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C between B and D

French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre described life as being “C between B and D” — C as in the Choices we make between B-Birth and D-Death.

There are several proposed mental models that may help optimize for Choice and by extension life. Here are a few:

  1. Jeff Bezos’ Regret Minimization Framework (RMF if you are keen on acronyms): imagining if you will regret doing something in X years. And if the answer yes, the framework dictates that you should do it.
  2. Friedrich Nietzsche’s ‘Eternal recurrence’: imagining that you will have to live the life you are currently living on repeat for , and then making the choices you think will create a life worthy of playing on repeat (like a good song).
  3. The Stoic mindset of Memento Mori (Latin for ‘remember that you will die’) which Steve Jobs described best in his 2005 Stanford commencement speech:

Optimizing choice is not the same as perfecting it — even if these frameworks help us make what feels like better decisions, we will invariably take actions that lead to an unfolding of events that we are not immediately fond of.

But here’s a bit of helpful insight: when such perturbing events do happen, we can make yet another choice to reconstitute our reaction to them:

A prototype that fails to met spec can turn into an opportunity to learn.

A team on the verge of burning out can turn into an opportunity to build a better and more resilient culture.

The negative response you initially find yourself invoking can turn into an opportunity to mindfully observe harmful emotions fade away which can then make space for you to respond more productively.

As you go about your day, remember that you have the ability to turn the dials on how you act how you respond in a way that is helpful for the life you are living, the people around you, and the people that you aim to serve.

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William Liao

Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (ephemera.photography)