2012: Eurisk

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Photo credit: John A. Ryan (flickr: insightimaging)

As I’ve said before, I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions.

If you’re going to reform your life, don’t wait until Jan 1 to do it.  People do, and they wonder why they fail year after year.

But in the spirit of looking forward on the next 12 months, I want to share my theme for 2012.

While not quite a goal, it’s a philosophy I want to adopt that encompasses a lot of the work I do on my goals this year.  I tried to find a single word to encapsulate the idea, but as one doesn’t exist, I had to make it up: eurisk.

Allow me to explain.

I got the idea from the word stress.

When people talk about stress, they’re usually talking about a bad thing– the stress of an upcoming violin recital, the stress of parents divorcing.  Psychologists, clever folks that they are, realized this one word stress actually meant two pretty separate things:

  1. Stress that causes us achieve things or perform well, called eustress (or “good stress”)
  2. Stress that doesn’t cause any good things, called distress (or “bad stress”)

When you think about your performance tomorrow and your palms start sweating and you want to throw up, that’s your body diverting what resources it can in the effort to make sure you don’t miss a beat.  And guess what– you’ll practice really hard and then at the concert, you’ll rip out a beautiful Bach partita with ear-melting arpeggios and all of a sudden you’ll be a slightly more accomplished and confident violinist.  Congrats!  That’s eustress.

And then there’s when your parents divorce, and it causes a similar sort of nausea, but you can’t do anything about it because they swear it’s not your fault, even though you can’t help but vaguely wonder if you could have done anything to stop the two people that raised you from arguing so icily, and if they can’t stay together, is there even lasting love at all?  I’m sorry.  That’s distress.

Well, I want to do the same thing with the word risk.  I want to separate it out.

When we talk about risk, technically we’re talking about the chance of something– usually something important– possibly happening.  In practice, however, risk almost always refers to bad things.  The “risk of burning your house down” seems to flow better off the tongue than “the risk of meeting the love of your life”.  The former I’d like to call “malrisk” and the latter “eurisk”.

My theme for the next year is to maximize these opportunities for positive life-changing events.  It’s an investment strategy.  Where do I devote my time and money and effort?  To things that could pay off in droves.  How specifically might I do that?

  • Invest in my passions.  I love thinking, talking, and doing life goals.  I think about goals a lot.  But sometimes, it’s hard to see my investments in this area as anything more than expenses.  For instance, the wonderful logo you see above cost $250, which gave me serious pause before starting this blog.  That’s ridiculous!  With this blog, I open myself up to far more possibilities than with almost anything else I spend $250 on.  This should be top priority stuff.
  • Go to parties.  Most are sort of boring, true.  But while the risk of meeting boring people is high, how do you expect to meet mind-boggling fascinating people while not attending?  One day, you’ll be glad you went to all the others.
  • Blind dates.  Same idea as the parties.  But… we’ll see.  All you need is one really good one.
  • Contact my heroes.  You never know who will respond.
  • Prepare for the big things and the public things.  I work at Microsoft, which means there’s only six or seven layers of management between Steve Ballmer and I.  And I noticed a funny thing– sometimes I’d prepare for meetings attended by people a few levels above me just as much as I’d prepare for meetings with the new guy.  Not good.  Whenever I’m doing something with bigshots or in public, I want to put my best foot forward.  If the right person sees you, instant opportunity.
  • Plan for a post-salariman future.  I am dependent on Microsoft more than it is dependent on me.  Who wins in this relationship?  What could I invest in to lessen this dynamic?  What can I do to attract new opportunities and how can my network help?

So this is my theme for the next year, and this is how I want to structure a lot of work I do towards my goals.  To those ends, I will be investing a lot in this blog.  I really no idea where this will end up down the road, but if I figure if I keep putting good ideas out there, I don’t need to know quite yet.

What’s your eurisky strategy for the next year?

You’re not doing New Year’s Resolutions either, right?

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  1. [...] Some people make changes throughout the year, and don’t consider New years the time for it (Erik). And some people seem to think making resolutions hurts [...]

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