One of The Best Lessons I Learned From Any Book I’ve Read

Photo by Nadejda Yanchuk on Unsplash

Last year I read the book Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke. Duke is a former world champion poker player turned business consultant.

Her book discusses the psychological workings within the game of poker and how those lessons can be applied to our everyday lives. One of the reoccurring themes in her books is the concept of “resulting”.

What is resulting? It’s our tendency to equate the quality of our decisions with the quality of our outcomes.

If the team won the game, the coach must have made all the right coaching decisions. If a student performed poorly on her entrance exam, she must not have studied hard enough. If you made $10,000 in one day of market trading, you must have made the right financial decisions.

We assume if the outcome is good, then the preparation and decision-making leading up to the outcome were on point. If the outcome was bad, we must not have done the proper work to succeed.

This is a dangerous way to think. There’s more to the story.

Bad Decision — Good Outcome

Not studying for an exam, only to still ace the test. Allocating your savings on a game of blackjack, only to double your money in one sitting. Hitting a poor golf shot, only for the ball to bounce off a rock and land on the green.

The outcome in all three of these scenarios was desirable. We aced the test, won lots of money, and landed the ball on the green. Job well done.

But we’re kidding ourselves.

All three actions/decisions were poor ones. If we can recognize bad decisions, we are less likely to repeat the same action, despite the favorable outcome. Our humility tells us we may not be as lucky next time around.

Where the danger lies is being blinded solely by the outcome. This is where the concept of resulting comes back into play. For better or for worse, we live in a results-driven society. Nothing matters but the bottom line.

Don’t fall for the trap. Eventually, bad decisions will indeed become bad outcomes. Just like poker is a numbers game, so are outcomes when making bad choices.

Good Decision — Bad Outcomes

Working day and night, only to be passed over for a promotion. Executing a perfect baseball swing, only for the ball to line drive directly into the fielder’s mitt. Saying all the right things, only for your crush to refuse a date.

There are times in life we do all the right things. We work hard. We prepare. We make the right decisions. And then what happens? We see all our hard work and preparation blow up in our faces.

If the outcome wasn’t what we wanted it to be, do we change our decision-making and strategy?

Assuming our strategies and processes are of the highest quality, then the last thing we should do is change course.

We must learn to accept that there are factors completely out of our control. A bad bounce. Poor timing. Luck isn’t always on our side.

Heartbreak city. But sometimes that’s how life goes.

To quote Admiral William H. McRaven, “Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or how well you perform, you still end up as a sugar cookie.”

If you’re confused by the sugar cookie reference, think of it as pouring your heart into something that doesn’t pan out in the end. We all become sugar cookies at one point or another. And you have to be ok with that.

Process > Outcome

When you were a child, there’s a good chance a parent or coach told you the following, “it’s not whether you won or lost, it’s whether you tried your best.”

This advice is no different than the resulting concept previously discussed. As much as we obsess about the end result, what matters the most is your approach.

Did you execute? Did you follow the advice from those you respect? Did you put the time in? These are the questions you must ask yourself.

Avoid resulting. Instead, analyze the process. Be critical of the process, not the outcome. This is what your youth sports coach was trying to teach you.

Do your best and forget the rest, and let the (poker) chips fall as they may.

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