Shaping your fate

8 May

Randomness is one of the key concepts the nature rests on. The very fact you exist, the fact you are reading this blog post or the fact you (might) know me is random in essence. Some people call it fate however. I have been hearing this word a lot lately. It happened because it was meant to happen. Or, if it is meant to happen, it will happen. While I sometimes very much enjoy this romanticised perspective on the world as well, I have always been struggling to fully buy into it. Things do not just happen because they are meant to happen; there must be something more to it. This blog tries to uncover this topic using concepts of randomness, exposure and ability to spot and to capitalise on opportunities.

Imagine a hypothetical example of you meeting an old friend you have not seen for ages at a party you were not intending to attend and he ends up getting you a job in his friend’s company. You take it, you really like it, your new boss loves you and in fifteen years you assume his/her job. At that point, your grandmother might say something like ‘you were always meant to become the boss of this pharmaceutical company, it was your fate and I am so happy you are doing it now!’ Was it really? Let’s look at this example more closely.

Firstly we have to accept that lot of things in the world happen on a random basis. The fact that your friend you have not met for years was at that party was random as was the fact he knew a person who was looking to hire somebody like you at a time when you were job hunting. So try getting comfortable with the fact that life throws a lot of stuff in your direction and that it does so on a very random basis. This is the bit we cannot control.

Where fate originates

The other two elements – exposure and ability to spot and to capitalise on opportunities we however can control. Since things happen on a random basis, some bad and some good, the amount of good opportunities you came across becomes a game of numbers. The bigger exposure you have, the more opportunities come your way, a portion of them being good. By eventually coming to the party as opposed to staying at home, you increased your exposure.

Finally you can control also the third element which I call ability to spot and to capitalise on opportunities. Because even if you had a massive exposure and were therefore getting lot of opportunities but you were not able to distinguish good ones from the bad ones and to pro-actively pursue the good ones, you would still not get anywhere. Once your old friend mentioned to you he knows somebody who is hiring, you called him up the next day, took a number on that guy, got in touch with him and persuaded him to hire you.

This is what truly makes a difference and is at the root of why you are where you are. Calling your life fate is suffering from a retrospective illusion of predetermination even though what actually happened was just a combination of random events and (lack of) your conscious effort.

The main takeaway therefore is that while we cannot completely control what random opportunities come our way, we can actively control how much randomness we expose ourselves to and where we do so. Then it is up to us to recognize the good opportunities passing by and to grab them. This is where I believe fate originates.


Note: If you have a mathematical mind, you can imagine fate as a product of a function with a random element in it and two variables. You can control the result you get by increasing/decreasing those two variables.

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