Seriously, I expected a lot more from life. I had the mind of a child who dreamt with a super solid confidence about the future. The future. It is something which I believe has potential. That, potential, is what fascinated me from day one.
All that could be. That is potential. All that could be! Oh, the thrill. Never cared about the tension of all that should be, nor about the kinetic all that is. No, my arousal hits when that pendulum is up, when all the motion is stored in the desire to go. All the places it will go through, all the places it went through, stored in the mystery of the potential.
I had a lot of potential, so they said. Oh yeah, imma be great, they cheered. Oh, that’s awesome, I thought. But yet, here I am, mid thirties still hanging. Oh god, I hate it how the individuality of letters don’t do justice to the communality of feelings. Yes, I’m a pendulum that won’t just go already. I want to mean something, be a tick, or a tok, be a wrecking ball, leave a trace in the sand, anything. I’m waiting. But that’s the whole point, I’m all about potential. A friend once asked: “don’t you just love it when things finish?”. No, I hate it. I hate the orgasmic drop of alive that bursts only to vanish. I’m all about the arousal, but what will become of it, I hate attending to.
But, if you don’t swing, you don’t leave a trace in the sand. I expected to leave complex patterns, lines of motion that transformed the universe itself, connecting stars to humans, and people with eachother. I expected a lot more from life. Now I’m only waiting for a gentle push.
This might well be the reason for ninety-nine in one hundred startups failing. And it is a soothing fact, for all this stressed out generation that worries, day in day out, about everything that could be done. It doesn’t matter that much what could be done; it matters a lot what is done.
Preparation starts when one hopes for luck. True work is when, by some chance, the right people do the right thing in the right place. Everything else is either salary, survival, hobby or passion.
Luck is an acronym for random concurring things that happen to produce added value. This becomes even more obvious when you think about how globalization, and capitalism in general, works. The extraction of value from society dries up thriving environments. Without an environment where one can thrive, life is a deserted place, where it is just a matter of pure luck to get a flimsy stream of water and attempt to blossom.
The old adage of luck being when opportunity meets preparation, is nothing more than kool aid to keep everyone’s hope high, more precisely high on hope. In a highly industrialized and globalized market normality becomes luxury, and every single one of us is dwelling on the first layer of society. There is no ladder to climb, nor a pyramid to ascend upon. Just as wind and sand erode the tip of the real pyramid, so do recession, war and trickle down economics, erode the social pyramid. We are on our way to be a large sheet of citizeltons, a placid, warm and fed combination of citizen and simpleton.
As people start to think of “solutions” for problems that can be entirely avoided, such as basic income for all the people who will not create wealth due to robots, it becomes so obvious that the probability of succeeding financially shrinks by the day.
What is the probability of success? Take everything into account: the new found geographical significance of places, your heritage, racial, ethnic or national, your natural personality and the amount it fits on the asshole stereotype of the go getter, and you’ll end up with a number which is so small that only sheer luck will put you near it.
People don’t like to call luck. It makes them feel less valuable. It wasn’t always the case though. Traditionally people valued the lucky ones. Sure, lacking all the maths we use today to calculate the odds of being the one in one hundred success stories at YCombinator, they also saw luck as a helping hand from the gods, therefore the lucky one was a kind of “chosen”. And because being chosen still is, even today, a status to die for, back in the day, lucky people stood by their luck, and did not attempt to swipe serendipity under the rug.
Today though, we need underground thinkers that point out the obvious, for example, explaining how no high success whatsoever is single handedly grabbed right from the sky. You need to stand on many shoulders to get there. Sure, should you have a good balance and determination it is even better, but all the balance and determination in the world won’t make one fly. People brag and claim they’re superior, because they are valued one hundred million dollars, as if that is something which human qualities alone can get.
Going back to the definition in the title, there is no opportunity without luck. All opportunity is based on a weird arrangement of the universe, on a specific moment. The first dream job I had, I saw the advert upside down on the subway, in the newspaper that the person seating in front of me was reading. Had I not sat right there, it could very well mean no advertising career for me. Mind you I had applied to numerous positions before, to ads I have searched for, with no success. In 2007, when the real estate market was starting to crumble, I foresaw the trend and went on to sell my apartment, because I knew it was worth a historical high; not because I am a real estate genius, but because a sidebar-suggested article from The Financial Times had some economist telling everyone to borrow as much as they can. I didn’t sell it, because I was not prepared, so luck hit me, but no opportunity ever rose because of my lack of preparation. Even small successes, like my most recommended post here is sheer luck. That article was up and visible for a lot of days with no visibility, when, one late evening, I had a last minute check of my Medium feed and saw the invitation to suggestions from elizabeth tobey. Had I gone to bed, I wouldn’t have had a 59 recommends article on my profile now.
Preparation is a constant hustle. Caught in the sticky social sheet of the low born, staying prepared sucks. It is a lot like swimming against the current. Take property for example. I feel like very soon I’ll need a subscription for breathing. Subscriptions are great, like constant updates, but they give you no timeout. “You stop the cycle, we cut your juice.” But the cycle keeps you embedded in the sheet. Trying to get above the social sheet and keep the cycle rolling at the same time, takes a heavy toll on you, and burnouts happen.
It’s worth noting, again, that there is no opportunity without preparation. From cheating on a spouse to a good sell of stock, there is preparation which allowed luck to transform ordinary into extraordinary.
Opportunity cost lies in missed preparation, not missed opportunities. All skill, beauty, talent and aptitude decay. When you hang around in a situation that generates an opportunity cost (relationships, jobs, places to live in etc.) always assess how much are you willing to loose by not attending to your skills, beauty, talents and aptitudes.
Opportunity management is how prepared we are to sense opportunity. That means you may be lucky and prepared, and yet let opportunity pass you by because, just as we have ferrite in our noses to sense the North, the same way we have an opportunity sensor somewhere. The hard truth is, there is no such thing as sacrifice, because we humans cannot resist opportunity. We are hard wired for immediate satisfaction, and should we sense opportunity there is nothing to stop us from taking advantage of it. Those bragging about how they’ve let “opportunities” pass them by, because they sacrificed themselves for family or whatever, are in fact suffering from hindsight regret. They see the opportunities now that they are in the future, but in fact they did not sense the opportunities then, when they had the chance of luck in their life. Had they sensed them, no way they’d let them pass. Opportunities cannot be passed, yet they can be missed and the result is an excruciating regret.
That is why genuine sacrifice hurts like hell, forever.
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Anyway, as I said it’s not the writing, it’s the reading.
I read a lot ever since hooking up with this writing platform. I am still being a wanderer in the desert of anonymous, and the network and the interaction doesn’t really come in either. I read a lot though. The discovery is not the best, it is actually pretty bad. I mean, really, chronological? These stories here are not status updates, these are not “blog posts” or answers to “what is happening?” they are articles. They live outside time.
But damn, I read a lot more than I used to read online, since I got the Medium bug.
However, Medium is building features for everything else but for reading. So I was wondering if a neat little browser extension could provide us the readers with these simple tools detailed below, or, who knows, maybe, just maybe, the Medium Engineering team has some of this incoming already.
Saved reading progress
Once, Medium was for the long form. We’re not sure what it is for today, but apparently the long form is here to stay. The long form has one attribute though which you cannot get around, no matter how much you try: it is long.
A tracker of read versus unread would be very helpful in assessing how far I am until I’ll get out of the story’s grip. This tracker should be vertical, no idea why everyone implemented it horizontally. It is like a scroll indicator but it works overall, like some text editors have this minimap, like a zoomed out document.
A small ticker appears on hover telling the reader how much time is needed to finish the reading. Below the time ticker, there is a save button that allows me to save the position in time of my current reading, locally via a cookie, and maybe in some “unfinished reads” menu item below my avatar.
Table of contents
A toc is a simple overview of what’s in the box. The reader wants to get a clear look at what’s inside before getting 10 minutes in the piece and realizing it has no structure. The TOC, the visible TOC, helps the writer too.
This toc could be optional, or shown for certain story lengths, but in all cases it is a super helper for navigating things that you’ve already read and want to refresh in your memory.
Quotable, searchable highlights library
Please, I beg of you, use highlights for more than notifying me who else has clicked on green text! That notification would mean something if the users didn’t see the highlights, if by magic the exact same words and letters are highlighted by a reader and another reader. Now it’s just the bandwagon.
Nevertheless, the feature is great. The highlights are snippets of wisdom embeded in the Medium. The reader highlights to share, but the reader of a digital platform should have 21st century tools, right? Like a way to search through his favorite words in the universe?
Then, in an epistolary network, where comments are not comments but responses, wouldn’t quoting someone allow multiple quotes and cross referencing for stories? That’d be great for the amateur writer who is normally a reader, to build up a network of read ideas!
This was posted before all mighty Facebook launched their variant of this. Today I’d do it a bit different. 🙂
Sometimes you don’t want to recommend, because that ripples throughout your entire network. Sometimes you want to send a hug to someone who wrote the best poem you’ve read in years. But you end up sending a “private note”. It’s … OK, I guess, Medium, but we’re humans. Private notes are also secret. And unfindable, man, I cannot in any way find the private kudos I’ve sent in the past year.
Emotions could be a Path style menu, with a more complete palette of reactions at a one click distance. Allowing readers to tweak how excited they are would be an invaluable gradient factor for your machine learning which despite all protest WILL at some point (I hope) replace the chronological modest feed we’re served today!
The reader, being a human which is a genetic gossiper, wants to know HOT topics. Maybe I am old fashioned, but I know there is a difference between posts with many recommends and posts that spark discussion.
Hot discussions are stories that not only get two worded replies, but those who get fully composed replies, replies who get many recommends themselves and stories that have responses that have responses.
Some of this is done already below each post. But the reader would use, I believe, a place to explore and discover the threads themselves.
Profile for readers
I am probably the 1.000.000th Medium user whining about the profile, but, damn, is that profile useless. When I want to decide whether to follow someone, God, there is So. Much. Work!
The reader would use a profile that tells about the author, not about the stories. What does that author usually writes about, where does the author write, what does the author think are the best of their work, and show if the author has any notable successes.
Most of the people writing on Medium are not known. Please Medium, you must give something to the horde of users, in return for their constant pounding at the keyboard generating so much inbound traffic, it’s only fair!
And one other thing:
Optimized long posts
Especially on mobile devices. My really long Evolving essay, kills my iPad and my mid range Samsung phone. I don’t know…buffer some of the post, show only some of the post, remove from the screen the post that I am not reading. Be more ebook like on mobile, so the stuff won’t jitter at every scroll, and the scroll won’t jump like crazy. I know it can be done.