmas.

Even in our darkest moments, when we are locked in our worst disputes, we can still find our humanity.

We can still choose to set aside our differences and forgive.


“It’s up to you”

That’s what was written on Radiohead’s checkout screen when you went to purchase the album In Rainbows.

In 2007, during the height of music piracy, it was a radical idea to allow customers to pay whatever they wanted.

And while record sales were falling off a cliff, Radiohead survived because they understood this principle that many of us still fail to grasp:

When we feed the network, the network turns around and feeds us back.

Give instead of get.

Make instead of take.

Share instead of receive.

It’s difficult to lean back and hope that our true fans will be their to catch us. But that’s the world we have built going forward.

The challenge of choice

It turns out, when people are faced with too many choices we are less likely to make a decision. And if we do manage to choose something, we are left less satisfied with the decision we make.

It’s no surprise then to discover that human beings are creatures of habit. That an individual only visits 25 familiar locations at any given point.

We think that by limiting our choices we can free ourselves from the heavy responsibility choice brings.

Most of us want the outcomes of the decisions we make to be predictable and safe before we step into the unknown. But that’s not how life works. First, you step into the unknown, and then, the light follows.

The PR culture

Why do we gauge so much of our success on personal records?

Because it’s easy to measure.

We can point to our bank account and think if the number has gone up, we have done something well. We time our mile run, so we can see that our effort has improved something.

Our internal narrative constantly reminds us, we are not good enough. And immediately we are reminded of how someone is always better. (Unless maybe you’re Donald Bradman.)

There is more than one way to measure.

Output may be a sign of improvement but maybe we should measure ourselves by doing things that make us proud, things that make us stand taller. We can measure how we have helped each other.

We get to choose what we measure. We improve what we measure.