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I made what I feel is some excellent pear vinegar.

I was trying to make pear cider.

You say to-ma-to, I say to-mah-to. Or something like that.

I believe it’s important to stay flexible in life. I’ve had plenty of practice saying, “Oh, no, I meant to do that,” in a convincing tone. You should understand – I once wrote a book where halfway through the first draft I sat back and said to myself, “No, Strykar would never do that,” so I had to completely rewrite his character AND invent another character to be the bad guy. Keep in mind this was a manuscript I’d been thinking about for years, and I’d written every word. I was still shocked by how it turned out.

There are a couple of reasons why it’s important to have the ability to pivot. First, sometimes you’re just walking down the wrong road and you need to make a U-Turn. It’s an underrated skill, knowing you’re committed to a bad idea and it’s time to make a change. There’s a term for that – the sunk cost fallacy. It’s when you have time, energy, money, credibility invested in something, and it slowly dawns on you that things are just not going to work out the way you wanted. The normal human reaction is to think of the huge investment you’ve made and hope that with a little bit more effort, it will all work out. Sometimes that’s right, sometimes it’s wrong, and knowing the difference is pretty darn tricky. Politicians and generals tend to be horrible at sunk cost decisions – politicians because they hate to be seen as wishy-washy and generals because their souls shrink at the thought of saying all those lost lives were in service of a bad idea.

The other reason to pivot is because occasionally everything changes.

Take my shack-on-the-edge-of-the-slough project. I’m done with the rock walls, still waiting for the sawmill to finish the rafters. I can’t do much else on the actual building until I have a roof, so I’ve been landscaping. In the process, I discovered that under 125 years of straw and other “stuff,” the basement floor was cobblestones. I’ve spent a few hours scrubbing away debris and I can tell that with a little work, or maybe a lot of work, it’s going to look wonderful. Seriously - a little iron table with an umbrella and it’s going to look like a town square in Vienna.

Well, almost.

This requires a dramatic pivot. My first vision of the project was of me tucked under a snow-covered sod roof, peering out a picture window with a wood stove gently crackling behind me, just cranking out fine literature. The vision also includes a recliner, but we’ll skip over it because that implies a certain lack of productivity. I thought about putting a chaise lounge in the design but just the thought of it made me yawn. But now, while still holding on to the winter version, I must add a spring, summer and fall vision – a round iron table with a marble top, two or four chairs, a big umbrella and some glasses of something bubbly to lubricate pleasant conversation.

I don’t know what the bubbly liquid will be. The only thing I know for sure is that this year it won’t be pear cider.

Copyright 2022 Brent Olson


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