Did you ever question yourself whether you had made the correct choices and taken the right actions at some point in your life? Even the Nobel laureate Richard Feynman faced his fear when confronted with a restaurant menu. How many different dishes should he order from a menu before settling upon a favorite? Feynman used probability theory to solve the problem. Below is the formula he developed with Ralph Leighton:
The number of dishes to try = √[2(Meals remaining at restaurant + 1)] – 1
Fear of missing out is a paralyzing force. It even drives geniuses to mathematics for consolation. Having calculated the number of dishes to try, Feynman could rest his mind at ease knowing that in all likelihood, he was eating the best plate on the menu.
Most of us won’t approach problems with probability. But all of us are seeking the same peace of mind. With the panoply of options before us everyday, the fear of missing out on key opportunities is rampant. There are always meetings to attend, schedules to meet, people to encounter, options to consider.
However the relentless pursuit of the “best” can be debilitation. It diffuses our attention and saps our focus, which are often so necessary to success. We want the freedom of trusting our decisions and intuition. All we can do is to pick the best option based on our knowledge and experience at this moment.
Done is better than perfect. It’s more important to keep moving forward with a good decision than to stop and optimize for the best decision every time. Be aware that there is no “best”, but only “better”. It’s all those imperfections that make our life interesting.
Mr. Feynman, thanks but I don’t think I need your formula. I’ll always have the spaghetti carbonara.