54 - Why do we tend to go with the tried and tested for big decisions?



We often hawk ourselves like potatoes when it matters. Even when we’re zucchini or asparagus or anything but a potato. Why?

Say you’re a professional sportsman. Consider two scenarios.

One: You get, spread over a year, 10 separate chances to prove your worth. But you don’t know before an opportunity if there’ll be another after that.

Two: You get, and you’re told this at the start, a guaranteed stretch of ten chances to show your mettle.

For the first scenario:

You are cagey.

You play well within your limit.

You hope to tick all the boxes because you think all matter.

Multiply this ten times.

For the second:

You are relaxed.

You show off the bits that make you, you.

You accept you can’t tick all the boxes.

Multiply this ten times.

If you’re familiar with the first scenario, you would know that this gravitating to conformity applies to any important decision. You want your dream house–you want it roomy, in the right neighborhood, within your budget, and so on. You want your dream job–you show a bit of everything mentioned in the job description.

Your need for security is real any time you feel opportunity is scarce. But everyone else feels the same fear too. All of you want to be in this delicious recipe and each of you has chosen to be a potato. Because that is the safest bet.

Two lessons:

👉For up and comers, popularity is a great social-proof measure to reduce uncertainty. Yet, if the majority goes with the popular choice, it creates competition. How can you beat the trap?

Find the one thing you are an outlier at and find someone who needs that most. That way, even if you get just one chance and you have a bad day, your bad is likely to still beat others’ best (margin of safety). If you don’t know what your ‘hip pocket skill’ is, it’s worth finding that out first. Listen to Indra Nooyi explaining what it is.

👉Leaders need to be careful about assessing anyone over one project, one hire, one campaign, one try.

The excellent Wait But Why blog says, ‘In life, you usually don’t get good at something until you’ve done it a bunch of times.’ It would be a wonderful world where the starry-eyed didn’t need permission to try, and therefore to get better. So it is left to the leaders, to either be gatekeepers or enablers.

The idea that your best chance to win is by coloring within the lines is a false construct. It has to be. Because if you look around you’ll notice that the word needs many things. Not just potatoes.

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