Beating Murphy down

September 21, 2007 at 9:17 am 1 comment

“If anything can go wrong, it will” – If there was ever a series of rules to live by, the the Laws of Murphy come close to fitting the bill. What better way to plan our lives, than to defend ourselves from the attacks of a malevolent universe?

Thing is? The Universe is neither malevolent nor benevolent – It’s not only that it doesn’t care, it’s that the machinations of the world are oblivious to our existence. The world we live in, is the world we choose to prepare for. Events, like the nefarious plans of Murphy and his ilk, assume meaning only according to the habitations we provide them.

All of this cries out for a real world example. I’m happy to oblige. Many years ago I was involved in a large project and on a Sunday morning I was preparing a crucial document for a client. IT was due for delivery at 8:00am on Monday morning.

Now, I’ve prepared reports at the last minute before and all went well, but we only remember the incidents which stick out in our minds. This time, Murphy struck with a vengeance. First? The printer ran out of toner, and no amount of rocking the cartridge left and right was able to generate the printed word. All the local stores were closed. The distant ones which were open, didn’t have the right type of cartridge. etc. etc. You’ve all been there. Anything that could go wrong, went wrong. Murphy ruled the day. The document was late and the client was displeased. Life went on.

That was many years ago, and it’s never happened since. Since that fateful day, I’ve never ran out of toner at a crucial moment. Murphy didn’t die. He still sniffs around my office. I still print, so I still run out of toner, but there’s always a new cartridge sitting near the printer. The solution was not to sacrifice a chicken in the dead of night to an uncaring Universe. Instead I do the unheard of, I plan for Murphy’s arrival. I always buy two cartridges, and when I put the last one in the printer, I make a note to buy two more the next time (soon) I’m out shopping.

The trick to defending against Murphy is to take his rules of operation to heart and respond accordingly. If it could go wrong tomorrow, what can we do today so that we sleep soundly tonight?

Asking “What can go wrong?” isn’t the act of a pessimist, it’s the act of someone who knows that things go wrong. It’s the act of someone who also knows that the significance of an event is directly related to our level of preparedness.


Entry filed under: Customer Service, Future, Leaders, Leadership, Life, Management, Managing, Project Management, Time Management.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. craigprice  |  September 21, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    Well said… I always live by the motto “hope for the best, expect the worst.” That way, I remain positive even as I use my negative thinking to avoid problems. You can do both…it’s okay…it’s not matter and anti-matter. 🙂


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