Embracing Entropy

Entropy is one of my favorite words.

I first heard of it in a Thermodynamics course in college. Entropy, by definition, is the degree of disorder or randomness in the system. In theory, this second law of thermodynamics posits that disorder increases over time when allowed to progress naturally. Energy transforms, and systems dissolve into a state of confusion or chaos.

Ever notice how good things come to an end?

I’d been working on improving operations for one of our clients for over a year when finally it happened, the tides shifted, and things were going in the right direction. Until it wasn’t – key personnel threatened to resign, metrics suddenly declined, and we were back to square one. But were we truly back to the original state?

When he answered Edge.org’s annual question, “What scientific term or concept ought to be more widely known?” Steven Pinker writes, “More generally, an underappreciation of the Second Law lures people into seeing every unsolved social problem as a sign that their country is being driven off a cliff. It’s in the very nature of the universe that life has problems.”

Knowing that the natural tendency of life is to go into disarray is an essential piece of information. Why, you ask? Because you now have the key reason why change is necessary.

When I returned from graduate school, I knew I was not too fond of research and design – my entire life plan was in total disarray. There goes the life dream of becoming a scientist. I called a classmate from college and asked him for a job. He told me an engineering position was open, and I told him to give me anything but that. Was this the stupidest move from someone who qualified for that role? Yes. Best decision at the time? Yes.

Pre-empting entropy

Oblivious to it then, I got ahead of the chaos and made a shift before the sh*t hit the fan (which I believed then was me being unhappy and still eventually quitting).

There are two ways things happen: change comes to you, or you change before change happens. Would you wait to be compelled to change, or would you change to accommodate the impending transition?

I acknowledge that this is a complex thought. I’m even working through it now. But I’ve decided not to wait around for things to go south.

Change is necessary as it is constant

Going back to the question of being back to square one, we were not.

The entire year of adjusting, learning, and figuring out how to make the whole thing work placed us on an entirely different square. Experience enables us to make smarter decisions.

We are all equipped to adapt to change. What usually holds us back is the belief that we don’t have what it takes to do so.

So here are questions I’d like to leave with you today: How is entropy approaching in your life, and how are you embracing it?

2 Replies to “Embracing Entropy”

  1. Oh my, what a thought-provoking post. So much so that I had come back to it a second time after doing some thinking about it.

    There are two ways things happen: change comes to you, or you change before change happens. Would you wait to be compelled to change, or would you change to accommodate the impending transition?

    I’m not really sure which way I roll. I think I ride the fence. (the story of my life) Really, I’ve never been much of a planner. In high school I worried because I had no clear vision of what came next. (There’s a theme, I guess, since that’s the name of my blog.) I started down a path that sort of dropped into my lap. It wasn’t comfortable, though, so I quite school and went to work for the Post Office. I continued in my life, just putting one foot in front of the other, waiting to see what lay around the corner. I tend to seize opportunities as they come, but I’m loathe to make plans or set goals. I guess ‘ve just talked myself into accepting that I let change come to me. There’s something about the mystery of life that piques my curiosity. I prefer not to worry about things that I can’t change. And though, I will fight hard for something I really want, I keep my expectations low, thus my happiness seems to endure no matter what change pops up in front of me.

    Is a recent cancer diagnosis entropy approaching? Here again, this came out of the blue, and though I always thought the C word would render me into a pool of jittery Jello, miraculously, it hasn’t. (I’m lucky to have caught it early and it’s one of the most curable cancers) I also have, in the back of my mind, the knowledge that I’ve lead a remarkably healthy and carefree life. I’ve been waiting for the big catastrophe that surely awaits. If this is that, I’m damned lucky. I kind of think this is just a little speed bump in the road. So I’m still waiting for that big catastrophe…Yeah. I do let change come for me.

    Thanks for making me think.

    1. Linda, your words are also thought-provoking. I’ve always admired your approach and views on life. It must come from that carefree spirit that you describe. You and I are coming into this journey from opposite directions – I being a “planner” and you an “adventurer” (i.e., what comes next…comes). I’m glad that your diagnosis came early and it’s manageable. I look forward to seeing your writing a bit more.

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