Between the unexpected and the unreasonable

Quite often, the world doles out a future that we didn’t ask for. And it isn’t anybody’s fault either.

There is a large gap between things that are unexpected and demands that are unreasonable. Such as a manager falling sick on the most crucial week of the project. Or a regular guest at a hotel asking for all her bills from the previous year to be mailed to her on a busy day. Or a person with a coriander allergy walking into an Indian restaurant.

The easiest way to cure an illness is to rest completely for a couple of days, as opposed to ignoring it and have it drag on for two weeks. The best antidote to a stressful and frenzied week at work is a weekend of relaxation. As people, we need the slack to handle the unexpected, and our systems must factor in this buffer, as a counter-measure to the (artificial) urgency that is constantly driving our lives.

Yet, it is easy to forget this rather obvious lesson. When Elon Musk demands that working for 80 hours a week is crucial to changing the world, the sub-text is that he wants to change the world right now.

The people who make enduring change are the ones who play the long game. One of the unwritten rules of playing a long game is to trade some urgency for slack and buffer, so that we can rest today and return to work tomorrow, refreshed and stronger than ever.

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