I care about being right.
I care about the truthfulness of my statements, for many reasons. I want to know that people that may take my advice find that advice genuinely helpful to them. I care about my professional reputation, and don’t want it sullied if I’m wrong too often. I care about knowledge, and the don’t like the idea of walking around with a bunch of incorrect information taking up limited space in my brain.
But there’s so much to know! So much to potentially be wrong about. How do you make sure you’re right?
There’s no certain way to always be right, but there’s definitely a method that helps improve your record: make sure you suffer a cost if you’re wrong.
Or to put it another way: get some skin in the game!
Let’s say you’re a sports fan. You’d like to make predictions about sports, and you’d like those predictions to be right. If that’s the case, you should bet. Bet money, and bet a decent amount. If you consistently put money on your own decisions, you’ll work a lot harder to be right than if you were just making predictions with no cost attached to them. For instance, if you’re an Eagles fan, you might be tempted to say “The Birds are going all the way this year! I’m 100% sure of it!” But you’re really just signaling loyalty to your team; the decision comes from hope and love, not from actual information – even if in the heat of the moment you truly believe what you say. Now if someone responded to that statement with “If you’re 100% sure, how about putting your money where your mouth is? Want to bet?” Suddenly you’re no longer 100% sure, and before you put real money on it, you might take some time to do a little real research.
We’re flawed beings. We’re not computers, and we’re subject to all sorts of biases. Those biases are usually the reasons we’re wrong about stuff. So the way to be right more often is to give our brains a reason to put those biases aside. Put simply, we’re biased because being biased is often either free or has costs we don’t see and thus don’t respond to. If we put the cost front and center, suddenly we’ll be less biased.
There are many, many ways to bet, to get skin in the game. The traditional “bet” is only one of them. If you find yourself saying, “that company is going to crash and burn, mark my words,” then there’s a way to make money from that! Get that ball rolling and suddenly you have a much higher incentive to be guided by actual information instead of hunches. There are companies that will allow you to bet on yourself losing weight – you give them money and a weight loss goal. If you succeed you get extra money back, but if you fail you lose your stake.
This extends to the political realm, too. Politics is mostly about people with no skin in the game and no incentive to be right trying to impose rules and regulations on people that do. Industry regulations always crack me up, being written by people who have never even used the product or service in question (let alone provided it) trying to tell an entire market what’s best for them.
One of the reasons I talk confidently about things like career coaching is that I have skin in the game. That’s my profession, and if I’m wrong about it I lose income and career potential. I have an incentive to be right, and that motivates me to constantly learn, improve, and be careful with my advice. It might not make you right about everything, but people with skin in the game are right more often than people without.
If you don’t believe me – want to bet?
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