Moths and Your Direction
There is an interesting story about moths that I read in Ozan Varol’s book, “Awaken Your Genius.” What struck me about this was the striking resemblance to the evolution of our industry/profession. Truth be told, this process is going on now (and will continue) in our industry. While these lines might not be clear to you now, they will become clearer as you read through the post.
Ozan wrote, “In the 1800s, the peppered moths in Britain experienced a strange transformation.
Before the transformation, 98 percent of the moths were light-coloured. Only 2 percent were dark. But over the next five decades, the ratio completely flipped. By 1895, 98 percent of moths were dark, and the rest were light.
The transformation can be traced to a cataclysmic event whose ripple effects transformed not only the moths but also life as we know it.
The Industrial Revolution.
Before the Industrial Revolution, the light-coloured moths enjoyed a significant advantage over the darker ones. The light-coloured lichen (plant like organisms) that grew abundantly on tree bark camouflaged the light-coloured moths from predatory birds, making them more difficult to detect.
When the Industrial Revolution arrived, coal-burning factories began to spew immense amounts of Sulphur dioxide and soot into the air. The sulphur dioxide killed the light-bodied lichens growing on tree bark, and the soot painted the bark darker.
With these changes, the light-coloured moths stuck out against the dark background and became an easy lunch for hungry birds. In contrast, the darker moth population, which now blended in with the dark, skyrocketed.
The old advantage became a new liability, and the old liability became a new advantage. The light-coloured moths withered. The darker ones blossomed.
The world is evolving at dizzying speed.
Thriving businesses begin to wither as change chips away at their competitive advantage, exposing them like light-coloured moths against a darkening bark.”
What’s the Industrial Revolution like cataclysmic event of our industry/profession?
Truth be told, there are several (to name a few) such as the Internet Revolution, Regulatory Environment spawning out New Business Models, Cloud Computing, Mobile Revolution and the changes in Customer Expectations & preferences. All of these (and others) along with the digital adoption that happened during COVID-19 are expediting the transformation process.
Ozan wrote, “Although people yearn for a return to “normal” or try to predict the “new normal”, there is no such thing as normal. There’s only change. Never-ending, constant change. Sometimes slow, sometimes fast, but constant, nonetheless. Once we realize that the ground beneath us isn’t stable – and never has been – we can relax, and open ourselves to new possibilities, and lean into the beauty of not knowing.”
It’s important to have a general sense of direction but if you demand that you must know the final destination before you take a decision or act, then you will get in your own way. Because when we plan something, we only do so from what we know now. The insight, outsight and foresight of your current self is limited. It’s thus important to remain open-minded, curious and have a strong sense of willingness to act in the face of uncertainty as well as incomplete information.
However, if you behave like a light-coloured moth hell bent on confirming your belief that the Industrial Revolution has not arrived, you will end up as food for hungry birds.
Like many investors, we too try to control the future because the future is uncertain.
There are various ways the future could play out. We never know what’s going to work or what’s going to come next. Thus, we try to eliminate uncertainty by searching and hoping for certainty. As there are many peddlers of certainty, we are likely to fall prey (like investors) to the bullshit of certainty. And we end up looking for a magic certainty button.
But there’s no such thing as a Magic Certainty Button.
Sorry to burst your bubble.
There is no spreadsheet that can guarantee you will be fine. There is no amount of money that can guarantee success. Uncertainty equals reality.
But that doesn’t mean we should live our lives petrified with fear.
Once we accept that the Magic Certainty Button doesn’t exist, we can stop looking or hoping for it. We can take all that wasted time, energy, inaction and use it to do something more helpful—like repeating Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer over and over again.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
Not into prayers or mantras? Try this:
- Make a list of all the things that matter that you can control.
- Look at that list and put a big, fat check mark next to everything you’ve addressed to the best of your ability.
- Whatever you didn’t check, take some time to work on it.
- Any time you start craving that Magic Certainty Button, just go back to that list, and remind yourself that you have done everything you can (or if you haven’t, then do whatever you can – there is an interesting post on this concept coming soon).
- Let go of the rest.
If you can do that—specifically, if you can make it all the way to step 5—you’ve got a touchstone for what can help you feel just a little more comfortable in an uncertain world.
Ozan added further, “Life is a dance, but it can’t be choreographed. It requires leaning into curiosity about what will come next instead of demanding that the dance conform to our carefully scripted steps. When we attempt to force outcomes and next steps – when we try to predict what can’t be predicted and when we try to control what can’t be controlled – we get tangled up and can’t tango on.
If you can act like an Improv Actor- if you can accept each offer from life with a mindset of “Yes and…” – life becomes a lot more fluid. You can step into new roles, delight in the twists and turns, and arrive at unexpected destinations. The future favours the open-eyed and open-minded.
Uncertainty is a feature, not a bug. It’s something to be embraced not erased.
Far too many people wait to make a move until they know exactly what comes next- which means they never move. Life often lights the path only a few steps ahead at a time. As you take each step, you go from not knowing to knowing and from darkness to light.”
The truth is there is no trailer of your future and there will never be one.
The only way to know is to start walking, putting one foot in front of the other before you see any clear path.
Jim Rohn said, “You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.”
The question is – Will You Change Your Direction?