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Change is not a failure... but failure to change might be

Change is not a failure

Annie Duke is a world-champion poker player, author, and cognitive sciences researcher. She is also a self-proclaimed professional quitter. In an interview for her book "Quit," [i] she said:

“Richard Thaler is a Nobel laureate in economics and what he said to me is, ‘Generally we won’t quit until it’s no longer a decision.’  In other words, there’s no hope. You’ve butted against the certainty; your startup is out of money, and you can’t raise another round. You’re in a job with a boss that is so toxic that you have used up all your vacation and sick days and you’re still having trouble getting yourself into work.”

Thaler and Duke’s comments relate to a forced change. Sometimes change is the result of a forcing function. Running out of money or having an absurdly toxic boss is an extreme forcing function example. Changing prior to the forcing function will often avoid a “crash landing.” A crash is often more negative than if more proactive changes were made before the crash. Thus, recognizing the need and preparing for change is important.

Successful gamblers like Annie Duke are incredibly good decision-makers. Their good decisions are outcomes of good decision processes characterized by:

  1. Objectively evaluating the probability and risks of potential gambles, and

  2. Understanding and integrating their and other players' emotions.

Good gamblers anticipate essential game success drivers and the nuances of the environment in which the game is played. Good gamblers embrace both objective and emotional information in their decision-making. Gambling and job evaluation share a common bond. They are both subject to uncertainty. They both require decision processes integrating factual information, forecasts, and emotion.

Pulling The Trigger

Please remember, not making a decision is a decision!  Belief inertia is a powerful force. Being a good decision-maker is certainly easier said than done, especially since our own brain sometimes works against us. However, I did find this advice helpful when pulling the trigger and after the anticipatory bucket analysis showed belief updating made sense.

To summarize, “pulling the trigger” occurs at the end of a deliberate belief updating process. The characteristics of this deliberate "changing our mind" process are:

  • Evidence and criteria are well-defined.

  • Evidence and criteria are updated and weighted with your latest perspective

  • Criteria weights are independently determined.

  • Pulling the trigger is easier with a premortem or related advance planning.

  • There are inexpensive and high-value smartphone apps available to help with this evaluation.

The following graphic shows how belief updating leads to better decisions. Belief updating is an ongoing probabilistic evidence evaluation leading to the best decisions. If you are new to this "changing our mind" model, it is often helpful to start by inspecting your childhood beliefs.

There is an old saying:

"Winners never quit and quitters never win."

I'm sure my children, like most children, heard this saying when they were young. My optimistic belief is that this saying was intended to help children. By providing simple rules, the desire was to help children develop grit and resilience. As adults, we need to update our initial beliefs. As adults, hopefully, we have developed the necessary grit and resilience. We provide the"Changing our mind" model as a means to take ownership of the beliefs initially formed in childhood. The"Changing our mind" approach helps update those initial beliefs. The"Changing our mind" model outcome is enabled by the observation:

"Quitters often do win!"

My wife and I have four children. When this article was published, they were all in their twenties. My wife and I did the best we could to raise our children in a loving and enriching environment. My hope is, their childhood takeaways include the permission and the expectation to inspect and update their childhood beliefs. Ultimately, ongoing belief updating and change is both a necessary and thrilling part of life.



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