The Cockroach Theory

The CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, explained beautifully in one of his speeches that what is chaotic is not the problem but the ways we approach them. He shared a story in which the starring character is a cockroach. It was unaware of what will happen. Pichai’s story goes as follows;

One day, I was sipping my coffee in an ordinary restaurant. Suddenly, a flying cockroach landed on a woman. When the woman saw the cockroach she started to scream and jump. She was trying to throw it off with her hands in panic. Her reaction was contagious and her friends also started to panic. During this panic, she managed to find a way to get rid of the cockroach and she threw it off. 

However, this time the cockroach jumped onto another woman in this group. Again the woman and her friends were in a panic. Meanwhile, the waiter who has heard the noise came to the table. Now, it was his turn to meet with the cockroach. The cockroach jumped onto him. But, his reaction was different. For a while, he observed it. Then at the right moment, he captured it and threw it out of the restaurant.

While drinking my coffee, I have thought about the incident I have witnessed. I wondered whether the cockroach which is unaware of the situation can be held responsible for this crazy incident. If so, why was the waiter calm and handled it differently than the others?

While everyone was in a panic and reacting spontaneously, he was entirely calm. No, the problem wasn’t about the cockroach, it was the people who failed to manage the discomfort they were having. It was about their approach to the problem. Then I realized it wasn’t limited to this specific event but it is in our everyday lives with similar events.  

I realized that the thing that bothers me is not the actions of my father, my boss, or my friends, it is the way I handled them, that I cannot control them. It is the same with the traffic. The traffic alone was not the problem. What bothers me was that I was unable to deal with the discomfort it creates. 

Besides the problem, my approach to it is the real reason for the chaos it creates. I understand that, before I react I should understand the situation first and then not react spontaneously but should find a meaningful solution to it. 

There is not much more to say about the story and observation that Sundar Pichai told. Sometimes the little events we experience in life provide us with a model of life. If we can catch them, even a cockroach can lead us to change.

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