And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself-Well...How did I get here?
David Byrne, "Once in a Lifetime"
Practical Time Travel is the art of getting from the present to a future of our own choosing. We do this by navigating possibility space and by realizing favorable outcomes. So the big question is, how do we get to a particular outcome? To answer that, let's start by examining how we get to any outcome.
As I'm so fond of saying, the present is the future relative to the past. So here I am living in 21-year-old-me's future. Am I living the outcome that Young Phil was looking for? It's hard to say, for a couple of reasons:
But it doesn't really matter whether I was following a plan or not. I was there; I'm now here. The process of how that happened is instructive whether it was carefully planned or totally random. One way to get a handle on that process is to examine a chain of cause and effect from the present to the past. I was thinking about this while looking out my bedroom window this morning. Our house overlooks a small park, and as I was enjoying the view of the rosy October sun on yellow leaves and green grass, I got to thinking about how it was that I happened to be sitting right there at that moment. Why was I there and not someplace else?
We bought this house in 2001 because my wife had taken a job with a telecommunications company located in the far south end of the metro Denver area. Commuting from where we were living in Boulder County was arduous for her, so we moved. If she hadn't taken the job, we wouldn't have moved there.
My wife found her job through the help of a friend who worked for the same company. If it weren't for the help of her friend, she probably wouldn't have taken that particular job.
She became acquainted with this friend when she visited Denver in the year 2000. If she hadn't come to see me, she never would have met her friend.
She was visiting me because I had moved back to the Denver area in 1999. I had to leave Malaysia for economic reasons. If I hadn't moved back, she wouldn't have been here visiting me.
Prior to coming back, I had stayed in Malaysia for as long as I could, past the extension of my contract. If I had allowed the company to rotate me back in at the end of my contract, I would have taken a job in either Europe or California in 1997.
I stayed in Malaysia for as long as I could because I wanted to be near my (then) girlfriend. If I hadn't met her, I wouldn't have tried to stay longer.
In 1995, my original contract in Malaysia was for a few weeks. Then I was offered a one-year contract; then a second one-year contract. If I hadn't taken both contracts, I would never have met my girlfriend.
I was originally brought down to Malaysia because of the experience I picked up in Russia. If I hadn't done so much work in Russia, I would never have been called down to Malaysia.
My suggestion that we use process management tools from the total quality management system in rolling out new businesses was well received by management in Russia. If I hadn't suggested this (or if they hadn't liked the idea) I would not have made several trips to Russia in 1993 and 1994 helping to outline the business roll-out process.
My co-worker Cap got sick and had to take a leave of absence. He asked me to take over a project for him in his absence. The project was documenting processes for our joint venture companies in Russia. If Cap hadn't gotten sick (or if he had asked someone else to cover this project for him) I would never have taken that first trip to Moscow.
In 1992, after I had been with the company for about a year, my boss became concerned that I was being underutilized in my position as a technical editor. When the position of Lead facilitator opened up for the Product Engineering and Development quality management program, she suggested that I take it. I did. If I hadn't become lead facilitator, I would never have recommended using tools from the quality management system for the Russian start-ups
I was hired on a technical editor at U S WEST Advanced Technologies in 1991. If I hadn't taken the job with US WEST, I would not have been able to take over Cap's project for him.
My friend Mike started working at U S WEST a few months before I did. If Mike had not taken a job at US WEST, I would never have learned about the job opening there and would not have applied for it.
Mike and I met in grad school in 1986. If either of us had decided not work on that particular degree at that particular time, we would have never met.
I dropped out of law school a couple of years before starting my master's. If I had stayed in law school, I would never have started my master's.
After I graduated from college in Kentucky in 1983, I decided to move to Denver to go to law school. Had I not decided to go to law school, I might not have moved to Denver.
So there you have it: a straight causal line across 20 years from my ill-considered (and soon regretted) decision to go law school to my sitting in my current house. The items listed are not the only possibilities that had to be realized in order for me to be there, there are others. But if you take any one of them away, the sequence is destroyed and I almost certainly would have ended up someplace else.
So that's how a particular outcome is accomplishedthrough conscious choices, happy accidents, and just plain dumb luck.
Next time we'll look at extending the line from the present into the future.
Posted by Phil at October 13, 2003 04:31 PM | TrackBack