I take the train from Milwaukee to Chicago quite often for work. I have a very good idea of how long it takes to get from my house to the train station and then how long it takes me to park and walk in to board the train. I’ve become so familiar with that I often cut it close – very close. There have been several time where I’ve thought: This is it… I’m going to miss the train. Only to miraculously, at the last moment, somehow gun my way through morning traffic, find a parking spot and run into station, just in time. For what though? Why can’t I just leave earlier? It would save me a lot of stress. Why risk missing it?
The answer probably is that the risk isn’t too critical. Worst case, I could just drive there. But most of the time I have the option to just work from home, so there aren’t many days where it’s super important.
However – flying is a different animal. I was recently taking a business trip to Boston. I hadn’t flown in over a year, and maybe my traveling skills were rusty, or maybe my mind was just elsewhere, but I waited in line for security for about 25 minutes, got through, and then realized I had my large suitcase with me, which I had forgotten to check. I had to run back to the ticketing and check-in area to get my bag on the flight then back up to security again. Fortunately, I had arrived at the airport over 2 hours early and I had plenty of time. Lesson learned. But it also got me thinking about downside risk and how dumb it is to cut things close when there is a lot of potential negative consequences.
In this case, the downside risk was quite large. I would have messed up a four day business trip, and looked stupid and/or not responsible in the process. All for the benefit of doing whatever (probably nothing) at home for an extra half hour or so. That right there is the definition of fragile — events with low upside and huge downside risk.
Conversely, consistently arriving early for things poses very little risk. At worst you’re inconvenienced a bit and have to do some work or read ( or just relax) at the airport. That’s a small price to pay for that one time when you mess up or there is a huge security line, etc, etc. and you’re still able to make that important flight.
Early bird gets the worm!