5. What Were The Odds?

Last time out I talked about change. About how life itself is change, and how we must adapt to it or die.

Unexpected and unwanted change will come along sooner or later. It’s a fact of life. Adapting to it will, in all probability, demand we do something, take some control, make some changes ourselves.

And that’s not easy.

We’re all conditioned to be cautious. Before making changes, particularly big ones, we’re encouraged to stop and think, plan things out, weigh up the pros and cons.

That’s sound advice, up to a point. But there’s a problem.

Because if you think about something long enough and try to plan out every step, you’ll inevitably conclude that whatever it is you were trying to achieve is impossible. Those great ideas you have lying in bed at night don’t survive the cold analytical daylight that follows.

How many dreams have been dashed on the rocks of ‘it won’t work’ ‘I can’t afford it’ ‘that’s an unsolvable problem’?

Too many is the answer.

We like to think we know it all, we have all the knowledge in the world right at our fingertips. If we decide our idea won’t fly we can rest easy. We gave it some time, we looked into it, our conscience’s are clear

But here’s the thing, we’re just making excuses.

Because we’ve chosen to ignore something we know in our hearts to be true, something far more important than any plan we might come up with.

W.H.Murray, the Scottish mountaineer and writer, knew about it; he said:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans. That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.

He chose to call this elementary truth ‘providence’. But it goes by many other names.

Allah

God

The Gods

The Universe

Luck

Serendipity

Divine Intervention

The list goes on.

It doesn’t matter what you call it. What’s important is that it exists. 

And it works in ways we cannot imagine, predict or anticipate.

I’ve been reading a lot about gambling recently. I have a plan to get myself to Vegas and put everything I have on the roll of a dice. No, not really. But I have been exploring the world of trading on betting exchanges. It’s a project born of the lockdown and it’s fascinating. Maybe I’ll tell you more sometime. I only mention it because I came across this quote the other day:

If we consider games of chance immoral, then every pursuit of human industry is immoral; for there is not a single one that is not subject to chance, not one wherein you do not risk a loss for the chance of some gain.

Thomas Jefferson ‘Thoughts on Lotteries’ 1826

I guess it’s a question of scale really. Risking a few quid on a lottery ticket in the hope of changing your life is easy. Quitting a well paid and seemingly secure job to go backpacking in South America for a year, less so.

The ability to make change will always be linked to faith. If you don’t believe it’ll work, guess what? It won’t. If you believe absolutely in yourself, if you believe it will work, guess what? It still might not.

But do what Mr Murray suggests, commit yourself fully, and as he says ‘All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred’.

W.H.Murray's autobiography is titled 'The Evidence of Things Not Seen'. Here's some evidence of my own.

Back in 2007 I decided to build a boat. A 38ft ocean going catamaran to be exact. The biggest obstacle I faced was finding somewhere to build it. It was a project that was going to take years. I needed to rent a secure weatherproof space of about 2000sq ft with lighting and a power supply, close to my place of work and close to my rental cottage, oh, and it needed to be cheap. 

This was in the affluent county of Warwickshire in the UK. Industrial units were few and far between, not to mention expensive. Any barns not being used for their intended purpose had long been converted to luxury homes worth 100s of thousands. I spent months searching a 50 mile radius circle to no avail. I’d all but given up, everyone told me there was no chance of finding what I wanted.

But I kept the faith and put an advert in the local exchange paper. My mobile rang the next day. It was a guy called Richard, he had a barn he was clearing out, maybe it would be OK for me.

I went to see it the next day, it was near perfect and cheaper than I could have hoped for. I’d driven hundreds of miles searching. Richards barn was 2 miles from my rental cottage and 3 miles from my office. The build project took 8 years. Richard became a friend. During the time I was there he needed to fit out a woodworking shop right next door. He let me use it for free. He had machinery and labour on site that proved invaluable during the build. Without Richard and 'The Barn' my boat might never have been built.

Could I have predicted these things would happen? What were the chances?

Another example.

The boat was launched in 2016. I planned to go sailing over the horizon and never come back. I wanted my girlfriend Gail to come with me. She’d never sailed, she’d never camped, she’d never not had a job or bricks and mortar around her. It was a big ask.

Her job was a safe as any you’d find. Most of her colleagues had been there decades. The job was rewarding, relatively stress free and decently paid. She wanted to come with me but…….

Then, just a few months before the boat was due to launch the unthinkable happened. She was made redundant.

With a redundancy payment in her bank and no job she had nothing to lose. She came with me.

Could I have predicted this would happen? What were the chances?

These are but two examples. Something unseen has helped me many other times. But only - and this is essential - only when I went all in. 

Only when I gave my blood, sweat and tears.

So here’s what I think. If you’re desperate for change, take the plunge. Plan what you can and then commit..... completely.

Isn’t it worth risking the loss of something you don't really want anyway for the chance of making your dreams come true?

Your odds of success are far better than you think.