This is another Sunday’s thought inspired by a poker group discussion.
Poker players often have to make decisions with incomplete information. While it’s great to develop our intuition, you need to back it up with checking your “read” – your accuracy in assessing the situation.
Steven Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People tells a story of riding the New York subway one quiet Sunday afternoon.
Suddenly, a man and his unruly children boarded the peaceful car and broke the relative calm. Covey became irritated – especially because the man just sat with his eyes closed.
The father was apparently unwilling to do anything. So finally Covey asked him to control his children’s behavior.
With a sigh the father says, “well, I suppose I should tell them to behave, but I imagine they’re just acting out. We just came from the hospital where they found out their mother had passed away.”
In that moment Covey said that he suddenly saw things differently. With that one revelation he felt differently; he behaved differently.
So, while everything else remained the same – the noisy children creating a ruckus with the passengers, the father who did nothing – his perception of the scene had changed.
Covey stopped seeing them as simply unruly children with a father who couldn’t control them. Instead he saw human beings trying to process a devastating life-changing event. His irritation faded, and he felt compassion.
But the question is – do we really have the best picture of what’s going on?
How often do we drive down the road annoyed at the pedestrian taking his time crossing – until one day we’re walking along and find that drivers are so impatient?
“You never truly know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes” is the age old adage.
I like to believe that one day when we make that “dust to dust” transformation, we’ll have perfect knowledge – all the questions we ever had, all the things we couldn’t know in our brief, mortal lifetime, all the great riddles of the universe will be revealed.
Meanwhile, how we handle uncertainty and incomplete information determines our success. Listening to this Screw the 9 to 5 podcast, (at around 4:42 left,) reminded me of how each key moment in my life – getting a ROTC scholarship, first dates, buying my first house.. all came from feeling a fear of uncertainty and going for it.
Earlier I was reflecting on ideas that I’ve had a hard time understanding. One of them has been this idea that light behaves as both particle and wave. This is one of those arguments that the greatest scientific minds have gone back and forth on.
Finally, the agreement was that the best answer was – “it depends..”
So it seems that even science has to deal with uncertainty and the lack of complete information. This doesn’t mean that we abandon all hope. Things don’t come to a grinding halt.
On the one hand we have not enough information and jumping to conclusions. On the other too much info and a fear of not enough. Entrepreneurs often face this “analysis paralysis.”
How has something – an event, a revelation, an idea – changed your view so that it never looked the same again?
Here’s my LinkedIn article on How Poker Taught Me to Face My Fears in Business.