I was heavily into sports from a very young age and nobody who knew me could accuse me of taking academics seriously in life. I micro-managed studies in between my jam packed commitments towards various sporting activities. So when sports left my life after a freak accident, I ultimately ended up becoming a manager, starting with other companies and eventually in my own company which I started. Its simply because I did not have much knowledge about stuff as I ‘managed’ the knowledge gathering process during my tryst with education. So during my college life while managing serious affairs like economics, statistics and mathematics, I came across the topic of Game Theory in the second year. The name appealed to me for obvious reasons; so I though let’s not manage this topic for a change due to my respect and love for sports.
In the first class after convincing the statistics professor that I was indeed a student of his class, he started his lecture of game theory. Somehow he got that nonsense idea due to my extended physical absence from the class for more than a year. And I shit you not, this was the first thing he wrote on the blackboard:
Correlated equilibrium or the incentive compatibility (IC) constraint.
p(x,y)u(x,y) ≥ p(x,y)u(x′,y) for all x,x′ ∈ X. (IC) y∈Y y∈Y
I knew immediately its an hour of my life I will not get back ever given that I survive an entire hour of this ‘constrain’ critical enough to fuck up my mental ‘equilibrium’. I cursed myself for stepping in the class with the choicest of creative vocabulary gathered meticulously over the past year in college canteen, for trying to be an economist/statistician by sacrificing my inner manager. So being true to my managerial instincts, I never repeated the mistake of attending any further classes and decided to manage game theory few days before exams like always. And in the process of doing it, I derived my understanding of the subject which roughly but simply translates into this – Game Theory is a field of mathematics that studies patterns of the past to make predictions about the future. The vast probability and variety of real world application of the subject in this simple definition intrigued me, for which at a later period of life I gathered the courage to know more about the subject in limited depth through leisurely readings. And this was my simple takeaway from that pseudo intellectual effort.
Our future is defined by the choices we make in the past and what we choose ultimately leads to what we become. Its an universal truth, and one of those few which is not subject to debatable apprehensions. But if we go deeper in that thought, it can be implied that there was a possibility that we could have become something better or worse by making that other choice, which can reverse the glorious uncertainty of life that is always perceived at a future trajectory. To put it simply, no matter how far fetched it is may sound, our past ‘was’ also uncertain, just like our future is. Our presence in this moment lies between a never ending hyper loop of uncertainty and missed opportunities to have a life very different than we are presently living.
At times another chance is all we need. To make right of a wrong, to win back what is lost or at times just out of curiosity to see how things might have turned out differently than it actually turned out to be. We are defined by our past successes and mistakes to the world, but in our inner self we know, things could have been otherwise had we made the choices we did not choose to make. But is it worth going back to the proverbial time to re-make those choices if life throws the opportunity of doing so? Would we like to change the way we turned out to be or become the person we have become in life? Do we not love ourselves enough to accept us the way we are in the present and just try to make better choices in future by accepting and learning from our past mistakes? May be yes. May be no. May be the answer lies in the fact how content we are in life, which varies from person to person.
My way of looking at things is that the day we become fully content in life, we lose the hunger to achieve more or to challenge ourselves to make a difference in our limited capabilities. And its that aspiration to make a difference defines us ultimately as who we are and what this world we know will eventually remember us for. We only have one life; and maybe one shot at things is all we need to define it the way we aspire to. I did not go back to the class despite having a choice, which maybe was a mistake. Who knows I could have become a famous game theorist had I put my mind and focus to it. But I am ok with being the eternal everyman manager, as I love my flawed self and that manager in me enough in the present, to not look forward for any redo buttons of past in life.