Winning The Loser’s Game

Showing up to work every day and saving your money might allow you to take that special trip, or not be hurt (financially) by that unexpected car repair bill.

Drunk driving might get you home, but it also might land you in jail or worse (a lot worse).

There’s a big difference between playing defense and looking to survive anything stupid happening, and playing offense and exposing yourself to a deeply negative surprise.

If the environment is unpredictable, more defense may make more sense. If the environment is at least somewhat predictable, then you can start to get tactical with your offense.

In unpredictable environments especially, we win by not losing.

Charlie Ellis’ classic example of a tennis match between an amateur and a pro, said that the pro’s strategy should just be to not make any simple mistakes. Given enough time, the amateur most certainly will. He called it, “winning the loser’s game.”

When we approach outcomes as a distribution, meaning we recognize that there is more than one possible path, we can aim to win by first focusing on how to avoid the worst paths, and then worrying about how we’ll potentially end up on the better paths.

It takes a shift in thinking, but simply minimizing the negative outcomes can do wonders for our average results.

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