40 Thoughts

I love an essay whose thread is so clear and strong that you you don’t so much read it as slip down it, like a slide in a playground. Unfortunately, this isn’t that kind of essay at all. Instead it’s a meditation of disconnected pieces that is probably inspired by Baz Luhrmann. There aren’t even forty of them, I just liked the pun. Shall we begin?

Luck has been the key factor in everything I’ve ever done that’s been successful. If I could fight and win any campaign, it would be one that made everyone in the world who is successful realise how much of their achievement isn’t down solely to their own talents.

It turns out that the grownups in charge of almost everything are just big, confused children pretending to understand an unmanageably complex world. It turns out there actually are no grownups.

Nobody really knows why the industrial revolution happened, and therefore why we don’t all live in mud hovels. It’s the biggest thing in history, and we really don’t have a clue. This is exciting, because it means we really don’t understand anything really important yet.

At 20 I thought that smart, skilfully delivered arguments were what drove the world forwards, created new ideas and changed things. At 40 I realise that it’s only really evidence and discovery that ever truly moves the world permanently: arguments may seem to push the world forward, but there’s always a backlash waiting to push things back to where they were.

Quite unlike what my teachers told me would be the case, the main thing I regret not focusing on in school is not singing or playing sports or learning poems — it’s statistics. Stats gets us, collectively, closer to truth than anything else (although, I do understand, never all the way). Sadly, I will always have to visit statistics through the kindness of other people: it must be thrilling to have direct access.

Money and business aren’t dirty or boring, they’re a big piece of what makes change come, and then stick. Dismissing a career in business because you want to change the world for the better is tremendously short-sighted, and ahistorical.

If I could be remembered for anything, it would be for helping to invent something that other people thought was definitely worthwhile. When I can’t sleep it’s because I fear I won’t.

I used to think a week was a long time in politics. I now realise that a generation is barely enough time to shift anything important at all.

Managing really isn’t that hard, just be decent and respectful to everyone and you should be fine.

At 20 I had absolutely no idea the incredible amount of shit you have to tolerate and cope with if you’re born as a woman, even in an ‘advanced society’. At 40 I am just starting to understand.

I’m a terrible cook, but I love to do it anyway. I can’t quite square the circle.

You really should all move to Stroud.

Last but not least. True love is real, and astonishingly uncomplicated. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.