The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Elaine's Home
Elaine’s Home

Last week, I fell off a 10-foot staircase and landed on a motorcycle. I walked away with bruises and scrapes and difficulty walking for a day. Had the KTM not been there to break my fall, I might not have walked away at all.

I currently rent a loft above a garage, at the top of a naked flight of stairs. I get up at least twice a night to run down and up the stairs in the dark to use the bathroom. I run because I’m in a hurry to get back to bed; it’s cold down in the garage.

Traversing a flight of stairs has a relatively low risk probability. Maybe there’s a 1 in 1000 chance of falling off. But multiply this low probability by four traversals per night, 365 nights a year, and a breakneck fall becomes an inevitability. I should be more careful about running on the stairs in the dark.

On the other hand, I’m excessively cautious when it comes to low-impact highly-probable events. I worry about leaving my job because of the medium likelihood that I won’t be able to generate gainful income for myself. In that event, I would have to go back to a cubicle farm where I’ll have cushy benefits and a six-figure salary. Oh horror.

Furthermore, this event would be selected from a sample size of one, with a probability that diminishes with time.

I should redirect my attention to falling off the stairs.

That Daily Shower Can Be a Killer — NY Times


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