Here's a habit I have which I hate, that you might be able to relate to. A friend might say that he thinks that a Zodiac boat goes really slow. I then reply that I'm not sure, but I think they're quite fast. As we go back and forth, I become more and more convinced that I'm right. My unstated goal has nothing to do with discovering the truth, but it has everything to do with convincing my friend that I'm right.
Often times he's in the same position, not totally sure how correct his position is, but determined to get me to believe him. If there's a more useless way to spend time than these sorts of arguments, I haven't discovered it yet.
It's not difficult to figure out why we do this. We all want to seem smart, and a good way to seem smart is to be right all the time. Including this time, dammit. And like any habit that's fueled by the ego, this habit is a good one to put on the chopping block for execution.
Around 2005 I had hired a few people to help me with my online gambling business. One of these guys was named Andrew. He also thought that he was right all the time. But a more notable commonality we had was that we liked odds and we liked betting.
So we bet on everything. If a given day passed without us betting on something, it was a fluke, not to be repeated soon. An average day played host to four or five bets, ranging from ten to one hundred dollars.
"I think the restaurant is still open."
"I'm pretty sure it's not."
"Want to bet?"
The answer was ALWAYS yes, it's just a matter of terms. A restaurant's hours might be a twenty dollar bet with even odds. More specific bets might have different odds. If he, for example, thought that he could make a 7 letter scrabble word out of a random collection of seven letters that he spotted somewhere, I might give him two to one odds to try to induce him to bet.
He and I aren't friends anymore, so our betting is done. My guess is that we ended up close to even in the end. The idea of the bets wasn't to try to earn an income off the other person, it was to create a sense of accountability. We were reckless when we first started this, but when you know you're likely to be financially challenged on any statement you make, you consider things more carefully. You aren't as enticed by hyperbole.
In the beginning, I remember betting when I KNEW I was wrong, just because I didn't want to admit that I said something I hadn't really thought about. Lose twenty bucks a couple times for dumb things like that and you stop saying them.
We started to take each other's statements more seriously. There was a penalty for guessing incorrectly, so you could generally count on the other person to make a good guess. We also became good auditors of our own confidence. Instead of insisting that something was so, I'd say that I thought that there was at least a 33% chance it was so, knowing that he would offer me a two-to-one bet on it to compensate for my odds.
None of my friends now like betting as much as I do, which is a shame. I still get a bet out of them once in a while, but weeks pass in between them. It always strikes me as a little disingenuous when we're in a heated argument over something and the other person won't bet, though. You're willing to try to convince me, but aren't willing to stake twenty dollars on your opinion? All the bluster in the world doesn't give me the same assurance that an Andrew Jackson might.
Sorry I forgot to post Wednesday. I get inordinately confused about the date/time in the US when I'm in Japan. I have a bunch of friends here right now, too, so I've gotten way behind in pretty much everything.
Photo is of Brian, Toby, and Michiru in Tokyo. I have a ton more photos, as do Todd and Michiru, but I haven't put them up yet. Will do it as soon as I have half a day to sit around.
I sprained my ankle the day before the trip and it's still in bad enough shape that it's stopping me from doing everything I want to do. But I'll tell you this: ace bandages help a LOT. Surprised!
I really appreciate this. One of my friends cannot admit she is wrong even about the smallest thing, and gets pretty aggressive about it without warning. I bet she won't bet on a thing, that'll save a lot of arguments & awkwardness :)
Per Ravi's suggestion, Stickk.com helps one to stick to New Year's resolutions. For example, suppose you want to lose weight. You put $1000 in escrow at Stickk.com. If you fail to lose a prescribed amount of week, stickk.com deducts the money from your deposit, and donates it to a charity that you _hate_.
I really, really like this in theory. I read about this a couple of years ago and I've tried it numerous time with different people and it never works. People always start hemming and hawing and start saying things like "Why does it have to be about money yadayadydaa". The only people it works with are poker players or sports bettors.
Sounds exactly like my friends and I. We bet on EVERYthing. And I agree, it really does make you accountable. Occasionally friends who wouldn't bet on anything hang out with us and think we are all complete degenerates but it really does make you think before you start spouting off about something if you know you're gonna have to back it up with cash (or at the least extremely embarrassing acts)
Bets are also a FANTASTIC way to make new year's resolutions that stick. Find a friend and bet $100 (or more depending on how painful the best is) and go to town. The winner gets to donate the money to a charity of their choice.
I never thought about gambling and betting in such a positive way, but makes sense. Hmm.. I think maybe I should start gambling and betting more often. But I bet won't? ;)
Robin Hanson of GMU proposed betting markets (aka 'futarchy') as a system of government:
Love it! Me and my friends are guilty of the latter bad habit of ego-fueled stupid debates. Wonder what they will think when I say "Wanna bet?" at the start of the next one. Haha.
Betting is like insuring your decisions. If you make bad decisions a lot, your "cost" goes up. It's a perfectly legitimate way of improving one's perspective of reality, by creating a cost for any errors.
I remember a particular bet that you made with friends several years ago. They bet that you couldn't run 10 (?) miles and you bet you could. It was a great day seeing the then fairly sedentary Ty run laps around the track and collect the money. Let's see... I bet you can't call your mother every week for one year :)
The list of problems that don't have their roots in a fundamental misunderstanding of how things actually are is a short one. The other night I was playing poker, and one of the guys at the table was a really bad player who thought that he was really good. He and I played a hand where I surprised him and ended up winning. He was furious, threw his cards at me, and mumbled for hours about what a bad player I was.
I've certainly played hands poorly before and gotten lucky and won anyway, but this wasn't one of those times. I knew what he had, I knew what I had, I knew how much money was in the pot, I knew what my odds of catching the cards I needed to win were, and I could do the math to figure out that it was worthwhile for me to keep puting money in. All he knew was that he had better odds than me going into the last card, and I won anyway.
The guy proceeded to lose a thousand bucks or so, and I bet that this is a regular occurrence with him. I also bet he has no idea why he's lost thousands of dollars at poker. He probably just thinks that it's bad luck.
A few years ago I had an issue with reality as well. I thought: hey, I'm smart, smart people make lots of money, but I haven't made lots of money. The easy solution to that sort of disconnect is to ignore it or blame it on bad luck, but a better strategy is to examine each piece and figure out which one isn't true.
I was a teenager with way too much time on his hands. It was summer break and I had just finished middle school. I used to spend hours browsing the web mindlessly, which is something I still occasionally do. In one of my browsing sessions I decided to see if there was any way to make money online. I didn't want to get a job. After all, I was a teenager who was scared of having to do any kind of work. But I also thought that it would be nice to get some extra cash to buy a few more beers, or whatever else I thought would make me happy back then.
I knew almost nothing about making money online. A friend of mine had tried clicking on ads for a while, and that earned him less than a dollar per week. I wanted to know if there was anything more profitable, so I joined a forum about making money online. There were a lot of people who said that making money on the internet was impossible, and a few more who claimed to have easily made about $1000. I focused on the second group, and I soon found out that they had all made money from sports betting.
What? How is sports betting supposed to make you any money?
Even if there is a way to make money from gambling, there surely must be a lot of risk involved. That's what any reasonable person would think. However, I soon found out that it's possible to make money from bonuses that bookmakers give to their new customers without any risk. To keep a long story short, you bet on all outcomes of a sports event so that you're guaranteed to keep a fraction of the bonus no matter which team wins.
It took me a while to wrap my head around the concept, but once I did, it all made perfect sense. The only problem was that I was only 15, way bellow the legal age of gambling. And I had no credit card, of course. I still don't know what arguments I used, but I managed to convince my mother to give me one of her credit cards for matched betting.