In this blogpost, we’ll be evaluating how we make choices and then understanding how Stillness meditation and techniques can help improve this process.
So, our default outlook is to correlate a failed outcome with a poor decision. Annie Duke illustrates this brilliantly in her book “Thinking In Bets”. She mentions Pete Carroll’s game losing decision in Super Bowl XLIX. He opted to throw the ball at the Patriots’ 1 yard line instead of making a running play. The pass was intercepted resulting in a loss for the Seahawks. This has been heralded as one of the most controversial calls in history and pundits sure did put the heat on Pete.
However, based on 15 years of NFL data, there was below a 2% chance of a short pass interception. In hindsight, if this pass had been successful, it would likely not have even been discussed by pundits the next day and, in all likelihood, would have put the Seahawks in an extremely favorable position to take the W. It is a brilliant example because it illustrates clearly how we all are seduced to marry the outcome of a decision to the decision itself although the systematic thinking behind the decision may have actually been correct, but misfortune won the day.
So taking an outcomes mindset, one centered around the results solely, can easily collapse into suboptimal strategy formation. In this instance, if Pete Carroll let the pundits get to him and drive his future behavior, it may negatively effect his decision making processes. He had the right process in place, his choice probabilistically was a very good one to make! He just got extremely unlucky at a critical part of the game.
A systems mindset however divorces the decision and the outcome. A bad decision may occasionally result in a good outcome and vice versa.
It is the decision-making process that needs our scrutiny. Extending this to investing, you don’t want to be the person who makes a poor investment, gets lucky because of a bubble, concludes she is an investment genius, bets her fortune, and then loses it all next time around. A systems mindset helps to improve the quality of future decisions. With this example, how do we optimize our thought process to account for chance and continue to make the right decision regardless of the outcome?
There are two key components here: careful evaluation of the information you do have and approximation of the likelihood of success. Safi Bahcall hammers this point home in his book “Loonshots” when he describes how to nurture creative ideas and set a team up for enduring success. He encourages teams to analyze why they arrived at a decision. This process is not intuitive and can be extremely uncomfortable. It requires humility and “self-awareness from the group; the self-confidence to acknowledge mistakes, especially interpersonal ones; and the candor and trust to give and receive delicate feedback.”
Evaluating the Decision-Making System
When you reflect on the decision-making system, you can improve it based on new information. Then the system becomes more and more accurate at predicting future events! A brilliant side effect of all of this type of thinking is that it removes blame from failure and credit from success. This may not sound all that brilliant but hear me out. The result is simple; it encourages openness and people are far less afraid to fail. It is the system and the team can work to improve it! Thus, there are fewer cover-ups and the vital information that we need in order to learn is preserved. This also allows the team to remain rational, forensic and honest. Matthew Syed puts this brilliantly in his book “Black Box Thinking” that this type of thinking helps to see failure as a learning opportunity and inspires growth mindsets.
Systematic Meditation: Stillness
Stillness Meditation makes all of this a whole lot easier, on many levels. Below is a shortlist of the immediate symptoms of Stillness as it applies to the above:
- Quiet the internal chatter pulled to the outcome
- Reduce the emotion that may be clouding rationality
- Take the sting out of “failure” allowing room for openness and rational scrutiny
This all serves to increase likelihood of good outcomes due to the system of decision making orienting towards accuracy over luck.
- To forecast better decisions, practice a systems mindset not an outcomes mindset
- You can make a good decision and get a bad outcome
- You can make a bad decision and get a good outcome
- So is life
- A systems mindset will neutralize luck and ensure that your decision making has the highest likelihood of success overtime
- Careful to attribute meaning to a randomness rather than questioning the system underlying the decision making process
- Declaw “failure”, as doing so takes the sting out, creates less room for cover-ups, and gives room for rational analysis
- Couple this with Stillness meditation techniques as rocket fuel for growth
- Learn more about Getting Still here.
All of the following books are completely different in content addressed but connect over certain themes! Where there is consistency, there is truth. This blogpost is the intersect of the four talking about a systems mindset as it relates to forecasting decision making.
- Brilliant book describing how a poker mindset can blend into how you evaluate every decision!
- A series of fascinating parallels to physics and anecdotal evidence to inform how to nurture crazy ideas with the potential to revolutionise the planet.
- This book smashes the point home of hugging failure and why it is so important with applicable references to the aviation industry and the medical industry. An eye-opening approach to the inevitability of mistakes.