The more that I advance on this life journey, the more that I have become interested in decision making. Why do we do the things that we do and how do we make decisions? Why does it seem that we often make irrational choices and engage in risky behavior?
One book that gave me insights into my own decision making was Michael Lewis’ book The Undoing Project, which is about two rather famous psychologists, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, whose research revealed that people are nowhere near as rational as they think. My copy of The Undoing Project is full of underlined passages, sticky-notes on my favorite pages and inserted reflections written on scraps of paper. In particular, it made me think about regret and our tendency to dwell on what we might have done differently to bring about some desired happiness. Regret even for things we have no control over. The kind of regret that Sheryl Crow captures when she sings “ain't nothing like regret to make you feel alive.”
This summer I read The Biggest Bluff, by social psychologist/journalist Maria Konnikova. It is also about decision making but demonstrated through the lens of playing poker. Some in the UCM community already know that I like to play poker, so illustrating the quandary of life’s decisions through poker is appealing to me.
Konnikova offers lessons about luck and risk and caused me to think about my own self-deceptions of control over my own life. She highlights with many examples that life is a combination of luck and pluck. The concept of pluck is expressed through scores of synonyms that include resolve, audacity, grit, gumption, moxie, mettle, cojones and even balls.
While we may not be able to control the variance in our life, we can control how we react to the bad beats or when Lady Luck flashes us a big smile. When chance delivers you a Royal Flush in life, do you have the pluck to capitalize on it? Conversely, when fortune delivers a bad beat in life, do you tilt with emotion and give up? Or, do you hold your head high and walk forward with mettle in your stride?
Roberta Haar, professor of Foreign Policy Analysis and Transatlantic Relations at UCM