He who takes no chances wins nothing — Danish Proverb
If I ask you how next year is going to be by this time, chances are you tell me you don’t know which is perfectly fine. That’s because we are poor at predicting the future.
You might have tried predicting the future in one aspect of your life before and find out your prediction didn’t come to pass. When you predict, you are forecasting or estimating a future event based on knowledge and reasoning. And this is what we do most of the time.
If you live your life based on prediction, you won’t go anywhere in life because life doesn’t happen to us by prediction rather it happens to us by chance.
Taking chances means taking a risk. And risk-taking is the act of sacrificing your personal emotions, energy, time or money to help you improve your circumstances, or to simply take advantage of opportunities that life presents you with writes Adam Sicinski. It’s the act of stretching your comfort zone and capabilities by exposing yourself to uncertainty and possible change.
Taking risks doesn’t mean succeeding every time, and that’s OK! Taking risks can lead to failure which in turn can help you grow as a person.
Few reasons why predicting the future can be so darn difficult is because:
We have biases.
We’re overly optimistic that the things we want to happen will actually happen. We erroneously base our predictions on our past experiences. When we get new information, we often think it fits into what we already believe to be true. We notice immediate things but not when they happen gradually, especially throughout generations. We think bad things will happen, but not to us — in fact, we don’t care about them much if they won’t. “We think that however, we feel and whatever we believe is going to be how we feel and what we believe forever,” says Susan Weinschenk, the chief behavioural scientist at the Team W, a consulting and training company.
We’re bad at knowing which factors are the most important
We find it difficult to anticipate which of the forces at play in any given situation will take more precedence than the others. For example, in 1911, Thomas Edison predicted that the homes of the future would be replete with steel furniture. It was a decent guess — the material was durable, inexpensive, and ubiquitous. But he forgot that humans don’t really like steel in their homes, both physically (it’s uncomfortable to sit on) and aesthetically (doesn’t produce that cozy vibe) writes Alexandra Ossola.
We’re bad at guessing which forces are the most powerful in part because we’re pretty good at estimating, Weinschenk says. “Most of the time, our estimates are accurate enough to keep us alive and propagating the species. If you were doing a lot of higher-level computation, you would need more brainpower,” she adds — that would require too much glucose in our brains, which already absorb 20% of our bodies’ calories. So who cares about picking out exactly the thing that got you there? “Good enough is good enough,” Weinschenk says.
Don’t predict the future. Invent it.
While we can’t predict the future, we can get a handle on trends, which is a way to take advantage of change.
Change isn’t easy but it’s the only way to cope with an unpredictable future. 2020, for example, has been an unpredictable year for everybody. As the things happening have deviated us from what normal looks like.
I can’t predict if Facebook is going to be around in the next 50 years but I can take my chances on using the internet to learn a new skill I can use to develop a new social media platform.
While we can’t predict the future, we can invent it because that’s the only way to cope with life unpredictability. And in the words of Alan Kay that says “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
When you predict the future, you are being certain because of the evidence of things that shapes your reasoning. But when you learn to take chances, you are betting both against the good and the bad. Niklas Goeke sums it well when he said: “If you cant navigate chance, you will never make the best decisions.”
How to start taking chances for the future
Learn to make little bets on yourself
“Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favour another small win.” ― Peter Sims
Nothing is linear in life. Success is not linear, growth is not linear, wealth creation is not linear.
Life itself is duality. There’s day and night. There’s good and bad. There’s love and hate. There’s joy and sadness. Learning to make a little bet on yourself means you’re putting duality before you — meaning whatever you do or try might be a hit or miss, might turn out good or bad.
Success comes through an accumulation of a series of small wins. And in other to make those small wins, we must learn to experiment by making little bets.
Google is an example of a company that makes little bets on themselves and that is why products like Google plus and Google Allo failed. And same little bets is also what produced apps like Gmail, Google Drive and the likes.
Learning to make little bets is like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it will become.
When you make little bets on yourself, you are taking chances on the future. And when you learn to take chance on the future, you set yourself up for growth because either way, you get to learn something from it even if it fails.
When most people think about taking a chance, they paralyze themselves with thinking about all the negative things that could happen and this, in turn, push them to not make any little bets. Avoid overthinking and overanalyzing things when trying to make little bets.
The chances we have taken on ourself is what has brought us this far. The more we keep making those little bets, the better we are.
Learn to work with uncertainty
“Although our intellect always longs for clarity and certainty, our nature often finds uncertainty fascinating.” ― Karl Von Clausewitz
One of the biggest problems we have is that we love certainty.
We want certainty because they give us a safe place for landing. However, certainty breeds stagnancy because it tends to limit much of our potential.
We want to be certain our book will sell before we write it.
We want to be certain our music will be a hit before we record it.
We want to be certain we will get funding before we start our business.
We want to be certain the girl will say yes before we ask her out.
Look around what has certainty given anyone? Nothing.
Unlike school, real life is not about certainties.
Trying to be certain before you do something only leads to inaction and inaction leads to unused potential. Better put if you want guaranteed results, then don’t do anything at all.
“The mistake is thinking that there can be an antidote to the uncertainty.” ― David Levithan
Certainty is the enemy of growth. Instead of trying to be certain, learn to be uncertain by trying new things and see where it takes you to. Uncertainty is how discoveries are made because discoveries don’t happen in a vacuum.
Being able to create, navigate amid uncertainty and adapt can be of advantage in taking chances on the future rather than predicting it.
When you assume that nothing will change, you are predicting the future just as when you assume that something will change. One way to cope with an unpredictable world is to build an enormous amount of flexibility into your organization by taking a “chance” on the future as Google did and not predicting it.
“Only the unknown frightens men. But once a man has faced the unknown, that terror becomes the known.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Predicting the future might seem easy, but trying to predict it only leads to failure because we can’t rely on past assumptions. But when you learn to take chances on the future, you are set yourself up for growth because you are preparing for uncertainty.
And Pena Chodron put it best that “Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure. Life is like that. We don’t know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really we just don’t know.”