Understanding entropy changed the way I think.
“With every birthday, life gets more complicated,” my wise friend said last Sunday. When I asked why he replied:
“When I was a child, I thought the world made more sense the older you get. But with every year, the world becomes more complex. Life feels like a growing puzzle while you’re struggling to put the pieces into the right places.”
His words lingered with me long after the weekend. Does life get messier the older we get?
Murphy’s law says, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” But once you research further, you find a deeper truth.
While pieces might just fall into the right places, most of the time, they don’t. And that’s not bad luck.
This quick read will help you regain trust and support a calmer and happier life.
What You Should Know About Entropy
According to Dan Brown entropy is just a fancy way to say things fall apart. I disagree. Entropy is more than that.
Imagine you open a big puzzle and dump the pieces on your floor. What are the chances every piece will fall into the right places?
Theoretically, it’s possible. But the likelihood is close to zero. Unless you hit the jackpot probability, the pieces won’t fall in perfect order.
There’s a single state where everything falls in order but nearly infinite states in disorder. Congrats — you just grasped entropy’s quintessence.
Entropy is a measure of disorder and randomness for even smaller units than your puzzle pieces.
Physicist Ludwig Boltzmann says entropy is a measure of the number of possible arrangements of atoms and molecules of a system, that comply with the macroscopic condition of the system.
Entropy is about probabilities. And as time moves forward, more possibilities emerge.
The second law of thermodynamics confirms what my wise friend felt: entropy will always increase over time. Life gets more chaotic when you grow older.
“The increase of disorder or entropy is what distinguishes the past from the future, giving a direction to time.”
Believing life gets less messy with age is a waste of energy. The English scientist Arthur Eddington said: “ If your theory is found to be against the Second Law of Thermodynamics, I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.”
Now you know about entropy’s existence. But what does it mean for you?
What This Universal Law Means for Your Life
You can’t go back in time. You can’t reverse entropy and reduce complexity, uncertainty, and chaos. Entropy is present in every aspect of life.
Here’s a helpful metaphor by Tom Stoppard: “When you stir your rice pudding, Septimus, the spoonful of jam spreads itself round making red trails like the picture of a meteor in my astronomical atlas. But if you stir backward, the jam will not come together again. Indeed, the pudding does not notice and continues to turn pink just as before.”
For every step you take, most scenarios won’t bring you to your desired destination. Nevertheless, you can’t go back in time and reverse it.
A tidy room gets dirty; your computer breaks, your relationship ends, you lose a piece of your life’s puzzle. In all of these cases, life isn’t against you. It’s entropy at its best.
The question isn’t how to stop entropy. It’s how you navigate through life despite its existence.
“The ultimate purpose of life, mind, and human striving: to deploy energy and information to fight back the tide of entropy and carve out refuges of beneficial order.”
— Steven Pinker
How You Can Use Entropy to Your Advantage
Adopt John Green’s mindset: “Everything that comes together falls apart. Everything. The chair I’m sitting on. It was built, and so it will fall apart. I’m going to fall apart, probably before this chair. And you’re going to fall apart.
The cells and organs and systems that make you — they came together, grew together, and so must fall apart. The Buddha knew one thing science didn’t prove for millennia after his death: Entropy increases. Things fall apart.”
Don’t expect things to stay the way they are. Don’t feel like life’s against you when things become chaotic or complex.
Any disorder or chaos isn’t your personal mistake. It’s the universe’s default. Any order is unnatural, temporary, and subject to change.
Sounds scary? When you imagine the opposite, you see it shouldn’t. In a world without entropy, everything would always stay the same. Rooms wouldn’t get dirty, things wouldn’t break and people wouldn’t change.
Life would become predictable.
In a world without entropy, creativity and innovation wouldn’t exist.
Whether you run a business, have kids, or look for meaning in life —the next time you face a problem, know that life doesn’t work against you.
Once you know disorder is the default, you can decide how and where you want to use your energy to create stability.
Use attention and care to foster your relationship, clean your house so it won’t get messier, build an emergency fund so you’re forearmed against unpleasant surprises. Use energy to create your desired state of order.
My friend was right. Things get more complicated. With every birthday, the degree of disorder and randomness increases. Statistically, more things turn out different than your version of “right.”
But life doesn’t conspire against you. It’s only entropy doing its job.
This mental model helped me reach my goals and stop being so hard on myself. I hope it does the same for you.
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