I sometimes look back on my darkest moments. That studio in Canada, when I didn’t know what to do with my life. That first job in Germany, when I was stuck indefinitely in a foreign place, completely alone. That night at the top of a building, wondering if there was a better life over the edge. I’ve been through the grinder. It’s never been smooth sailing. And a question I get asked a lot is, “how did you survive?”
And my answer to that question is the same answer that sustains my high performance today. These days, life still isn’t a walk in the park. I code trading bots while running a small business, for goodness sake. That takes it out of you. You have to try very hard to stay on this ball.
But using the tactics I learned in the past while simply trying to survive, high performance is easy. In particular, one of my favorite tactics is something I call “the fallback”.
Here’s how it works: Assume catastrophic failure in everything you do, and make the failed outcome acceptable. In other words, throw a red carpet on the fire escape. Pretend it’s not just an emergency option, but a likely one. Then, make it pretty.
For example, if every venture of mine fails tomorrow and I lose everything, my fallback is to become a fisherman. It’s a long story, but the point is I’d still enjoy this worst case scenario. I mean, a headline about me would read “Deep Learning to Deepsea Fishing — An Engineer’s Journey” or something like that. Has a nice ring to it. Though it’s very unlikely to happen, it’s important to design a fallback you’d still enjoy. Then, no matter how badly you fail, the outcome is still decent.
When your worst case scenario is still acceptable, you can reach out with impunity. There’s nothing to be afraid of, anymore. After all, things will be fine even if you lose. That’s how you win before you even start playing.