What the Population Cycle Of Bunny Rabbits Has To Teach You About Reality

Somewhere along the line, we got the idea that after a certain period of tweaking and polishing, we would get to some pinnacle in our lives and we’d get to stop working on things. We’d have the perfect relationships, the perfect diets, the perfect jobs and no money problems whatsoever.

I blame the Greeks for this platonic ideal of Static Equilibrium. Because it doesn’t exist anywhere in the natural world. What exists instead is Dynamic Equilibrium.

 The Boom and Bust Cycle of The Natural World

A great example of this is rabbits. Rabbits do not have family planning. Therefore, when food is plentiful, there are lots of rabbits. Lots of rabbits encourages, however, the subsequent increase in the number of predators (who are eating very well) and a decrease in the amount of food available. These factors leads to a decrease in the number of rabbits, and subsequently thins the predators as well.

This is an age-old, regular cycle that occurs in every non-“managed” ecology.

Humans, as a rule, do a shitty job of managing ecology. Or economies. Or basically any complex system. We simple can’t handle all the variables and permutations. Mathematicians are just beginning to grapple with these concepts in the abstract, and we can’t handle real world modelling yet. Which is why we simplified them in the first place.

The Platonic Ideal is an Abstraction

A model is not reality, and in reality, any complex system will likely experience its own deviations from the mean. These deviations will not be likely to form any discernable pattern, but you can be certain they’ll occur.

What does this mean for you?

Don’t expect things to be all peachy-keen all the time.

Expect to have the occassional bad patch in your health, your relationships, your business. Don’t immediately leap to the conclusion that it’s a failing or mistake on your part. Cycles wax and wane. Shit happens. Life goes on.

For that matter, stop characterizing it as a “good patch” or “bad patch”. Remember the parable of the wise farmer: You can’t know if things are good or bad.

But most of all know that you’re never going to stop striving for the ideal. You’re just not going to always hit it. And that’s okay.

Your Turn:

How can you use this new understanding of randy rabbits and their boom and bust cycle to manage your life?

P.S., Sarah and I have a class on handling change on Wednesday. Maybe after you comment you’ll want to sign up!


17 thoughts on “What the Population Cycle Of Bunny Rabbits Has To Teach You About Reality”

  1. That Calvin & Hobbes image is *perfectly* placed. LOVE it!
    Anyway. I like this metaphor. It makes the ups and downs sound natural — which they are — instead of like something we managed to cause. Sure, we have some hand in how we deal with it and even maybe how big each swell might be, but “what goes up must come down” and all, no matter who you are. And up might not be good, just like down might not be bad. It’s reassuring, somehow.

    1.  @remadebyhand I know– I think I’m going to start using it instead of shouting about bullshit. Much more amusing this way. 🙂
      Yay! I’m happy to spread the message of reassurance. Now that I’m away from the precipice a bit, I look forward to the times when my business slows down so that I can rejuv and think more strategically. 

    2.  @remadebyhand Shanna continues to retain the awesomely appropriate image and metaphor crown. I doubt a real contender will show up any time soon to try to take it away.
       @Shanna Mann For a second there I thought you had linked to “The Parable of the Modern Farmer” (http://zenhabits.net/farmer/). Your link is better for this, but I think the Zen Habits link could be a good one for you to reference in the future.
      I guess what article teaches me is two-fold.
      1) Science is fun and can be applied in strange ways.
      2) I’m a rabbit who wants to have a second bunny with my wife next year. Knowing us and knowing humanity, the reality of having a second kid will be far, far different from the abstraction we have in our heads about what this means to our marriage, overall family, and life for the next 60 or so years. I can’t wait to find out how far off the reality is from the abstraction!

  2. I think understanding this is paramount to being able to be in business for yourself. If you expect gangbusters success all of the time you will be sorely disappointed. Understanding the cycle also helps keep you from getting too distraught when you’re on the low part- you know there’s an upswing around the corner. 

  3. I love the message here. I’ve started to really understand this just in the past year – that I don’t need to get to some specific destination in my life financially, professionally, or any other way. I’m happier when I relish in the process/ journey towards something rather than waiting to get there before I’m happy. 

  4. Hah, Shanna your metaphors (or examples in this case?) never cease to amaze me. I think you know how much I agree with this already. I think if we stop trying to get our lives to that (non-existent) perfectly-balanced spot where everything is great and nothing changes foreverandeveramen then we might actually have a better chance at creating an “ideal” life. Can’t wait to talk about change with you on Wednesday!

  5.  I have learned that when the getting is good is precisely when to put the pedal to the floor and go. In the past I took a “good patch” to rest on my laurels and paid dearly when a “bad patch” hit me unprepared. Now when shit happens I can shout the obligatory obscenity and quickly realize it ain’t that bad, because I had taken advantage of a previously quieter time.

        1.  @Karen J  @Shanna Mann Now I must keep reading this blog to learn more of them and try them out on my wife and friends!!!

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