Is Your Bad Luck Misfortune or Stupidity?

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“Why does this always happen to me?” “Because you’re stupid.”

Harsh? Perhaps. But it may also be quite true. I learned this first hand recently when I almost lost a year’s worth of work to an “unfortunate” computer error. While the computer problem would have been due to a hardware failure, the loss of data would have been due solely to my own idiocy.

Here then, is the case for stupidity…

People’s exhibit #1:

I’m in the shower, and for some reason at that moment I think to myself, “you know, I haven’t backed up my hard drive in a while, I should do that today.” Why did that thought come to me while I was in the shower? Who knows. Like many people, I do my best thinking there. If I could figure out a way of moving my office into my shower and getting the hot water to last more than 10 minutes, then I would in fact, become the most brilliant person on the face of the earth. As the rest of the article demonstrates, that is clearly not the case.

This thought occurs to me while I am showering, but a few minutes later, after I have dried off, dressed, and shaved, all thoughts of backing up my computer are long gone.

To be fair, my hair follicles burst out of my face with the ferocity and speed of an alien baby bursting from John Hurt’s chest, so shaving can be a long process for me. But still, it’s at most twenty minutes later, and I am back at my computer without a thought in the world of backing up my hard drive…

People’s exhibit #2:

I am driving in my car, and for some reason at that moment I think to myself, “you know, I still haven’t backed up my hard drive. I should do that today.” Driving time is second only to shower time when it comes to quality thinking time. If I could get my office into my car, then I would be really cooking. (and if I could create some kind of “driveable automobile shower,” I think I could solve all the mysteries of the universe). Unfortunately, it’s not just being in the car that helps, but rather the actual act of driving. This would make things like writing articles and taking mid-workday naps very difficult and dangerous.

In any case, this brilliant insightful occurs to me while I am driving, so you can guess what I did as soon as I returned. That’s right: nothing. By the time I got back, my mind had moved on to other critical issues like, “What was the name of the guy who played the police lieutenant in the original Terminator movie?” The hard drive was a forgotten memory. (if you’re playing along at home, the lieutenant was played by Paul Winfield).

People’s exhibit #3:

I am sitting on my couch watching TV and for some reason at that moment I think to myself, “you know, I still haven’t backed up my hard drive. I should do that today.” I don’t actually do my best thinking on my couch, or any thinking at all, really, but this thought came to me due to the fact that I have a home office. My computer is always only a few steps away from me. So now the thought is in my head at a moment where I can get up and immediately run a backup. I am sure that you can guess what I did…that’s right: nothing.

There were three *insurmountable* obstacles that kept me from running the back up right then:

1) My couch is a little old, so there is an ever so-slight indentation where I sit, which means it takes .0005% more effort to get up. May not seem like much, but inertia’s a tricky thing.

2) When watching an episode of American Idol, turning away is hard – I think they emit a hypnotic ray that makes it impossible to stop watching these amazingly bad singers.

3) (and this is the truly brilliant one) I thought to myself, “The computer has been working fine, it can wait….” Famous last words, like, “Come on, we can take ’em Colonel Custer!” and “It’s ok, Mr. Nixon, no one will ever find out.”

People’s exhibit #4:

Cut to a nice weekday morning, when I hit the power switch on my computer and see the gloriously depressing sentence, “Primary Drive 0 failure,” splayed on my screen.

“Hmmm, this shouldn’t be. Let’s try again.”

Once again…”Primary Drive 0 failure.”

So now my computer is refusing to work. This is not good. As you may have picked up, I haven’t backed my machine up in little while. All I can think to myself is, “I am such an idiot. I should have backed this up!”

I try the computer a few more times, and nothing. If you have been in the self-improvement/motivational world for more than a day, you have heard insanity defined as, “doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.” Wanting to prove my sanity to the “pithy motivational sayings Gods,” I stop hitting the power button hoping for a different response. Instead, I spring into action like the “professional speaker who speaks on how to quickly react to the unexpected,” I am by packing up my computer and taking it to show to a friend who has all sorts of diagnostic tools to analyze this sort of thing.

Here’s the interesting resolution to the story. We hook the computer up at his place and it boots up fine. I swear it did not work at my place! While there, I back up a few critical folders (like the “electronic gold” that is the folder containing all of the past “Improvised Musings” Newsletter 🙂 ), pack it up again, and bring it back to my office. Hook it up, hit the power switch, and it boots up just fine.

Nothing changed, but trying it the exact same way netted a different result. So much for the definition of insanity. This just goes to show how accurate pithy motivational sayings can be.

I’d like to think that the Universe was giving me a warning shot, smacking me in the head, and telling me, “hey Einstein, get off your lazy moronic behind and take the 15 minutes to run the backup.” (I did)

I could not have foreseen the hardware failure. That was a truly unexpected event. But I could have easily done the work to turn what could have been a four day delay into a one hour one.

The verdict:

Guilty as charged.

How many times does this happen to all of us? Life will always throw us curve balls, but oftentimes it is our own lack of preparation that gets us stuck. Many people respond by throwing their hands up and saying, “why does this always happen to me!” or, “I knew this would happen!” Well, if you knew this would happen, you should have done something about it…

One of my taglines is, “planning is important, but improvising is essential.” In my speeches, I of course focus on improvising. However, never forget that planning is in fact important. And the better you prepare (not obsess, just prepare), the easier it is to improvise.

Now maybe I should do something about that “Check Engine” light that keeps popping up when I’m driving…

write by garcia

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