How to think under pressure
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To avoid the trap of overestimating our own skill, we need to start thinking probabilistically. That means estimating the odds and adapting your decision-making accordingly.
Even if the decision had a good outcome, we still need to objectively analyse the quality of the decision-making underneath.
Tilting means realizing that your emotions are not separate from the logic of your decision making - for example, the despair that comes from bad luck, or the overconfidence that comes from a win.
You can learn to cope better by regularly checking in with yourself to see what you are feeling and how you react. Once you have identified those feelings, then try to analyse how they're influencing your judgment.
A poor understanding of good or bad luck can derail the decision making of bankers, judges, and athletes. Being aware of probability will prevent you from reading too much into random events, or 'spotting' trends when there are none.
In the current pandemic, where governments design policies based on limited data, we could all do with a better understanding of uncertainty and how to think about it under pressure.
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People have a natural tendency to conflate the quality of a decision with the quality of its outcome. They're not the same thing.
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Why don't smart decisions always lead to good results? Because we don't have complete control over our lives — and we don't have all of the information.
You can opt not to drink on New Year's Eve, for instance, but still get blindsided by somebody who did to drink and drive. You made a quality decision, but happenstance hit you upside the head anyhow.
Becoming comfortable with uncertainty and not knowing is a vital step to becoming a better decision-maker.
What makes a decision great is not that it has a great outcome. A great decision is the result of a good process, and that process must include an attempt to accurately represent our own state of knowledge.
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