“The definitions of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome!” – Bad Gurus
(FYI – Einstein didn’t say this ridiculous statement, as he was false quoted as saying this.)
The problem with a garbage statement like that is that it ignores 2 elements of every decision made:
- Probability of outcome.
- Potential for ramifications.
If you’re 100% certain of an outcome, then good decisions become bad decisions and vice versa depending on if your 100% confidence is valid or not. If you knew for certain of the winning horse in a race, then you should bet everything you own – that’s the smart decision IF you were TOTALLY convinced. But if you knew it was a 60% change, the smart choice would be a much smaller size bet that you could handle the 40% chance of loss.
Just like if you shut down an entire economy would be a great idea if you were 100% certain that millions upon millions would die. But if you weren’t 100% certain of that many people dying, you might want to not be quite so extreme in your actions such as halting the world economy.
Misplaced certainty is the root of many of the world’s worst decisions. It ranges from Hitler’s certainty that the Jews were a plague and his decisions to fix that, decisions for the US to invade Iraq, racism, and so on.
Certainty is the most powerful, and dangerous, element in your decision making process.
Tony Robbins correctly points out that it’s a massive motivator as well. If you were 100% certain of a certain outcome, you’re more likely to perform the behaviors to get to that outcome vs if you only thought you had a 50/50 shot of ‘making it.’
Sometimes going all-in on a poker hand is the right thing to do, but sometimes you lose the hand. Losing the hand doesn’t make your decision bad – it was STILL a good decision, because if you repeat that decision over and over, eventually the probability will be in your favor and you will win.
Same thing for making a sales call where they don’t buy something, you should still make another call and do the same thing again, because the outcome may be different.
“The definition of insanity is not considering that very few things have an outcome that is 100% correlated with a particular action.” – TruthCake
When you start hearing people rant about as if they’re 100% certain of something, the chance of something stupid coming out next is almost inevitable.
If you knew 100% that
staying at home would save lives in the next few months, that would definitely
be a great decision to be made. But if you knew that the ramifications of that
would be suicides and billions of deaths from world wide starvation, then
suddenly the decision to stay at home is no longer “good.”
It’s very counter-intuitive to realize that making decisions with good initial outcomes are bad if their secondary outcomes are worse.
If you want to be happy, the easiest way to get that feeling isn’t meditation, or being selfless, or finding joy in your own being. It’s cocaine. But that is a bad decision because of the ramifications of that decision.
Sometimes a good decision seems bad because of the initial event that occurs, but is bad because of the long term. (eg. Doing drugs, but becoming an addict).
Sometimes a good decision makes you lose, because of the probabilities are still favorable.
It’s weird to say something like, “Saving a human being’s life is a bad idea.” But what if it was Hitler we’re talking about? Or what if the way we thought we could save that person was to shoot all the tigers coming straight for him, and he still died a moment later even after we shot all the tigers?
A couple examples –
Good decision – Bad
Going all-in on a great hand in poker only to lose by some unlikely chance.
Good decision – Bad outcome:
Investing in stocks for the long term but it goes down the day after you bought doesn’t feel good – but it’s the right decision to invest.
Bad decision – Good outcome:
Putting your life savings into the lottery, but you actually win the jackpot.
Trying drugs and having the time of your life.
Repeating a bad decision leads to a good outcome:
Making a sales call where the first lead says no, and you make another call and they buy.
Bad decision, immediately good outcome, but horrific negative ramifications:
Dropping the murder rate by 99% by incarcerating the entire country.
When you stack up probabilities as well as the event’s ramifications, you can begin to make much better decisions, and also understand why other people are so terrible at decisions when they ignore both of these elements.
Think for a moment about the following…
What good decisions have you made that seemed bad at first?
What things have you done repeatedly and gotten a different, and better, result?
What seemed like a good decision and had great (or bad) initial consequences, but the long term consequences were poor (or good)?