When Coincidence Seems To Conspire Against You

Sound familiar?

You’ve been planning something for a long time. You’re right at the edge where it’s absolutely crucial that you’re at 100%. Where faltering for a moment can start an unstoppable avalanche of crap you’ll need to deal with in the near future.

Maybe you’d be working towards a promotion, and you get a serious case of the flue and you’re unable to show up for work in the last crucial week. Or you get a bad cold before a speech contest, your cough effectively rendering you unable to compete. Or maybe just before you leave for a long, awesome trip, you get a 1 in 10,000 reaction to a cholera vaccine.

Does that last example sound a little specific? That’s simply because… that’s happening to me right now. Yesterday was a pretty good day. I was feeling unusually energetic, I got to talk to some friends for an extended period of time, and I made some significant progress.  But as I’m typing this, I’m having to struggle to maintain focus. Abdominal pain, nausea, a throbbing headache, complete absence of energy, the distraction of not being able to trust my bowels.

In the past I would take this as a sign. As a reminder of or as an indicator of a larger, downward trend. But not today.

Coincidences happen. Like my friend Vincent reminded me a few weeks back, we simply can’t control everything. But what I can do, what we can all do, is choose how we react to said coincidences.

I am going to interpret my “misfortune” simply as the first of many hurdles to overcome over the course of an UPWARD trend in my life. It would be meaningless to worry about why I took the vaccine in the past. I can honestly say that if this is only showing some milder symptoms of cholera, it’s more than worth it if it helps reduce my chances of getting afflicted when I’m traveling. Hopefully this means that I traded a miserable couple of days while travelling, for some uncomfortable days before liftoff. I will probably enjoy myself more because I was sick before I left. And hey, maybe my inability to properly absorb food means I’ll lose some weight before I leave. Could be worse right?


I didn’t write this to get your pity or even solidarity(although the latter would be appreciated), I just wanted to give an example that shows that it is possible to escape a negative mindset. To overcome the sort of victim mentality that stops you from taking risks and doing what you want or even need to do.

Don’t invent a fate for yourself just to give into it. Most of the time it’s just a collection of unfortunate coincidences.

Good health to you all!

Regarding last week’s experiment, my main insight is this: It’s not really rigid enough to propel a relatively undisciplined person to do all the work required within a specific time frame. BUT. It is a great framework for getting more productive things done in your free time. For example, one of the things I consistently dream of is being more organized. And with that shift in mindset, I was propelled to actually take steps to become more organized. Writing detailed to-do-lists, putting ideas into specific notes in Evernote, focusing on habits to solidify a familiar routine.

But if you want to avoid confusion and wasting your time on things you won’t commit to in the long term, getting clear on what’s important and what’s not important to you in the immediate future. It works best if there’s something that you continually think you should be doing, and you use equivalent amounts of mental energy for postponing said thing, as you would to simply go ahead and get it out of your head.



9 Responses

  1. jamie flexman March 12, 2014 / 11:22 pm

    Life is just an infinite number of random occurrences. Just grab the hard hat and hope for the best! đŸ˜€

    By the way, that reminds me how I was almost caught short on the way to a guitar lesson earlier today. It always happens at the worst time…

    I blame last nights chicken!

    • Ragnar Miljeteig March 17, 2014 / 1:21 am

      It really is. But of course you can control how you stay afloat among the chaos, at least I feel like you have some sort of control/free will personally. Haha, hopefully you didn’t get salmonella man!

  2. Steve March 14, 2014 / 3:37 pm

    I’ve always thought of negative mindsets like a trap. If you start going down that path, it can suck you in even more until eventually that’s all you think about. I’ve met people with the victim mindset before. It’s like you said, you’re inventing a fate for yourself that you just to give into it.

    Life is full of coincidences. Sometimes stuff just happens so we can’t let it affect our thoughts. Oh well, good health to you too.

    • Ragnar Miljeteig March 17, 2014 / 1:22 am

      Yeah, the fact that it was a self fulfilling prophecy didn’t strike home until last year when I had every opportunity to go out and “take what I wanted”, but because of how I interpreted my life, it ended up becoming something closer to months of self pity and boredom. Haha.

  3. Micah March 14, 2014 / 4:04 pm

    I can relate to falling prey to the victim mentality you mention. I’m growing out of it though. I read a great piece recently from the German poet, painter and novelist Hermann Hesse. I’ll cut to the part that really stuck and that this post reminded me of. Short and simple.

    ‘Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. ‘

    Brief but true.

    • Ragnar Miljeteig March 17, 2014 / 1:23 am

      That’s a very stoic way of putting it. I’m not beyond being annoyed at apparent resistance yet though. The other day I realized travel insurance seemed to conspire against me in that it generally doesn’t like long term travel. Which made me upset, but in hindsight it was a waste of energy.

      • Micah March 19, 2014 / 5:20 pm

        Oh man don’t get me started on travel insurance. That’s the kind of thing that will throw all my carefully crafted stoicism out the window. đŸ˜‰

  4. Ludvig Sunström March 16, 2014 / 2:02 pm

    Hey Ragnar,

    My brother has been in Thailand for about 2 months now. He said he got sick (bad stomach) from the food and that it took him at least 3 weeks to adjust. It seems the body adapts after a while.

    How are things going otherwise? Are you meeting people? Leaning things?

    Best wishes!

    • Ragnar Miljeteig March 17, 2014 / 1:30 am

      I’m definitely learning things, but I ended up falling prey to the self fulfilling prophecy that there were no like-minded people in my area. Because I believed that for so long, I ended up not going out to meet any. It wasn’t a priority, but I’m starting to think that I need to socialize more to be able to give 100%, there’s just something inherently demotivating about prolonged isolation (when you’re still in the beginning stages of growth at least.) One of the reasons I’m choosing Chiang Mai is that I know there’s a scene of digital nomads there, so if I can meet and start hanging out with successful ones, that would be the great “marriage” of learning and leisure that seems ideal to me at the moment.

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