I just returned from the cinema and during the movie, I kept thinking of something I studied today.
It wasn’t a new concept, but a good reminder — and that it is dangerous to make estimations of how a system will perform.
That the biggest mistake you can do in business and life is to answer beforehand how something will react — when in truth, you have no idea. For example, you tell yourself “I’ll hire this person and because of this, I’ll finish that project faster and all my bottlenecks will be resolved”.
When in truth… you don’t know.
All you can do is test and measure the results.
I’ve seen this a lot in marketing too. Amateur marketers are like “I’m sure this will work” or “I’m sure this will not work”.
Pros simply test it, measure results and do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. There’s no rocket science there.
And I was like…
… isn’t life the same way?
I mean, how many times my emotional estimations proved accurate?
I estimated that once I’ll do something, this and that will happen and it was almost never what I’ve predicted.Life doesn’t really work based on emotional estimations, it works based on what it works.
Now, I don’t want to take this to an extreme — if we’d have no certainty in what would happen, life would be hell. Most of the things around us are stable systems and come with predictable results.
But I’m not talking here about the fact that tomorrow civilization will go on, but rather emotional estimations on changes, tests or tweaks in a system. I’m talking about estimating how something you’ve never done before (therefore you have no baseline) will perform based on your expectations alone.
I decide to become a vegan.
An emotional estimation is that I’ll be healthier and I’ll have more energy and I’ll feel awesome about my decision. But since I don’t have previous data to work with — it is just that, an estimation.
A data driven decision is to become a vegan, measure what is happening in critical parts of my life and then see an increase or a decrease. Who knows — maybe eliminating protein upsets some sensible balance and I end up in a worse place than I’ve began.
And for people who love to live outside the comfort zone, like myself, these experiments happen a lot. I tend to find new elements to try in my life and I do fall into the mistake of estimating emotionally how they’ll work or make me feel.
The only right way to do this is to measure.
You try something.
You carefully measure the outcome.
You decide if it was a good decision or not.
Otherwise, your accuracy in determining how something will work that you’ve never done before is just as good as flipping a coin, 50% — 50%.
I need to catch myself when I make “IF I do THIS, THEN that will happen” type of statements in my mind with stuff I’ve never done before. Truth be told, I can have a reasonable expectation of something to happen but systems are complex and usually there are more forces at play than I am aware of.
Some of the decisions I felt very good about ended up to be quite bad.
Some which seemed average turned up brilliant.
Some which seemed brilliant turned up brilliant.
Some which seemed awful turned up awful.
So the only real thing I can do is KEEP AN OPEN MIND, actually go through it and determine in an objective manner if I’m closer to what I want or not, through metrics or observation.
The scientific method should be applied to everything in life — and beliefs and estimations and day dreaming and hope should be left aside.
So, what about you — are you doing emotional estimations in your life?
How do they show up?
Let me know in a comment below.