Disaster Tolerance

Are you disaster-tolerant? (Do you have reserves?) This question is well-posed in Seth Godin’s blog post (here it is in its entirety):

Not all disasters can be avoided.

Not all disasters are fatal.

If you accept these two truths, your approach to risk will change. If you build a disaster-tolerant nation or project or lifestyle, you will be more willing to challenge the fates and won’t hide out.

The disaster-tolerant approach means that you can focus on the upside of risk instead of obsessing about the worst possible outcome. And once you do that, the upside is more likely to occur.

If your hard drive has backups, you don’t have to be as careful in buying hard drives. It’s okay if a cheap one breaks. If your portfolio of artistic or financial endeavors isn’t wrapped up in one project or one gallery, it’s okay to do something a bit more daring, because one critic can’t cripple you.

That outcome you were so afraid of isn’t so bad, and once you realize you can tolerate it, it’s (amazingly, perversely and ironically) less likely to happen.

The idea of reserves is so powerful for me. When I read the “Super Reserve” chapter in Thomas Leonard’s book The Portable Coach my thinking was transformed. For me it boils down to two levels of reserve: 1) a basic level of extra wherein one has enough of something to last a little while (“a little while” being relative of course) and 2) a “Super Reserve” which means having way more of something than you’ll need or use for a long while.

Let me offer an example: toilet tissue. A ‘reserve’ might be buying the economy size package the next time you’re at the store (when you normally buy the ‘standard’ size package), and perhaps before you’re down to the last roll or two. A Super Reserve is where you calculate your usage and buy enough for six months.

If there’s an area of your life causing you stress consider creating a Super Reserve. It will alleviate your stress in two key ways: 1) you’ll have enough of whatever it is and 2) you’ll have the deeper psychological peace of knowing that you can create a Super Reserve.

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