Hope and Other Casualties

Regret influences our decisions far too much and we forget that risk is the real measure we should keep our eye on.

Hope and Other Casualties
Capital Thinking | Hope and Other Casualties

Capital Thinking  •  Issue #555  •  View online

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.

-Robert Fulghum

Hope and Other Casualties

Eric Chunn | Capital Thinking:

It's late Friday afternoon.

Pulling into a nearby convenience store after work, Anne steps out of her pickup, pumps $60 of gas into the tank, and heads inside to pay the bill.

Searching around for a quick snack, she picks up a Coke and a pack of cookies. Pausing for a moment, she replaces the Coke with a bottle of water. Got to cut out those calories somewhere.

She places the items on the counter and asks the clerk for a ticket for the State lottery.

It's her weekly routine and it never changes.

Fill up the car on Friday, pick up snacks, buy a lotto ticket, and head out to finish up her shopping for the weekend.

All too soon the weekend would be over. Come 8 am Monday morning, she would be back sitting at her desk, at her boring job, and staring at the computer screen.

She needed a break. And that's why she plays her numbers in the lottery every week without fail.

It was her one chance at freedom.

So every Saturday morning, she fires up her laptop, takes that first sip of coffee, and checks to see if she should call a Limo service to run her down to the State capital. She has it all planned out. After all, a girl deserves to travel in style, right?

Of course, she wasn't really expecting anything to change. Maybe that's why it finally did.

She glances at the lottery numbers that Saturday morning and excitement builds inside her until she slams the coffee cup to the table to keep from dropping it. She looks down and her hands are shaking.

She reads the winning numbers again. And then once more. Jumping up from the table, she runs to find her purse. Digging through her receipts she finds the folded lottery ticket and hurries back to the computer.

She opens up the ticket and begins to sob. It was a mistake. It had to be a mistake.

But it wasn't.

She had been in more of hurry than usual and didn't pay attention when the clerk handed her the ticket. Not her usual ticket, but a computer-generated QuikPic slip.

Her numbers won, but she hadn't.

Maybe you will never experience the regret of having "your numbers" win the lottery without you. Doesn't matter. I'll bet you can relate. It has to hurt and I think it safe to say that Anne is definitely in pain on this particular Saturday morning.

Most of us understand the pain of loss all too well and we do our level best to avoid it. But often we confuse the concept of risk with fear of regret and Anne's case is almost a perfect example.

Here's the deal: Risk is a mathematical concept and involves chance. Regret is simply an expression of how we feel when we're disappointed, disillusioned, or disheartened.

That lottery ticket cost Anne the same 3 dollars every week and her chances of winning were exactly the same (in the neighborhood of 20 million to one).

Her risk had not changed at all.

But her regret over not having chosen her usual numbers knows no bounds. That pain is very real and may affect her judgment for years to come.

What do you want to bet that she never plays anything other than HER numbers again? Ever?

Not that her reaction is all that unusual. After all, isn't that what we all do?

We allow regret to influence our decisions far too much forgetting that risk is the real measure we should keep our eye on.

For while regret is all about looking backward, risk on the other hand, is very much focused on the future. On what may happen. What could happen.

Whether or not you play the lottery, this is something you would do well to keep in mind whenever you consider whether or not to implement a new proposal, hire a new employee, or begin a new project.

Risk or regret?

Will you focus on the future or continue to be ruled by the past?

Hope is a double-edged sword. Use it and you’ll suffer until you reach your goal. Don’t use it you’ll fall into despair.- Maxime Lagacé