Avoiding worst-case scenarios

What are some of the worst-case scenarios you have encountered in your life? How many of those could have been avoided if somebody took a simple precaution?

This post was inspired by an incident from last week. I was travelling to a foreign country with my family, and we were waiting at the airport one hour before take-off. At that moment, I realized I did not have my passport with me. I rushed home in a taxi and informed the driver of my crisis. I saw him exceed the speed limit and switch lanes in a frenzy to rush back to the airport. I then requested several people in the security line to let me through to the front. I made it to the departure gate just in time, much to the relief of my anxious family.

Stepping back, I was in full control of this situation when I packed for the trip. The act of forgetting my passport spiraled into the more serious risk of causing a road accident. Each avoidable crisis like this causes us to lose money, time and our peace of mind.

Worst case scenarios.png

This has led me to think of whether this risk can be mitigated by adopting a system. To outline this system, before starting any process which is dependent on a bunch of other steps (from appearing or a job interview to packing for a weekend trip):
– Analyze the handful of critical things without which things could go terribly wrong (Worst case scenarios)
– Build systems to mitigate that risk (like setting timely reminders, or building a checklist)
– Learn from experiences and improve this system with postmortem analyses

For instance, while packing for a trip abroad, booking flights on the wrong date, forgetting your passport or your mobile phone are broadly the three biggest sources of risk. Most people already do this automatically, but I ought to consciously adopt this till it becomes as a habit.

With several of our life’s decisions, there is merit in identifying worst-case scenarios that can easily be avoided.  While forgetting one’s passport on a weekend trip might seem trivial in the larger scheme of things, it caused me enough trouble to start waking up to this reality.

PS: This post is primarily a note to myself. If you’ve a tendency for forgetfulness, hopefully this provides some fodder for thinking. If you don’t, I’d love to hear about the methods you adopt to avoid these blunders.

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