Can I believe my own eyes?
Can I believe my own eyes?
"Imagine a speck of dust next to planet a billion times the size of the earth," writes Nassim Nicholas Taleb in The Black Swan. "The speck of dust represents the odds in favor of your being born; the huge planet would be the odds against it. So, stop sweating the small stuff. Don't be like an ingrate who got a castle as a present and worried about the mildew in the bathroom. Stop looking for the gift horse in the mouth -- remember that you are a Black Swan."
What the hell is a black swan?, you ask.
The black swan is a highly improbable event, unpredictable, with an immense impact. Such an event is typically explained afterwards as being more predictable than it really was. Before Australia was discovered, all swans were assumed to be white. When a black swan was first seen in that country, previous assumptions about swan color proved baseless. The lesson is this: just because we have not observed something happen in the past does not mean it might not happen tomorrow. Or even the next hand.
And bad beats, for example, can hardly be described as something that hasn't happened before. So, why act so surprised?
"Experts, [Taleb] argues, "are certainly flawed—overconfident, narrow-minded, overly committed to a particular picture of the world. But the fundamental reason for their failure is that they are playing an impossible game. The future—or at least those parts of it that really matter— is, by its nature, genuinely unpredictable. We can’t read the tea leaves because they don’t exist."
Overconfident? Narrow-minded?? Paging Mr. Hellmuth.
As a species, we seem to desire predictability. Life is best lived in stable, understandable patterns. We don't easily accept change and we detest - in particular - unexpected change. But since we cannot control the future, we really should not be so surprised if some surprising event occurs. Predicting predictability - when we cannot know - leads to tilt. And tilt leads to a diminishing bankroll. Not to mention suffering. Why do that to yourself???
How many times have you sat there trying to put your opponent on a hand you could beat? How many opponents have you seen do just that??? A small pair puts the opponent on over-cards or AQ puts him on AJ. We see this phenomenon all the time. “...Things in the real world are far messier than in recorded history or in memory," says Taleb. ”But we find it hard to live with such messiness, so we tend to look for causes and patterns that do not exist." This is the narrative fallacy, the belief that, after the event, every outcome, even a surprising one, has a cause which might have been predictable.
We are chronic explainers: once an event has occurred, we hurry to create an explanation that makes it look predictable. The site is rigged...the Doom Switch...the withdrawal curse...crazy Scandanavians. There must be a reason.
Fallacies blind us to the existence of the black swan. The Platonic fallacy, for example, is a view of the world as safe, structured and comprehensible. It's a human self-defense mechanism at its core. Otherwise, we'd never be able to go out the door in the morning.
In a nutshell, Taleb's advice is to assume that really crazy things can happen and to set yourself up, so that you can benefit from good crazy things without being hurt by bad crazy things.
"We underestimate the share of randomness," Taleb writes. "Lucky fools do not know that they may be lucky fools."
Is this what Hellmuth can't seem to quite grasp? If it wasn't for the black swan, he'd win every tournament??
All might be chance. The point is, we cannot know. The least we could do is admit it. And deal with it.
Cliff Notes: Put yourself in situations where favorable consequences are much larger than unfavorable ones. And don't be surprised if things don't turn out exactly as you expected.
George Bernard Shaw said, "People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, they make them."
Well, it's pretty apparent, isn't it? And every person who discovered this believed (for a while) that he was the first one to work it out. We become what we think about.
Conversely, the person who has no goal, who doesn't know where he's going, and whose thoughts must therefore be thoughts of confusion, anxiety and worry - his life becomes one of frustration, fear, anxiety and worry. And if he thinks about nothing... he becomes nothing.
How does it work? Why do we become what we think about? Well, I'll tell you how it works, as far as we know. To do this, I want to tell you about a situation that parallels the human mind.
Suppose a farmer has some land, and it's good, fertile land. The land gives the farmer a choice; he may plant in that land whatever he chooses. The land doesn't care. It's up to the farmer to make the decision.
We're comparing the human mind with the land because the mind, like the land, doesn't care what you plant in it. It will return what you plant, but it doesn't care what you plant.
Now, let's say that the farmer has two seeds in his hand- one is a seed of corn, the other is nightshade, a deadly poison. He digs two little holes in the earth and he plants both seeds-one corn, the other nightshade. He covers up the holes, waters and takes care of the land...and what will happen? Invariably, the land will return what was planted.
As it's written in the Bible, "As ye sow, so shall ye reap."
Remember, the land doesn't care. It will return poison in just as wonderful abundance as it will corn. So up come the two plants - one corn, one poison.
The human mind is far more fertile, far more incredible and mysterious than the land, but it works the same way. It doesn't care what we plant...success...or failure. A concrete, worthwhile goal...or confusion, misunderstanding, fear, anxiety and so on. But what we plant it must return to us.
You see, the human mind is the last great unexplored continent on earth. It contains riches beyond our wildest dreams. It will return anything we want to plant.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT. - JDW