A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to hear a presentation on risk taking and decision making by a guy called Caspar Berry. If you’ve never heard of him before I’m not surprised; I also had never heard of the guy. What piqued my interest was the fact that he was a professional poker player, and was actually the poker adviser for the James Bond movie, Casino Royale. Pretty cool huh? 🙂
Caspar’s presentation was very entertaining. He has this uncanny ability to use a fast sequence of images on the screen to pass his message across while keeping his audience highly engaged. Here’s a short video clip of him I found on YouTube. If you get a chance to listen to him, I highly recommend it.
Caspar shared some good insights on failure and risk taking that resonated really well with me. Three interesting insights from his presentation are as follows:
1. Find Success By Taking Lots of Acceptable Risks
In business and life, some of us try to find success by looking for ‘sure things’. Unfortunately, these low risk opportunities usually have low potential rewards. Instead of looking for sure things, Caspar’s recommendation is that we look for great opportunities tied to acceptable risks. What qualifies as an acceptable risk? A good rule of thumb is that it should be outside your comfort zone, but before your zone of unacceptable consequences. For example, going to a happy hour with lots of people late in the evening is outside my comfort zone, while being unable to pay my rent is at my zone of unacceptable consequences. Somewhere in between these two examples is my version of acceptable risk; yours will be different.
2. Embrace Failure as an Important Ingredient for Success
When we talk about success, we usually mean an increase in a metric that we value, such as net worth, quality of relationships, or health. Similarly, when we talk about failure, we usually mean an increase in a metric that we don’t value, such as feeling rejected, incompetent, or uncertain. Where things get interesting is the fact that you cannot increase the metrics you value, without risking an increase in the metrics you don’t value. For example, you cannot improve the quality of your relationship with another person without a real risk of being misunderstood or rejected. As a data guy, this idea of thinking of success and failure in terms of metrics got me really excited. 🙂
In the end, the question we all need to answer is this: how much more failure am I willing to tolerate, so that I can have a shot at increased success?
3. Focus on Long Term Success (and Ignore Short Term Failures)
Bill Gates once said that “most people overestimate what they can do in one year, and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” A compelling long term goal provides the momentum needed to power through the inevitable setbacks that will occur along the way. Therefore, as you strive towards your long term goals, remember that you don’t have to win every single battle; you just have to win the war.
I think Casper’s insights on failure and risk taking can be summarized by a quote from Mark Zuckerberg: “I have more fear in my life that we aren’t going to maximize the opportunity that we have, than that we mess something up and the business goes badly.” With this mindset, one can continuously take calculated and manageable risks towards the achievement of their life and career goals.
Image by http://www.solverde.pt