Betting Wolf

There are good reasons to be humble. The obvious reason is because rudeness doesn’t win you many friends. If you’re not humble and you’re wrong, you suffer great embarrassment, and even if you’re right, a lack of humility can push people away.

But there are other reasons why humility is good strategy.

How much other people are willing to bet on you is a relatively easy formula to follow. Each time you make a prediction that turns out correctly, you gain a little credibility. Each time you make a prediction that turns out wrong, you lose some. Once you have enough credibility, you can get enough people to bet on you that you can practically make your predictions come true.

(Don’t believe me? Look at Warren Buffet. He was right enough times that now when he says “Company X is a good stock buy,” their stocks go up – because he said they were a good buy. People invest because Buffet said they should, and that in turn makes him right.)

But here’s the interaction between humility and correctness: if you’re a huge loudmouth, arrogantly making your predictions, then you gain a little credibility when you’re right, but you lose a lot of credibility when you’re wrong. Conversely, if you make your predictions with humility, then you lose very little when you’re wrong, but look like a modest genius when you’re right.

Why? Well, think about it. Someone makes a prediction where they say, “I’m experimenting with a new market for my product and trying out a few things in terms of the ad campaign. I’m not sure if it’ll be a home run, but I’m eager to learn and I think this will be a great experience either way.” Then it turns out that the ad campaign is a huge success and that market loves the product. The person who made the prediction looks great, don’t they? They had a home run in their pocket the whole time and they were still modest about it and eager to do the right thing. That’s someone you want to work with, bet on, invest in.

Meanwhile: “This next campaign I’m running is going to be AMAZING. You’d be an absolute idiot if you don’t get on board with this. You’ll be kicking yourself for years if you don’t do as I tell you on this, believe me. I’m a beast at this, there’s no way this won’t blow up” If that campaign fails – heck, if it’s even only a moderate success – the person is now at the center of a whirlpool of sharks who will be so, so happy to point out his failures. They won’t trust him again, no matter how he tries to hype it up.

The boy can only cry “wolf” so many times before the villagers stop coming, and you can only bet on a wolf so many times and lose before your pool of investors runs dry. Stay humble even when you’re sure you’re right, and you’ll keep your reputation high whether you succeed or fail in specific instances.

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