Sunday, November 29, 2009

Making Your Own Reality

Given what I write about, enjoy reading and do for a living, I have recently been thinking about something my brother said to me while we were skiing some fifteen years ago. We were both novice downhill skiers hitting the toughest slopes in Garmisch. I was more experienced and so fell just a slight bit less. When I say hitting, I mean hitting. We fell very frequently, but loved the feeling of speed too much to stop.

Somehow, and I believe it was my father who brought it up, we were asked how it was that despite repeated impacts with the slopes at 30+ mph, we remained uninjured.

My brother grinned and said, "I think it has more to do with an indestructible attitude than anything else."

At the time, my brother was in the 101st Airborne, and the statement grabbed me. Jumping out of planes seemed to me a high-threat practice that would result in frequent injury, yet people do it every day without injury.

I have done quite a bit of dangerous stuff including: a pretty horrific car accident that left the roof of the car three inches from the hood, fighting with a fair number of armed and aggressive people, jumping from heights greater than reasonable, and riding a motorcycle at great speed. I have always walked away with, at worst, minor scrapes and bruises (And memories; some bad, all still there).

I have always gone into those situations with the single-minded determination that I wasn't the one going to get hurt. I focused on that before all else. I came out without great injury.

History is replete with examples of soldiers who stood in the face of fire and were not struck. Of course, one could argue that the reason their situation was recorded at all was based more on the very improbability of their survival than any mindset they had going into the situation. Then again, some of the more narcissitic survivors of such incidents refuse to accept the very possibility of their will being thwarted.

The only times I have suffered significant injury, I was not even thinking there was the possibility of being injured: I broke the socket into which the middle toe inserts while playing water basketball. I broke my finger playing dodgeball. I am sure that if I had been aware of the dangers (Who knew you could break a finger playing fucking dodgeball, really?) inherent in the activity, I would have taken on that indestructible attitude and potentially minimized or entirely avoided injury.

My brother's answer is interesting not only in terms of personal injury, but also in other arenas: business, a trade, or anything where what one's mindset is can dictate success or at least significantly increase the margin of success. Given two people with the equivalent capabilities, the one who wants it more will usually win out. This explains why some guys, otherwise unattractive, otherwise not more successful, attract a mate that seems out of their league. Similar people of similar backgrounds have vastly different outcomes based on their outlook. For example: I will be a success because I won't allow any other outcome.

In effect, we make our own luck. In extremes, we make our own reality.

It doesn't work so well for the pure gamble, which is why there are so few who can make a living consistently as pure gamblers. Sooner or later, forcing reality to bend to your will catches up with you. The greater, common reality bites back on your tiny little reality. As most of us get older, this ability starts to break down. We have other concerns, things we think about all the time that make the degree of focus less achievable.

I hope to continue to manufacture my reality long enough to start another career in writing. I hope to always retain some degree of the capability.

It is useful to be able to change things to your favor, even if only for the length of time it takes the greater reality to detect and destroy your modifications.

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