Field Note #100. On "Serendipity + Altamirage"

Source: James Austin, Chase, Chance, and Creativity (1978)

For Part One, see Field Note #96: On "Chance" 👀

The Context.

For nearly a decade, I had struggled with--and at times, tortured myself over--the debate of "skill vs. luck" in investing and other fat-tailed canvases (e.g., box office results, book sales, social media breakouts, and the classic venture community's devotion to network effects).

This was my personal and professional Gordian Knot.  Gordian Knots are impossible to untangle.  The only appropriate solution is to cut it.

James Austin's 1978 text (Chase, Chance & Creativity) was the knife.

When there is a problem that is intricate and intractable, the solution is not to work within its logic, but to transcend it.

The transcendent move in this case was to reject the skill / luck dichotomy.  In retrospect, this was a blinding flash of the obvious.  But a flash nonetheless.

Against the "skill vs. luck" frame, Austin treats chance in 4 stylized categories (see again Field Note 96), which "occur in mixtures" (80).

The Exploration.

The subject of this Field Note is the most slippery category of Chance IV.  It defies straight logic and "if it takes on a quality of being instigated, it is by remote events too subtle and far removed to be under conscious control." (pp. 77, 80)

Therefore, a more subtle touch is needed.  A more metaphorical one (see Field Note 57 discussing the significance of metaphorical thinking to the investing domain and beyond).

Closely related to Chance IV are additional terms: serendipity + altamirage, the title of this Note (see The Details below).  

On discussing those who have embraced the nuanced reality of chance, Austin leaves us with the following lines, worthy of deeper contemplation:

"Perhaps we remember them, too, because their lives show us how malleable our own futures are.  In their work we perceive how many loopholes fate has left us--how much of destiny is still in our own hands.  In them, we see that nothing is predetermined.  Chance can be on our side, if we but stir it up with our energies, stay receptive to its every random opportunity, and continually provide it by individuality in our hobbies, attitudes, and our approach to life." (93-94)

P.S. Friends, thanks for the anticipatory emails and texts about the 100th Field Note.  I appreciate you and fully recognize the mixtures of chance in my own path.  On to 101.

The Details.

You've successfully subscribed to Sandeep C. Ramesh
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to Sandeep C. Ramesh
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Unable to sign you in. Please try again.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.
Error! Stripe checkout failed.
Success! Your billing info is updated.
Error! Billing info update failed.