Late last August my uncle Geoff bought 36 cans of Heinz baked beans in ham sauce and stacked them neatly in the laundry cupboard. He didn’t eat a lot of beans as a rule, but they were on sale at $1.00 a can, slashed mercilessly from $1.83, and it was just too much of a bargain to pass up. My aunt Jacqui wasn’t sure how they could possibly eat that volume of baked beans. Ever.
Life is all about managing risk. Taking action can sometimes drive your own destiny, breed luck, and reduce risk. Equally, inaction may manoeuvre you away from opportunity and expose you to greater risk.
The cans of baked beans wanted to know where Geoff was at.
Geoff decided to add some beans to his bacon and eggs on toast the next morning. There was nothing sinister about that; however life was about to take a left turn.
As he opened the can at the kitchen bench, Geoff noticed a promotion emblazoned on the side of the can. “WIN $10,000 – open the lucky can! – check under the lid!” But of course there was a catch …”Promotion ends 31st August”. The blood drained out of Geoff’s face.
5 days left, 35 more cans.
Geoff was in a bind. Generally you don’t put bind and baked beans in the same sentence (sorry, that’s the one and only reference to the effects of baked beans in this story, I promise). So, does Geoff achieve certainty and open all 36 cans, making it a $36.00 massive serving of baked beans, or does he reason himself out of any possible chance of success, knowing that the odds are akin to winning Tattslotto?
Or does he race down to the supermarket and buy up all the remaining stock of baked beans in the store, to improve his chances?
Within 30 minutes of spotting the promotion, Geoff had moved all 36 cans out of the laundry cupboard and into the kitchen pantry, shifting other products out of the way so the baked beans were front and centre, stacked 3 high in formation, like targets in a carnival shooting gallery. Visibility was important now.
Geoff mentally wrestled with his thoughts, telling himself over and over to stop being ridiculous. Go on, put them back in the laundry cupboard, out of sight, and just forget about it. But what if he has the lucky can? And What if he does nothing now and he opens up the winning can next year when the promotion is over? The risk was too great, and he would never forgive himself! The countdown clock was ticking.
So he opened up a couple of cans. He could always put the contents of 2 or 3 cans in a Tupperware container and keep it in the fridge. It would keep there for a while.
Then he opened up a couple more. Four cans in total, but no winning lid. Then he stopped and scolded himself. “I can’t go on living this way! I either open them all up and forgo the bargain of half priced beans, or I put them away and live in fear that I could have won and paid for an overseas holiday? Geoff put the cans back in the laundry cupboard, out of sight.
Jacqui was having trouble containing her amusement. For the next 3 days, whenever she entered the kitchen, the cans had either found their way back out of the cupboard and were lined up on the kitchen table, or they had put themselves away again. And Geoff was either totally ignoring them, or transfixed in a stand-off. He was starting to feel the pressure. The clock ticked.
With 1 day left, Geoff had all the cans out on the kitchen table again. He couldn’t stand it any longer. He had decided to open another 6 cans. He saw this move as an act of risk aversion. This decision erased part of the baked bean bulk savings, but it also reduced his risk of lapsed prize disappointment.
But which ones should he open?
Jacqui walked into the kitchen and found Geoff standing over the lined up cans, with his hand outstretched, hovering slowly over each can. She asked him what he doing, and he was barely aware of her presence. He was locked in concentration.
He was trying to get the vibe.
The lucky can was there, he could feel it, and he was trying to make some kind of extra sensory contact with the lucky lid.
He agonised over his selections, and eventually picked out 6 cans that he felt he had a connection with. With great ceremony, he opened them. He was devastated, No prize! No streamers and confetti falling from the ceiling, no travel brochures. The remaining cans silently mocked him.
But that was his final decision, and he stuck with it. The remaining hours lapsed and although no further cans were opened, Geoff spent a lot of time staring at the cans, shaking his head, telling himself not to be silly.
Life after the deadline returned to normality. There was certainty now. But a larger issue had now surfaced. There were 25 remaining disappointment time bombs sitting in the laundry cupboard. In the months that followed, Geoff broke out into a cold sweat each time he retrieved a can from storage. Now he was trying NOT to pick the lapsed winner! Before extracting a can from the stack, he would hover his hand over the top of the cans.
Now he was living with fear, but still trying to get the vibe.