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  • Writer's pictureRyan Luby

Dominate the Decision-Making Process

This upcoming weekend the fifty-third super bowl will be played.

When the game is over there will be headlines, blogs, articles, videos, and debates for weeks going into the specifics about the best plays, worst plays, best decisions, and worst decisions of the game.. and almost all of the topics, and everyone’s opinion will be wrong.

Not intentionally, and not because anyone is trying to trick you but because like we do in our own lives, the media will be basing their opinions of the game, on the outcome.

This might sound normal to you, and unfortunately it often is normal… but not accurate. The concept that happens when we determine the quality of a decision based only on the outcome, is called resulting.

While we are on the topic of football let’s look at the best example of resulting we’ve seen in the past few years.. Super Bowl 49.

The famous Patriots vs. Seahawks super bowl where Malcolm Butler intercepted a Russell Wilson pass to stop the Seahawks from making the go-ahead touchdown. The play was obviously amazing, but the world was focusing on the decision of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and what would be referred to as “The worst coaching decision in sports history.”

It might be one of the worst outcomes in sports history considering the circumstances… but the worst coaching decision?

People still debate this. But fortunately someone much smarter than me has looked into this, and resolved it.

Retired World Series of Poker player, author, and public speaker Annie Duke details the truth about the “worst decision in sports history.”

On the Bigger Pockets Podcast episode 297 Annie questions, “What do you think would have been the response had the ball been caught for a touchdown by Seattle to win the game?”

The hosts responded we would all hail the decision by Pete Carroll… saying it was genius, the world expected them to run.. he out-smarted, and out-coached Belichik and it would likely go down as the greatest decision in sports history… so clearly we are basing our opinion about the quality of the decision only on the outcome.

So to start, let’s cover the possible outcomes based on the circumstances. The play should likely result in either:

- a touchdown

- an incomplete pass

- or an interception

(I understand a sack or fumble could occur but based on the circumstances this outcome is unlikely and therefore not as significant)

As we already touched on, depending upon the quality of the outcome that happens, we know the world will judge the quality of the decision… but life is not that simple.

There are a number of outside variables, uncontrollable factors, and the element of luck that all contributed to the outcome. This doesn’t mean decisions aren’t related to outcomes.. it means outcomes themselves are not a direct reflection of decisions.

I know this is getting confusing so bare with me…

In super bowl 49 the Seahawks had the ball on the Patriots half-yard line, on second down, with 27 seconds on the game clock.

The world expected another Marshawn Lynch run. Pete Carroll intelligently decided to try and catch the Patriots off guard and throw the ball, knowing that even an incompletion would give him another two tries to score a touchdown while a failed run would only leave him time for one more play… On top of all that, the chance of an interception happening on that play was only around 2%… and as we know the crazy 2% outcome happened, and we now forever question Pete Carrolls decision-making.

So what do we take away from this?

First in foremost, Pete Carroll certainly didn’t make the worst call in sports history, you might not agree with it but it’s true. Carroll based his decision off of statistics and knowledge, considering all of the variables.

He played to win.

The reason Annie Duke has such familiarity with this concept is because the luck variable is more obvious in the world of gambling. A great poker player can't pay too much attention to the outcomes. Every great player could tell you a handful of times they lost when they shouldn't have, or when they've won when they shouldn't have.

How often are we over-exaggerating how bad or good our decisions are dependent upon the outcomes we experience?

How often do you hear in sports, business, etc.. that “we are results driven.”?

How can the Patriots philosophy teach us how to live?

In your life, you need to do your best to detach yourself emotionally from the results & outcomes you experience.

In business we need to be process driven, not results driven… because results are far too influenced by luck and other uncontrolled variables.

The Patriots have embraced a stoic philosophy where they are obsessed with evaluating and improving their process regardless of their results. They don’t get too high when they win, or low when they lose. They understand there are endless lessons to be taken from any result, and for these reasons their organization is distinctly different from others in the league.

In our careers, when we don’t get a raise, promotion or outcome we expected we are sure something is wrong and we jump too make a change without ever evaluating our process. On the other hand if we get a raise, promotion, or new job offer we take action swiftly without ever evaluating what process preceded these outcomes, and what we could learn from them.

Our health is probably the most significant place I see people being far too results-driven. With our health we sometimes make drastic changes almost daily if we don’t see results. We find a new process (fad diet, cleanse, quick-workout routine) to try and achieve the results we want. The problem here is you could be eating, and exercising well and not see results for weeks depending upon a number of variables… but this doesn’t mean there is a flaw with your approach.

On the other hand you can lose weight quickly by starving your body, taking supplements like hydroxycut, or doing any number of harmful approaches, and since these show quick results you might assume the process is correct. Even though these will all harm your body, and potentially cause dangerous long-term damage.

What we can do instead to give ourselves the greatest opportunity for success is:

- Be patient. Apply the statistics term insignificance more often to the results in your life. This isn’t to say results don’t matter.. but in statistics, when there is either a very small sample size, or a result with far too many uncontrolled variables the result is labelled to be statistically insignificant. This would be the same as the health scenario we face in our life.. how often have you changed your approach after applying that approach for less than 1 month? If you have only been doing something for a month, no matter what it is.. your results are statistically insignificant. You have to continue focusing on your process, continuously questioning, learning, and refining that process long before you can draw any accurate conclusions from your results.

- Play to win. When you are process driven, you are freed from the fear of failure. We already know that results are highly influenced by variables like luck… so in most cases, what’s the risk? You can do everything right and still lose. Crazy things happen no matter how certain you are about the potential result. So you might as well have confidence in the process and take action.

- Embrace stoicism in your own life. Too often people view Stoicism as being totally void of emotion and having no thoughts, cares, or expressions… while some people may appear that way, this is not stoicism. Some might imagine a cow standing in the rain… again..

a sad-looking image.. but not stoicism. Stoicism is an approach to life based around living logically, and intentionally without letting uncontrollable variables effect you personally. It embraces taking nothing personal, and by taking nothing personal we have to detach ourselves from.. you guessed it, outcomes.. and uncontrollable variables. This encourages us to focus instead on ourselves, and our process because it is the only thing we have control over, and even that is hard enough.

on that note..

- Take nothing personal. This is part of stoicism but it’s so important that it gets its own bullet. I’ve covered the importance of this in direct relation to process versus outcomes ad nauseam but this will also apply to other areas of your life. Remember how common resulting is, so when you do start focusing on the process everyone else will be confused. And since people don’t like change, and don’t like when someone is being different you will be questioned, and some people will even try to get you to go back to resulting. They will have a good case too. They might see your results and question your actions, but you have to take nothing personal and continue following your way. Be confident that staying process-focused will pay off long-term even if the results aren’t what you expect right now.

When you kick the habit of resulting, and properly implement a process focused life you will experience true confidence. Confidence is often confused with certainty, but certainty is having conviction about a result. Confidence comes when you have belief in the process, regardless of the potential outcomes.

Resulting is a trap. It’s a simplistic view of a very complicated world. Resulting is deriving an opinion of a process, based only on a result. This is a massive impediment to progress, Throughout your life you are going to experience some horrible outcomes no matter what.. but over time, you will achieve success long-term when you always focus on learning & improving your process.


Podcast: Annie Duke BP episode 297


Blog Post: T. Ferris's & Ryan Holiday Stoicism 101

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