Wednesday, August 3, 2011

If anything can go wrong, it will. Is it?

Murphy’s law states that IF ANYTHING CAN GO WRONG, IT WILL. Sounds philosophical, isn’t it? It also sounds a bit pessimistic and cynical of everything. There is even an air of uncertainty and helplessnes to this statement. Time and again, Murphy's law has provided refuge for the excuse-seeking quitters seeking to distract the attention from fixing the problem. The most recent example is that of the Indian Cricket team's captain (albait, a world cup winning one), M.S.Dhoni stating, 'What could go wrong, went wrong' after a rather embarassing defeat to the current No.2 Test Cricket team - England at the Mecca of Cricket - the Lord's cricket ground. Is Murphy's law the end of conversation? Period? The mother of all excuses?

Where did this Murphy's law come from? Is it an alert for the optimist or an excuse for the pessimist? Capt. Edward Murphy was an engineer at an American Air Force Base in 1949. He working on US Air Force Project MX981 which was designed to see how much sudden deceleration a person can stand in a crash.
One day, after finding that an electrical instrument was wired wrongly, he was annoyed at the technician responsible and said, "If there is any way to do it wrong, he'll find it". The project manager kept a list of such profound statements uttered in fits of frustration and added this one, which he called Murphy's Law. Soon, it became popular and it said, IF ANYTHING CAN GO WRONG, IT WILL.

For Capt. Murphy, it was a reminder to the engineers and team members to be cautious and make sure everything was accounted for, and to let no stone be left unturned. In otherwards, Murphy’s law, though sounding pessimistic, actually is optimistic in refusing to let everything into the hands of fate.
There are so many interesting corollaries to Murphy’s law. Let me tell you a few of these corollaries.
Murphy's First Corollary says:  Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse; Any attempt on your part to correct this will only accelerate the process.
I know it sounds a little funny, but it makes you feel helpless, especially if you are the person in-charge of making a few things to happen. Well, the crux of the matter is the element of control and the timing of control measures. Life is a sequence of events – from childhood to adulthood to old age; from school to college to work; from a dependent child to an independent adult to a care-giving son or daughter. If these sequences of events are left uncontrolled, Murphy’s law suggests that the consequences are going to be bad. Therefore, a right degree of control – both internal and external - is necessary as we move on in life. Moreover, the timing of control measures is critical. Too-much-too-late is a lament we hear often in lost causes – be it a cricket match or a terminal illness or an election campaign. We even have a proverb – That which can’t be fixed at the age of 5, can never be fixed at the age of 50. We live in times when it is fashionable to talk about freedom and not about control. But in the reality of life, freedom with responsibility is what matters and counts. If freedom sets the sails of life, it is responsibility that anchors life. In short, Murphy’s first corollary implies the need for control and proper timing of control while managing a sequence of events.

Murphy's Second Corollary says: It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.
On the surface, you feel a distrust on co-workers, a helpless feeling of reconciling with inefficiencies or even sarcasm. But it helps to contemplate this further. It is said that nature always sides with the hidden flaw and therefore, the hidden flaw never stays hidden for long. As a result, in this fast-paced world, a ‘chalega’ attitude is more prevalent than perfectionism. While working as a team, trust is necessary on your part though this trust may not be kept by others. So what is the solution? Give up? No. Give in? Absolutely not. The solution may lie in having a ready-list of the next-best-alternatives as Plan B or Plan C. It takes a lot of humility to accept human frailty and a lot of wisdom to keep a Plan B ready. Many a times, that makes a difference between winners and losers. The real life applications abound. You just got to observe the coalition politics, corporate strategies, cross-functional careers and out-of-the-box solutions to sense Murphy’s law at work. In short, Murphy’s second corollary implies spreading the risks, having a set of workable alternatives and not getting surprised by surprises in life.

Murphy's Third Corollary says: If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.
Why would Murphy want people to be paranoid even when things are working out pretty well? I guess, success gives you a license to enjoy the moment but never to take your hands off. The Students Scout Movement has a famous slogan – BE PREPARED. That’s what Murphy’s law implies. It helps to suspect success and inspect failure but very often we end up doing vice versa. It is during those moments of introspection, we come up with better way of doing things. It opens the floodgates to creative thinking, constant improvisation and critical problem-solving. After all, life on planet earth should get better and not stagnant. We got to make this world a better place. In short, Murphy’s third corollary implies a cautious optimism, continuous improvement and not getting carried away by fleeting success.

You like it or not, Murphy’s law is an interesting take on fate. While it is essential to believe in the Divine, it can be very superstitious to leave things to fate. For many, fate is a fatal excuse for their failures. For some, overcoming fate and creating a destiny for themselves is the crowning glory in their lives. Man is free but fate can be enslaving. Fate may be an excuse for failure, but it is never the secret of success. The secret ingredients are still hardwork and a dream that powers a person to greater productivity and significance in life.

I'm not sure if you know this. God is a dreamer and you are His dream. Wake up and live up His dream. If someone wants to give excuses, let him. But you have dream to live. Should I tell you that you have my best wishes?


  1. "For some, overcoming fate and creating a destiny for themselves is the crowning glory in their lives." my favorite line above. In this world of pessimism very few dare to be optimist. Would rather prefer being part of the minority than the majority.

  2. Sometimes in life,we might fail,be discriminated,miss an opportunity..At these times a strong intensity should be created in our heart,because a strong intensity in our heart about something,makes us achieve it.Too much optimism is not good,because excuses are the nails with which one builds a house of failure.But this contradicts many of our religious books!