Zeno’s Paradox

by Bonc on April 15, 2014


There’s an ancient Greek philosophical conundrum called “Zeno’s Paradox”. Picture an archer firing an arrow at a tree. If the archer’s starting point is Point A and the tree is Point B, then at some point during the arrow’s flight, it has to cross a midpoint between the archer and the tree called Point C. Before it can reach Point C, however, it must also cross a midpoint called Point D. Before reaching Point D, it must cross Point E, and so on and so forth. The ultimate conclusion is that there are an infinite number of points an arrow needs to cross, and thus it can never reach the tree. Hence, the paradox.

Of course, we know that’s all in our heads. In real life, when an archer shoots an arrow, if his aim is true, it always hits the tree. Like all mental games, Zeno’s Paradox exists only in the mind, by definition, but we can make it real in our actions. Take networking, for example. Think back to a time when you’ve found yourself catching eyes with someone at an event and realizing “Hey, that’s the Chairman of Such-and-Such Famous Company! Oh my gosh!” She’s just standing over there by the refreshments, pouring herself an orange juice. No one is talking to her. You have a chance to introduce yourself.

And…you freeze.

What if she has no interest in you? What if you need her company’s services and access to markets more than she needs your product line? What if she’s rude and judgmental? You’ve heard she has that reputation from that article in Forbes you read three months ago. What if you spill your drink on her? What if? What if? What if what if what if…..

Shyness is only natural. In day to day life, people don’t normally just walk up to strangers and introduce themselves. In Toronto, in particular, we have a reserved social culture: we would much rather wait for someone else to break the ice for us than do it ourselves. This even applies to networking events at which the main point is to talk to strangers, to open up possibilities for collaboration, new business relationships, and greater prosperity for everyone involved.

What can you do? Simple: just walk up and say “nice to meet you”.

Relax the rule that exists only in your head that says “don’t talk to her”. Acknowledge the voice in your head that says you can’t do it, the same self-defeating voice that you learned to ignore that told you “you can’t make a living doing what you love” all those years you were building your business. Realize that the barriers between you and the CEO you’ve been hoping to meet are imaginary: in real life, nothing can stop you from walking over. Will the conversation turn out great? You won’t know, and there’s no way to know, until and unless you take the action of walking over there and saying “hi”. Everything else is just all in your head.

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