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Get a Goat

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You’re a negative piece of shit.

My old boss told me this once. And it stung.

Still stings.

But he was right. Not 100% right. Nothing really is that black and white.

But he was right.

Maybe 70% right.

My father was a baseball coach growing up. And not little league.

He coached collegiate teams and summer league teams. Cape Cod. Those players are the opposite of little.

They’re big. Future major leaguers like Greg Vaughn, Will Clark, and Joe Girardi.

There is an old plack in our house with a newspaper article about my father and his coaching colleague.

The article is titled Doom and Gloom

Dad was or is doom.

If you pour water in the glass, he finds a way to point out the glass is half empty.

And I guess you could say that quality is ingrained in me too.

I struggled to build confidence or just feel confident. I tried playing the same game. The one he coached where if you fail seven out of ten times, you’re considered good. And I had moments, but my confidence was never strong.

This carried over into school and life. Mistakes buried me. Sometimes still do.

Because I look or obsess about the past. But before that, I imagine too much of what could go wrong in the future, and find myself looking back at the past. A cycle that skips the present. Not just skips it. Ignores it.

A vicious cycle.

How can I avoid this cycle?

That might be the wrong question to ask. I have learned how to manage it.

Meditation. Exercise. Reading books.

All help.

For example, one my favorite books I’ve read recently is Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke.

It’s all about decision making. Annie’s newsletter has also been really useful.

In the newsletter earlier this year, she shares the Goat Solution. It’s an exercise in perspective and how benchmarks impact our happiness.

A poor farmer goes to a rabbi with a problem. “My wife and children are living in a small house and it’s unbearable. Life couldn’t get worse.”

The rabbi asked, “Do you have a goat?” The farmer, puzzled, nodded.

“Move the goat into your house with your family.”

He didn’t dare question the reasoning of the rabbi, who was legendary for his wisdom.

Over the objections of his family, he brought the goat to live in the house, and it was a disaster.

The goat smashed the furniture, ate everything in sight, and smelled … like a goat.

He returned to the rabbi, panic-stricken. Life had never been more horrible. He needed something - anything - to relieve his family’s suffering.

The rabbi said, “Remove the goat.”

That story makes much sense to me.

Because it could always be worse. Always.

And you know what, it could always be better too.

But it is what it is right now. That’s all that matters.

I’ve learned to add some practicality to my pessimism.

Tim Ferriss even calls it practical pessimism.

Annie Duke even references in her book that there is power in negative visualization. Because it helps us achieve our goals.

The key is not to only negatively visualize what might happen. But to include some positive visualization too.

Doom can be useful. It just needs a counterpart. A partner.

If there is doom, you also need some gloom.

Without it, you’re incomplete. Out of whack. Extreme.

You need balance.

When you wonder if things couldn’t be any worse, get a goat.

So, yes, I was a negative piece of shit.

And you know, I still am in many ways. Just a little bit less.

More like 60%, not 70%.

The goal isn’t 0% either. It’s more like 50%.

Half and half. Negative and positive.

Doom and gloom.

Find me on Twitter @thischrisgallo or GitHub @gallochris or Instagram @heygallo.