The curse in the high probability of low probability events.

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Yesterday I had arranged to see somebody at 09.30 in the lounge area of my local gym. Just enough time I thought to finish my daily exercise routine, take my laptop to have the screen replaced and then return for the meeting.

The authorised Apple dealer was not far from the gym but down a quiet backstreet. I dropped my laptop in only to find when I came out that I was blocked in by an articulated lorry. It had blocked the whole road to load a heavy item from a nearby business. No point in being angry or frustrated he had no choice but the 15 minute delay did make me 5 minutes late for my meeting.

About a month ago I was late arriving at a meeting. There had been an accident on the road I was using. Thankfully it did not look too serious but it caused a 30 minute tailback.


A frustration for people who work with me in times gone by was my tendency to run to tight schedules. I often left myself the minimum time to arrive at meetings or finish projects etc. Often it worked but even when it did I may arrive flustered or stressed. Sometimes my timing went awry and I arrived late or let people down.

Thankfully I got out of the habit some time ago but these two instances in the recent past were a painful reminder. Why does it happen?

The High Probability of Low Probability Events.

In both instances above something that had a low probability occurred that caused the delay. Who would have expected a minor road to be blocked by a juggernaut? How often do we come across road traffic accidents that cause long term delays? But while we don’t plan for specific low-probability events there is a high probability that one will occur.

In the modern world we often create schedules that leave us little room for manoeuvre and often miss out the possibility of what appears to a low probability event. Trouble is there is a high probability that something unplanned for will occur.

Excuses will follow driven largely by guilt. We have all heard (or is it made?) the full range from the schoolboy ‘The dog ate my homework’ to the more subtle ‘My assistant put it in the wrong day in my diary’.

When did you last hear ‘I think you are great for our organisation because I love the quality of your excuses’?


Who am I? A chap living in Nottingham, United Kingdom who perhaps has a much higher level of enthusiasm than ability leading to an interest in many things but mastery of none. A father of three no longer dependent children, or so they tell me, and husband to a one-time nurse who now works with me (or rather I work for). I attempt to take photographs and occasionally fluke half decent shots though thank goodness I no longer have to buy film. I endeavour to practice karate but with advancing years spend more time instructing them participating but actively participate in the more gentle tai chi. Professionally I have spent the last twenty years in recruitment – not always the most highly regarded ‘industry’. For my part I take great pleasure in helping companies to find the right people and a lot of satisfaction out of seeing them thrive and succeed. More recently I have spent a lot of time helping people who have, or fear they may, lose their jobs. For many putting a CV together is so difficult and then finding opportuniteis can be a major challenge. Interviews can be a different problem altogether but with a little help most people can perform a lot better than they otherwise would.

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