Recently I came across a book: The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli. The book promises to give you all the secrets for perfect decision-making. We all have to make hundred of decisions every day, some are trivial, some are not. For instance, picking out an outfit on a Monday morning is a frivolous decision that can prove to be a struggle at times. But some decisions might be life changing, like whether you should continue with your career or not. What if someone was given an opportunity to do something completely different? Also what about regrets? Was it your fault that you did not make it? Do you have complete control over your life?
Well after reading the book, I can say it’s no wonder Rolfy sold a million copies because he is a hell of a writer. The book is a marvellous exploration of the 99 most common thinking errors; it’s clear, concise and gets to the point. No soya or chipotle sauce over it. While I was reading the book the connections between the concepts mentioned and my previous athletic experience were significant. Let me shed some light on few of the concepts that might answer some of your questions.
“Could I have made it big as a hockey player?” (Survivorship bias, page 5)
The rational answer to this question is that in everyday life we pay more attention to victories and achievements than we do to failures so ultimately, we tend to overestimate our chances of succeeding. Applying this to your question: we can just conclude that behind every NHL player you can find a 100 other guys who will never even play regional league. And behind them are another 100 of other kids who got injured or did not have money for their club membership. But we only hear about Jaromir Jagr, Wayne Gretzky and Alexander Ovechkin. (Sorry for the obvious examples but I am not particularly a keen fan of Hockey). The media is not really interested in the 4th or 5th division in Vladivostok. I’m not telling you to put your ice skates on the shelf but look into the chances realistically.
“If I could have just changed the grip of my forehand.” (Illusion of skill, page 286)
How many times have I thought that if only I had managed to change the grip of my forehand I could have won those critical matches. I could have won the points that mattered. Too many third set tiebreakers I have lost because of my frozen forehand, I thought. The truth is that luck plays a bigger role than skill does. Especially in fields such as sport, financial markets, entrepreneurship. While I am not saying that my forehand was beautiful, I could have had more luck when I was up 6:0 in the third set tiebreaker and lost right? (It still hurts btw.)
“I have already played soccer for so long, I can’t stop just like that.” (Sunk cost fallacy, page 17)
When deciding to end an athletic career, there are always millions of questions out there like what if I just try one more year. I will only do just one more year. You started to play when you were 4 years old. You missed your homecoming because of the game. You and your family moved to a city with better soccer opportunities. You can’t just throw all that away even though you feel it does not give you much pleasure anymore. This is a classic case of sunk cost fallacy. The more we invest into something, money, time and energy, the greater the need to continue. This is irrational. Investment does not matter. What matters is what else can soccer gives you in the future? If you are extraordinarily talented and you have good reasons to continue, go ahead but be aware that playing for the wrong reasons such as lost years and missed parties won’t get you anywhere.
“If I could have won that race I would be so much happier” (Hedonic treadmill, page 142)
You qualified for one of the biggest bicycle races in your region. You are dreaming about the race day. You train hard, and make sure you are ready. You win the race! You are the happiest person on earth. How long do you think this feeling will last for? The happiness as well as the sadness dissolve over time. We as human being are unable to predict our feelings accurately. So how to apply this into your Tour de France dream? If you truly enjoy cycling for cycling sake and you are only following your passion, regardless of the outcome then go on Lance. However, if you are isolating yourself, with no free time, and expecting long term happiness from a victory, then my dear friend I would suggest you to reconsider.
“It does not hurt me to keep swimming, I have nothing else to do anyway.” (Inability to close doors, page 208)
Don’t be stuck with your activity only because you have no idea what to do next after you used your eligibility status or were not able to qualify for the Olympics. This is very irrational because each and every option comes at the price. This could include money, time, energy, and other activities you could be doing instead. How about you take a step back, look at the possibilities, and chose something that could give you a new passion and challenge.
“I did not make it because my coach did not put me in the line-up in the Summer of 2012.” (Fallacy of the single cause, page 295)
You have probably spent hours analyzing why you did not make it. The truth is that no matter what you blame it on, no one thing is the reason. There are thousands of factors involved in your life. Just because you got sick before the important tournament, or did not perform well because of your friends’ party, or you did not stretch well after that one practice does not mean that was the cause of you not succeeding in your sport.
These were only a few of Mr. Rolf Dobelli’s observations that could give you a fresh perspective on your sorry-for-yourself cry story. And if you are still out there hustling and grinding every day, you might or might not make it. Just try to be aware of the fact that you cannot control everything. #LifeAfter