Category Archives: 01. Creating Your Life

Secrets of Better Decision Making

In 2004, Annie Duke won the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.

She did not start out as a poker player. In fact, she had been working towards a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology when, in 1991, a month before defending her dissertation, she got sick and moved back to her home in Montana.

Her brother was a poker player, and she soon found herself in a new kind of lab, studying how poker players learn and make decisions. She writes in her book Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts:

“Over time, those world-class poker players taught me to understand what a bet really is: a decision about an uncertain future. The implications of treating decisions as bets made it possible for me to find learning opportunities in uncertain environments. Treating decisions as bets, I discovered, helped me avoid common decision traps, learn from results in a more rational way, and keep emotions out of the process as much as possible.”

She illustrates what she means by “decision traps” by comparing success in life to success in chess and success in poker.

Success in chess is about making quality decisions.

Success in poker is about making quality decisions
 AND luck.

For Annie, Life is Poker, not Chess. And understanding that difference makes all the difference.

One decision trap is assuming that a bad outcome can always be traced back to a bad decision.

She gives an example of a controversial decision made at the end of Super Bowl XLIX in 2015 (the annual championship of the American National Football League).

The Seattle Seahawks trailed by four points and had 26 seconds to score a touchdown. Everyone expected the coach, Pete Carroll, to call for a running play.

Instead, the coach called for the quarterback to pass. The pass was intercepted and the New England Patriot’s won.

Next day, the media headlines called it “The Worst Play-Call in Super Bowl History” and “A Coach’s Terrible Super Bowl Mistake.”

There were a few dissenting voices, many of them pointing out the history of such interceptions in that situation was about 2%. But those voices were drowned out.

What did the coach get wrong? Simple. The play didn’t work.

Think about the headlines if that play did work.

“The Best Play-Call in Super Bowl History” and “A Coach’s Terrible Super Bowl Mistake” and “A Coach’s Incredible Super Bowl Win.”

As Annie Duke points out, “Pete Carroll was a victim of our tendency to equate the quality of a decision with the quality of its outcome.” (My italics.)

She explains that as she was learning how to play professional poker, other pro players would warn her to avoid the temptations of “resulting.” Resulting means changing your strategy just because a few hands didn’t turn out well in the short run.

And she points out that Pete Carroll understood this critical distinction when he said a few days later, “It was the worst result of a call ever… The call would have been a great one if we catch [sic] it. It would have been just fine, and nobody would have thought twice about it.”

The media critics treated football like checkers. All the pieces are on the board and it is about making quality decisions.

In checkers you have all the facts.

But not in football. Like poker, winning is about quality decisions, but it is also about luck. Sometimes it does not matter how good the decision is—sometimes luck works against good decisions.

In poker, as in football, and as in life,
you do not have all the facts.

In life, what makes a quality decision great has nothing to do with a great outcome. Sometimes great decisions still land us in not-so-great outcomes.

When creating your life, even when you are end-result oriented, beware of “resulting.” Good strategies can have short-term failures while keeping you on the path to long-term success.

Stick with a winning strategy
and stand resilient against the failures.

 

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Secrets of Failure

Successful high performance thinkers and creators understand the value of failure.

The innovation team at the Silicon Valley company that employed me had a strong motto:

Fail faster!

The great inventor, Thomas Edison, understood this idea. He ended his life with 2,332 patents worldwide. You may have forgotten some of his inventions:

— The incandescent light bulb

— The phonograph record

— The motion picture camera

— The carbon microphone, used in telephones until 1980

— A system for electric power distribution

— The fluoroscope

When asked about his failures in inventing a working light bulb, Edison reportedly answered, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that did not work.”

In other words, his failures were a form of success.

So how did Edison do it? How did he become one of the most prolific inventors in history? In a word, attitude.

Here are some of Thomas Edison’s critical quotes:

Genius is one percent inspiration,
ninety-nine percent perspiration.

If we did all the things we are capable of doing,
we would literally astound ourselves.

Opportunity is missed by most people because
it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize
how close they were to success when they gave up.

I find out what the world needs.
Then, I go ahead and invent it.

Hell, there are no rules here—
we’re trying to accomplish something.

Edison had a rare quality—resilience.

Objects like rubber balls have resilience, the ability to spring back into its original shape.

Humans who are resilient have a strong capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, or in Edison’s case, from failures.

How did he do it? He simply did not recognize failure. And this is how the innovators at my Silicon Valley company thought. Fail faster means recognizing that when you are innovating, creating something new that’s never been done before, it is a natural fact that you have to move through a number of “failures” to get to success.

Failures are the norm for successful people.

They do not see failures as stumbling blocks.
They see failures as stepping stones.

 

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The Secret of the Reticular Activating System

A truly creative person rids him or herself
of all self-imposed limitations.
Gerald Jampolsky

Your mind has a powerful filtering system that creates blind spots.

Have you noticed how when you read a book and the story fills your imagination, the outer world begins to fade away? You don’t hear the traffic outside or someone calling for you. They have to speak more loudly just to get through to you.

Have you noticed how you can be at a party with everyone talking and you can hardly understand what anyone is saying? But when someone mentions your name, that gets through to you?

Have you noticed how when you fall asleep your senses slowly shut down, your body loses sensation, and then you are off to sleep? Then almost nothing gets through to you?

Our senses take in 11 million pieces of data in each moment, but we can only consciously process up to 40 pieces per second. The part of your brain working as a filter to manage sense perception is called the Reticular Activating System (RAS).

If the mind didn’t have the RAS, you’d go crazy. Think of all the information coming in through all your senses. The sights, the sounds, the tactile sensations.

Think of all those little hairs on your body. If you focus on any part of your body, you would become aware of the sensation there.

The RAS is a network of cells in the center of the brain associated with waking, sleeping, attention, and focus. It physically filters irrelevant sensory input.

The RAS allows you to focus. It functions like an executive assistant, a kind of censor of what’s not important. It screens out the junk.

The RAS determines what information
gets through to you.

What you Value,
or what you think is a Threat.

RAS2
As we focus on something important, things that are less important, things that we Devalue, fade away. Important information gets through, whatever we consider valuable or threatening.

This explains why teenagers can be watching TV or playing a video game, and a parent can call them to dinner and not be heard. The Value of the parent’s voice goes down in proportion to the importance of the TV.

This explains why eight people at a large dinner table can have cross conversations with each other and still carry on. As you focus on something important like your own conversation, the others nearby fade because they lose Value to you.

This explains why a new mother sleeps through the alarm clock going off, the jet flying overhead, and the truck driving by, but when the baby starts crying, she wakes up right away. The other sounds are not a Threat so they don’t get through the censor, but the threatening sound of the baby gets through.

What you Value gets through.
What you Devalue gets filtered out.

I knew a couple with a barking dog that kept half the neighborhood awake. The owners were never bothered by it. However, the barking threatened the neighbors’ peace of mind so it got through their mental filter.

But the owners loved their dog and were comforted and felt protected by its barking. They would have no problem sleeping through the night. Their neighbors may also have slept better if they understood that any burglars in the area would be warned off by a barking dog.

Once I worked at a company that decided to move my group to a different building. I was placed next to a service elevator.

You can imagine what that means. All day long, every day, I would hear that elevator opening and closing, opening and closing.

What did I do?

Because I knew about the RAS, I immediately told myself, “That elevator doesn’t matter to me.” When people asked me, “Isn’t that elevator going to bug you all day?” I’d answer, “No, I won’t even notice it.”

And almost from the beginning my RAS screened it out. It never bothered me.

A colleague who used to have an office was now in an open cube. He did not know about the RAS. He was used to closing the door and having quiet.

He would hear me talking on the phone over two cubes away and he would stand up and say, “Mark, you are talking too loud.”

Every sound was a threat to him, so every sound got through.

The key is knowing that you control what gets through.

It depends on how you
psychologically evaluate the sensation.

This fact is particularly important to teachers.

How often do we accuse a child of not paying attention to the teacher? But what if the teacher is not making the history lesson, or math lesson, or science lesson interesting to the child?

The teacher and the course material
fade away.

The child can be looking right at a teacher as the teacher explains something and not get it. (We all have experienced this. We lose interest, our minds wander, the filters kick in because we become interested in our own thoughts or daydreaming. And minutes go by where nothing the teacher/boss/television/ politician says gets through.)

What happens when the child sees no Value in what the teacher is saying?

The child’s RAS screens out the teacher. It’s the teacher’s job to make sure the class material is perceived as valuable by the child.

So the question is, what do you Value in life? And what do you Devalue?

Because now you know that if you devalue important things, they will not get through your mind’s automatic filter.

What do you Devalue?
Could what you Devalue actually hold Value?
How will you know if you are blind to it?

***
from Creating Your Life

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The Piano Story

Don’t wait until you have the resources before setting a goal. Stretch yourself. Set a stretch goal, even one that seems unrealistic, and see how life supports you. Here’s an extreme example.

I play piano. In my college days, I didn’t have one. I couldn’t afford to buy or rent one. For the longest time that stopped me from getting a piano. Why? Because I thought (held the picture) that I could only have a piano if I bought or rented one. I thought I needed the money first.

Wrong!

Once I was presented with the picture of being an End-Result Thinker, not thinking I needed the resources first, I gave it a shot.

I began picturing having a piano and looking for a way of getting one that I didn’t have to buy or rent. Once I set the goal, I soon had this thought:

Hey, you know there are probably people out there who have a piano and find it a burden. I could offer to store it for them.

Actually, I thought, there are probably people with two pianos who would love to have me take one off their hands. That way, they would probably let me keep it for years, since they already had one piano.

So at my job as a 7-11 manager (putting myself through college), I began asking all my regular customers who had known me for some time whether they had an extra piano that they would like to have someone store for them.

It took only two weeks. An older gentleman who lived nearby said his wife had two pianos and they had been thinking what to do with them since they needed only one.

I arrived that weekend with a friend and a truck. We walked into a very nice home. One piano was an older black upright Baldwin piano. The other was an even older, beautifully crafted Chickering spinet piano with a top that folded down turning it into a table. It was lovely.

We started heading toward the upright piano, and the man said, No, my wife likes the touch of that piano, please take the Chickering.

It was incredible! Beautiful appearance. Wonderful touch. Bell-like tone. I had that piano in my home for almost five years.

Even today, the piano in our home belongs to someone who has no room for it right now.

So you see, it wasn’t a matter of Positive Thinking. It was more a matter of End-Result Thinking and applying imaginative exercises.

Thinking differently,
not harder.

It required no extra effort. Just a willingness to suspend disbelief and recognize that the possibilities of achieving a particular goal are much wider than we often believe. We just have to think from the End, As If.

I knew there was a way to get a piano without buying or renting one.

I set the goal. I saw it, I felt it, I acted as if it were a done deal.

I got the piano within a couple of weeks.

Try it. Pick any instrument you’ve always wanted, for you or your child. You will be amazed.

Remember:
You create your life every day
by writing, picturing, and feeling
what it is right NOW.

from Creating Your Life: What You Should’ve Learned as a Teen, Book 1

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Changing Your Life Is Like Kitchen Remodeling

One of the things that the Power of Positive Thinking crowd often fails to mention is that whenever you try to make a big change in your life, your life can sometimes enter a stage where it seems everything is falling apart.

When you want to take your airplane to a new altitude, put on your seatbelt because you may experience some turbulence on the way up.

Making a major change in yourself or your life is like kitchen remodeling.

You have your old kitchen. You’re content with it out of sheer habit.

Then one day you visit a friend who has remodeled their kitchen. New granite counter tops, fresh matching appliances, new tile floor. You decide to remodel your kitchen.

Unfortunately, the transition to the new vision or goal is not immediate. There is a dismantling period where your kitchen must be removed. You have a less than functional kitchen.

You enter a kind of Dark Night of the Soul.

A less-functional or gutted kitchen means hard times. And there is always danger that if the new vision hasn’t fully taken hold, you will hang on to the old kitchen rather than move forward into the new kitchen.

The new vision has to be stronger than
the current picture to get you to act.

This happens whenever you set a vision or goal and work to make it happen. The key again is that whatever goal you set, you must hold it strongly in mind.

If you hold the goal strongly in mind,
if you daydream about it and feel it,
you are more likely to achieve your goal.

Your enthusiasm for the new vision
carries you through the tough transition.

You inspire yourself with it continually, and sustain the vision and energy through the rough times. Your old “anchor points,” those fixed pictures that anchor your vision of reality, will get pulled up to make room for the new vision. You hold the vision in order to have the energy to carry your goal through to completion.

You want to become a chemical engineer. You are not one right now. But you know some chemical engineers, and their work fascinates you. You think you can be good at it and have fun with that kind of work.

So you hold a new vision of yourself that does not match your current picture. What do you do? You motivate yourself to go to school, do the work, get the degree, search for a job, go to interviews, accept a job offer, learn the job, grow in your new role. The vision manifests.

You have given up your old picture and adopted a new, more professional and experienced one.

The mind is easily distracted. Therefore, one has to work hard to keep the mind focused and disciplined. This is why people work with positive statements and affirmations.

from Creating Your Life: What You Should’ve Learned as a Teen, Book 1

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The 95% Rule of Being Certain

As you can see, the mind creates blind spots whenever you claim to be 100% certain of anything. If there is any evidence that contradicts your 100% certainty, you will not see it.

Certain kinds of absolute conviction
blind you to the Truth.

But you can let go of these absolute convictions in order to test them. In other words, we find value in holding a kind of objectivity where deeply held beliefs (especially negative and limiting beliefs) are challenged and dissolved to form a more flexible and adaptive consciousness.

What can you do?

Simply cultivate a bit of humility. Have a little bit of healthy self-doubt about everything you are certain is true.

Say to yourself, “Yes, I believe that’s 95% true; of course there is a chance I could come upon evidence or arguments that can change my mind.”

Yes, some truths appear to be absolute. I could say to myself, “It is absolutely certain that I will not be able to jump to the moon two weeks from now.”

But I have cultivated a habit of being suspicious of absolutes. So instead I say for the benefit of my subconscious, “It is highly unlikely that I will be able to jump to the moon two weeks from now.”

Healthy humility about being certain
entails little risk and helps keep your mind clear
so you can stay flexible and see more clearly.

from Creating Your Life: What You Should’ve Learned as a Teen, Book 1

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The Nocebo Effect: Evil Twin of the Placebo Effect

Beware of the negative effects of false assumptions:

The Nocebo Effect

—In a 1970s study doctors diagnosed man with end-stage liver cancer. They told him he had just a few months to live. The patient died. An autopsy showed no cancer.

A —1992 study demonstrated that women believing they were prone to heart disease were 4-times as likely to die.

—In a 2009 study, participants were told they were given drugs with bad side effects. They were told the bad side effects for their particular drug, which was actually a placebo. They experienced burning sensations outside the stomach, sleepiness, fatigue, vomiting, weakness and even taste disturbances, tinnitus, and upper-respiratory-tract infection. These “Nocebo” complaints were not random; the side effects experienced were specific to the type of drug they believed they were taking.

Beware of Self-Fulfilling Prophecies. See more on the Creating Your Life channel on YouTube: