I’ve been putting a lot of thought into Little Bets, lately. That terminology is based on Peter Sims’ book by the same title. The book was a wallop and changed the way I looked at my goals entirely.
Many more people preach about how useful baby steps, incremental change, minimum viable product, and failing fast are...
So if little bets are so useful and are the key to any success, why are they still so damn hard for us to do?
I thought long and hard and here are the 3 biggest reasons (and the solutions to go along with them) that I came up with for this pesky conundrum:
Problem #1: Little bets are still hard on us emotionally
Any time we bet, any time we put anything on the line, we are vulnerable. Sometimes our brain doesn’t know the difference between getting feedback from a few strangers, and throwing $7,000 at a half-thought out business venture.
It’s not in our nature to like to be proven wrong, no matter how inconsequential that “wrong” is.
Immediate emotional rejection is such a strong feeling to contend with that we often choose to suffer internally for extraordinary amounts of time rather than risk having the possibility of rejection be seen by anyone. Just ask any guy who doesn’t say hello to the cute girl he sees in the coffee shop for the umpteenth time.
Solution: Since there is no real way to take emotions out of anything, reward yourself immediately after a little bet, no matter what the outcome is. The reward is for taking the step, not because you guessed correctly.
An affirmed hypothesis is proof that you were right.
A refuted hypothesis is proof that something else was right.
Either way, you learned what is actually right, so congratulate yourself on this new insight. Check Facebook, watch TV, go out drinking, or whatever you like to do, but do so because you learned something new and because you pushed yourself forward.
Problem #2: A little bet isn’t sexy enough for us
We were not built to be patient. We don’t like things we cannot see, or change we cannot feel.
It’s why there is still a Flat Earth Society. And just look at how evolution is still doubted by a horrifyingly large number of people. Evolution isn’t sexy enough in the eyes of many. Minute, indistinguishable changes that build in complexity and beauty over millions and billions of years?! Eh, I need something faster.
Same goes with our goals. A little bet and a little win are extremely productive but they are lacking the “wow” factor that so many people want in their lives.
People want to:
chase their dreams
travel the world
save the planet
go from rags to riches and beyond!
They want the jump, the leap, and their entire hand on black at the Roulette table, all at once.
They want to see results immediately. They want to feel the change as it happens.
But it doesn't happen that way.
Solution: Redefine what is sexy. You are the one who gets to define what success and change are, so like evolutionary biologists, if you tracked change on the infinitesimal level you would see a lot of it.
At the end of your day, or immediately following your foray into a little bet, write down what you learned or confirmed.
Before I go to bed each night, I write in a notebook my daily entry for “3 things that I learned today”. It’s great way to track incremental change and document how I am pushing something forward even if I don’t feel it moving forward. You can also use www.idonethis.com
Problem #3: A little bet's outcome is uncertain
Our brain can find other time sucks that are much more certain.
Facebook, twitter, checking your email and reading blogs has an outcome which is 99.99% certain. There is no risk involved. You know that you are either going to laugh, smile or be part of your community of friends in some way by sharing something, commenting on something or replying to something.
The thing that makes it so addictive is that we know the outcome but we don’t know what the trigger will be each time. What will the story, the photo, the meme, the party be this time that keeps me connected and part of the conversation?
So even though a little bet doesn’t take up that much time, it is an inherently uncertain task. Your brain likes certainty a lot more than uncertainty.
Solution: You need an out.
Try dedicated “little bet” time. Maybe it’s 30 minutes a day, maybe it’s 60 minutes a day or maybe it’s 2 or 3 times a day, whatever your metric, if you create a closed loop of uncertainty, you will be more willing to handle the uncomfortability that comes with any bet.
In the end
Writing things down? Tracking? UGH! Bassam, that feels like work!
It is. Facebook, blogs, twitter, email, gossiping, and dreaming of what you will do are much easier because you don’t need to really work to enjoy their benefits.
Which is why you kind of have to love learning and tinkering in order to value what little bets can bring you. If the nuts and bolts about the process don’t interest you at all, then you’re going to have a hard time getting the result you want. As Derek Sivers told me in an interview: “You can’t just daydream about being famous and hope you just get there. You’ve gotta love the stuff along the way.”
You can’t revel in the future if you’re not somewhat interested in what comes in-between now and then.
Sorry troops. It’s just the way it is.
Speaking of a little bet that came to life, check out our new Ignition Lab Video summary from the workshop Antonio Neves and I conducted in Nicaragua.