A funny thing happened on the way to this week’s mind readers entry. I wrote it, my editor edited it, I read it one last time and realized I disagreed with it. It will be weeks before that baby’s ready for bed.

Later this morning I needed an old quote to send to a colleague and stumbled on this which I wrote just as I was coming out of the low point in my mid-life crisis back in 1998. It’s more anxious than I am now, but it already shows a kind of heartfelt embrace of messiness that would help me move from sweating the petty to petting the sweaty, which is what I’ve interpreted as the meaning of that mid-life crisis. That is, I’ve gone from fretting over every petty detail to embracing the fundamentally sweaty messiness of life.

Mind Readers Dictionary: The Podfast : Play in Popup

Mind Readers Dictionary : Play in Popup


The seven laws of unnerving uncertainty ( M.I.S.T.A.K.E.)

1. Multiplicity: I never do anything for just one reason and it never has just one effect. Life is like playing piano with oven mitts on.

2. Infinity: Anything that has a cause, has multiple causes extending back in time infinitely. Anything that has an effect, has multiple effects extending forward in time infinitely.

3. Satisficing: My time and brain power are limited. It’s impossible to factor in all the information that pertains to the choices I face.

4. Toss-up: Probabilities rarely approach 100%, so even when the odds are with me, my bets can come out wrong.

5. Appetites: I never want just one thing. I experience every option as a trade-off. Some of what I want is leftover longings relevent only to times past.

6. Knots: Buyers remorse is built into every choice I make. I’m suspended in a web of changing tugs, but must act like I’m on a one-lane, one-way street with lots of forks in the road. To translate from multiple tugs to singular paths, I tell myself rationalizing stories. These stories become choices themselves I make which, in turn commit me to, still other outcomes.

7. Extrusion: In the face of this, I have to choose. Even not choosing is choosing. And I can’t help but care about the outcomes of my choices.

Oh, and the quote was about the heartfelt embrace of messiness:

“I think there’s a personality that goes with this kind of thing. It’s people who like process and pattern, as opposed to people who are comfortable with stasis and order. When I run across simple rules giving rise to emergent, complex messiness I say ‘ah, isn’t that lovely!’ When other people run across it, they recoil.”

Economist Brian Arthur