The price of being wrong
I’ve had couple of interesting conversations following my last post about being wrong. They were unexpectedly sad and painful to listen to.
These conversations were about the price of being wrong. My apologies in advance, as I’m going to be a little vague here. These were private conversations, and I don’t want to get into any details. I’ll get to a personal example I’m willing to share in a minute.
These conversations had one thing in common: choices were made and life changing consequences resulted. One of these situations took many years to reach a crisis point. Another came about very quickly.
The thing that struck me was that the cost of being wrong in all of these situations wasn’t the result of actually being wrong. The price that is now being paid is because when they realized they were wrong, they didn’t course correct.
Of course, this got me thinking.
I was thinking about three questions from a really good business book Joe Polish was kind enough to send me a couple years back. It’s called “The Road Less Stupid”. In the book, he poses three questions to consider when faced with a decision that could have a significant impact.
The questions are: “What’s the upside?” “What’s the downside?” and “Can you live with the downside?”
His theory is that we don’t need to be smarter than we already are. We just need to make less dumb decisions. Thinking of all the not so smart decisions I’ve made in my life, i have to say it makes sense.
As I was following this line of thinking, a fourth question came to mind: “Who will end up living with the downside?”
Is it your future self that’s going to pay the price? Is it someone else? If we are wrong, and when our very human resistance and responses to being wrong rear their heads, who pays the price for our resistance to course-correcting?
Who is on the receiving end of the downside?
I’m struggling with this right now.
I’ve begun prepping for the OCR world championships next year. It’s pretty intense: 15k up and down Stratton with forty obstacles you have to clear. If you miss one, they remove your wrist band right on the course and your finish time won’t count. There’s a lot of diversity in training for this. It requires strength, endurance, coordination, and preparation.
I’ve found that having a competitive event to train for really keeps me focused on self care. My nutrition is better, I stay consistent with strength training and cardiovascular conditioning, and I generally just take better care of myself.
This one is different though. I qualified for the pro level, which means that the level of competition will be intense, and most of the competitors will be considerably younger than me. If I approach this the way I trained when I was younger, it’s going to be a problem. Possibly a life-shortening one.
I could pay a hefty price if get this wrong.
I’ve learned that even though I feel good, and I can perform at a high level still, my physiology has changed. The research is starting to point towards risks, especially for men, in too much high intensity training as we get older. For example, the recommendations are leaning towards a polarized training regimen to protect the heart from being damaged.
Now, part of me hears all of this and thinks “I know my body.” And “I’m in the best shape of my life.” And “This doesn’t apply to me.” Maybe that is true. I’m sure I can go on a YouTube binge and find all kinds of confirmation that I should just keep going hard for as long as I want and it will all work out.
Here’s the thing.
I’m not doing this to win a race. I’m doing this to stay healthy and functioning at a high level. There are a lot of “who’s” that will be impacted if I screw myself up running up and down a ski mountain. I have businesses to help build. I want to help create amazing jobs for amazing humans. I want to contribute and do my part to make this world a little better for the humans who will still be here long after I’m gone. There is family and friends who (mostly lol) would like me to be around for a while.
So if I train the way I’ve always trained, maybe I get to stand on a podium with a shiny medal at the end of day. I like winning. It’s fun and rewarding. The downside is maybe I shave a few productive years off of my life in the process. Maybe not. Maybe it will all be fine.
As I did the risk/benefit analysis, I think I’d rather course correct. I don’t want to live with the downside. I’ll reluctantly do what seems to be the smart thing that better aligns with my long term commitments. Yes, I may not race as well. That’s a downside I can live with. I’m playing the long game.
This probably seems like sort of a silly example, but for me it’s pretty significant. It has a lot of ripple effects. As much as I love beer, I don’t drink much because it wrecks my recovery. I focus a lot on sleep hygiene because it has a massive impact on my overall health. My emotional state is more balanced, my mind is clearer, and overall I feel more productive when I’m training consistently for an event like this.
Those three questions really helped me get clear on how to approach this. They gave a me a perspective that was bigger than all the noise in my head and in the world around me. I also like the fact that I can follow this new path based on this new information and then change things again if it makes sense to do so.
I don’t mind having my mind changed. It’s changing whether I want it to or not, so might as well be an active participant in the process.
One way or another, we will be wrong. Probably a lot. I know I certainly have. Personally, I don’t think its even that big a deal. We don’t know what we don’t know. I cringe when I think about some of things I’ve proudly spouted off as being true over the years. Seems pretty human to me.
As I think about these recent sad conversations about sad situations, I find myself once again contemplating how to get better at staying curious, and keeping the ego in balance. I find myself paying closer attention to when I may be looking for that dopamine kick from some confirmation bias.
A dear friend and mentor told me “Keep asking bigger and better questions until the questions disappear and the answer is revealed. Then get back to asking questions.” That seems to help, especially when I remember to ask genuine questions that aren’t just designed to give me the answer I want to hear. It can be hard to do that sometimes.
Ok, this is another post where I feel like I’m wandering a little. Maybe I haven’t asked the right questions yet.
I wanted to write it because I’m thinking about you all right now. I’m thinking about the struggle of knowing what to believe. I’m thinking about how easy it is to get lost in all of the conflicting information and opinions. I guess I just wanted you to know that it is all very human, and you are not alone.
I think it might be worth considering that the ones to listen to are the ones more interested in asking genuine questions than they are in having all the answers. People I trust tend to be very willing to say “I don’t know, lets see what we can find out.”
Maybe that’s the on-ramp to the “Road Less Stupid”. I think I’ll play with that a little and see what happens. And course-correct if necessary.
That’s all I’ve got. Be well my friends :)