Confidence is the one of the most important strengths we can have. Knowing that you can do something before you start does more than set expectations, it helps you to complete the task. You can take my word for that or you can look it up. If you look it up, be prepared to find more people trying to sell you confidence building potions and mental workout programs than evidence. That’s why you should just trust me, I’m not selling anything. I will give you an example though.
Do you think that I could make the shot shown at the right? The game is 9-Ball. That’s the next ball in rotation but the question isn’t really whether or not I can make that shot, it’s whether or not I can make the next five shots. Can I run the table? If I can’t, I will probably lose the game. Any number of things can go wrong between trying to sink the ❺ and putting this game in the win column, but I think it’s worth the risk.
I like this risk because it’s totally within my control. I am capable of making this shot and leaving the ball in position to make the next shot, and so on and so on. It’s up to me. Luck isn’t involved. Other people aren’t involved. The movement of markets, the trends of industry and global economic pressures are not at work here. It’s me, that pool table, my understanding of physics, geometry and what happens when I hit that white ball. The risks are that I’ve overestimated my ability or that I’m over-confident, cocky or stupid.
I’m not stupid.
I don’t think I’m over-confident; I think I’m just-enough-confident. Confidence is required when taking a risk like this because being scared or nervous will affect my ability. I know that I can sink those balls and win this game. Besides, it’s a computer-based game of pool running on my iPhone. What’s the worst that can happen?
Actually, the worst that can happen is that I’ll start over analyzing my willingness to take risks and that will cause me to start altering my behavior in other areas of life.
Risk taking is something that we do all the time. Every decision we make involves risk. Do we go to college or pursue a trade? Which trade? Which major? Which college? I knew a lot of people when I was in school that had a plan, but very few were convinced that they could run the table with that plan. Still, they made the attempt. I know others who finished their education according to plan, but did not pursue the career they originally considered.
Those are big, potentially life changing decisions. We understand their importance and most of us prepare to make those choices. On the other hand, we make, or fail to make, lots of little decisions on a daily basis. Can I pass these cars and get around that truck before the exit? Can I merge in front of that school bus? Judging by my daily commute, these are decisions with which many people actively struggle.
In the early ‘80s, my route to work included an intersection where I would have to join a main road at about a 30° angle. There was a stop sign on my road. One day, I came up behind a guy at that stop sign. He looked left and pulled out. I pulled forward, cranked my head around and looked left and judged that I could slide in in front of the car that was coming. I pulled out only to rear-end the guy ahead of me. He had had second thoughts about whether he had enough room and decided to stop.
I learned a lesson about driving that day, and one about risk taking. Not all people have the same appetite for risk. I also learned that people are often nicer than you expect them to be. The guy that I hit felt that he was partially responsible for the accident and suggested that we both just tend to our own damage. One of my coworkers suggested that he probably had drugs in his car, but I’m going with the thought that he was a nice guy.
Getting back to those long-term risks, my college experience was a small series of bad decisions that, when combined, led to a pretty good result. It’s way too much to go into today, or even in a single blog post, but it’s a story I’ve wanted to tell, just so you know.
A game of pool isn’t the best analogy for life, but it’s good for a few of life’s challenging moments. Life gives us a lot of those moments. Life keeps putting the balls back on the table, changing the game, changing the opponents and raising or lowering the stakes. It’s OK though. Based on my experience at this life thing, there are times I play it safe and times when I think I can run the table. How about you?
By the way, I did run the table to win that game.