Life Changing Decisions
Sometimes you have to make a life changing decision. Life changing decisions alter everything for you. But, they don’t have happen without taking a risk or a chance.
*this is part 3 of We Get What We Deserve by the Decisions We Make.
In the first part of this article on We Get What We Deserve by the Decisions We Make we mentioned Gleb Tsipursky, a professor at The Ohio State University who teaches classes on judgement and decision-making based on science. He said something to me in one of our conversations that I found most fascinating probably because it is consistent with my approach to decision-making and managing risk.
He said that if you consistently make the most conservative (least risky) decision you will not maximize the outcome in your life. To maximize your life’s outcome you have to make some calculated risky decisions. Essentially you have to take a chance with life altering decisions.
Anyone who has made it big in the world has made risky decisions that others would have not. That’s why there are so few people who have made it big.
I will gamble now and then – games of chance I mean – as a form of entertainment, plus I like the the mental jousting involved in figuring out the odds of winning. I don’t bet what I consider a lot of money – usually no more than $100. To me to bet $10 to win $10 or bet $100 to win $100 at the Black Jack table is an utter waste of time. Losing $10, or $100, or even $500 is not going to break me. Conversely, winning $10, or $100, or $500 is not going to change the quality of my life, either.
If I am going to gamble, I want to win something life-altering or at a least significant amount. I would rather lose $100 trying to win $10,000 than bet $100 at the Black Jack table for two hours and go home with another $100.
At times, if you want to “really make it” whatever that means to you, you have to take a chance with a potential life altering decision.
A physician I know had an investment opportunity presented to him many years ago in which one could put in as much or as little as they want. A $1,000 investment had the potential to yield $1 to $1.5 million dollars, but the chance of the investment paying off was rather low. He did his research and made a $500 investment. If the investment paid off the amount of the return would be substantial, but it was not going to alter his life substantially, though it would allow him to limit his medical practice some or retire a couple years sooner.
A couple months went by after he made the initial investment and he thought, “I am going to regret not investing more money if this thing pays off”. So he asked himself, “What is the most amount of money I am willing to lose to make the minimal or smallest investment, that if it were to pay off, would be life-altering where I would never have to work again if I did not want?” He determined that amount to be $5,000 and made an additional $4,500 investment.
His $5,000 became worth $11 million. He still practices, but opened his own medical complex including fitness center. Now here’s the thing. Other physicians he knew had the same opportunity to make the same investment, but chose not to as they thought the chance of the investment paying off to be very low. And, they felt is was a scam as the return sounded too good to be true. But, it was only going to require a small risk of money for a potentially high return. Even if it were a scam it would seem worth putting in a few hundred dollars. Certainly, they all had $5,000 they could risk, but did not. The downside risk in their minds was greater than the upside potential.
He made a game changing decision leading to a game changing outcome. And, he deserves it. And, his colleagues deserve what they got from not investing. Each got what they deserve by the decisions they made.
If I had that opportunity I would have invested the money. To me such an opportunity is a no-brainer.
This is the concept that Dr. Tsipursky is talking about when he says maximizing life’s outcome. The physician who made the investment took what he felt was a well calculated risk and maximized an investment outcome and a life outcome. Financial planners would probably say otherwise – slow and steady wins the race – be conservative with your financial decisions.
But, if you want to get beyond a good life that is secure, you need to roll the dice at times to obtain the potential for a great life. It goes beyond rolling dice with money, too. The biggest thing to invest in is yourself. You have to risk or gamble on yourself at times.
A lot of people choose to play it safe with their decisions, which is fine, and they may live high quality lives. Yet many of them will find their lives unfulfilled, lacking, and not complete. Their decisions frequently lead to security but not the ultimate in satisfaction. There likely will be a void in their lives – if they don’t take a risk now and then to improve their odds of getting what they really want from and in life.
I look at this way. We come into the word naked and without anything, and we leave world naked and without anything. While I am here, I am going for it. I don’t want a good and secure life. I want to take chances that lead to a great life.
Life is Playing the Odds
In a very real way each decision you make is a bet. Each decision is a gamble. You are betting that the decision you made is the best of the available alternatives you had to choose from. Life is a matter of playing and managing the odds. That’s how I see it. To me life is about tipping the odds in your favor to better achieve or obtain whatever it is you want. Which first means you need to know what you want in life which for some is a major stumbling block.
Should I go to college, or take a job out of high school? Should I marry this person, or not? What if no one better comes along? Should I take this job close to home, or should I take that job in another state? If I get more education will that make me over qualified and too expensive to employ? Should we have kids now or wait until we are more firmly established in our careers?
All of these are bets.
If you want to be an Olympic gymnast you need to practice 6-8 hours a day 6 days a week. If you do not do that you have ZERO chance of becoming an Olympic athlete. But, just because you train the needed hours doesn’t mean you’re going to become an Olympic athlete either, but you have greatly increased your odds.
You also need a certain amount of talent, excellent coaching, excellent nutrition and conditioning, and extremely supportive parents. And, you have to avoid injury and illness which is hard when you train that amount. And, some luck is involved. Each of these components further improve your odds but there is still no guarantee that you will become an Olympic athlete.
All of that has to happen to have a decent chance, but one slip in a performance, one little mess-up in competition, or simply slightly being off your game will derail your chances. Psychologically, you have to be ready to deliver you best performance when your best performance is demanded. Few people have that ability.
But, if being an Olympic athlete is what you want you have do everything I just discussed to tips the odds in your favor to even have a decent chance.
Getting into medical school is a numbers game. The more schools you apply to the more likely you are to get accepted to at least one of them. Of course, you have to first do all the necessary steps to make yourself an appealing candidate. If you don’t do that, then it doesn’t matter how many schools you apply to. You are not getting in.
If you want to attract a particular person to be your life partner you have to make yourself attractive to them and not just physically. You have to make yourself attractive intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually as well. Then once you have that person you have to keep them. You do that by treating them exceptionally well while making yourself continually interesting. Don’t let people get bored with you. Stay fascinating. If you don’t do the former you won’t get the person and if you don’t do the latter you won’t keep the person. But, if you do all that you increase your odds of having a great relationship.
How to Tilt the Odds
Tilt the odds in your life in your favor by doing the following.
- Figure out what you want.
- Figure out how (what it takes) to get it
- Develop a plan to get it. This means determining how much you want to risk and/or give up to get it.
- Work the plan to get it.
- Have an alternative plan if you don’t get it.
All of this requires decision-making, self-discipline, patience, perseverance, and action.
The Bad, The Good, The Great
If you want to live a tough life, complicate misfortune with bad decisions.
If you want to live a good life, consistently make conservative or minimally risky decisions.
If you want to live a great life, make consistently good decisions and be willing to make some well calculated risky decisions. Improve your odds for a great life. Go for it!
We get what we deserve by the decisions we make.