“Let’s take tennis, for instance,” the comedian says. “The great-looking shot is the volley down the line, as opposed to a safer volley that you’re sure will land somewhere on the court. But that volley down the line, if you make it, can lift your spirits and cause you to feel fantastic and strut around the court thinking, ‘I am the greatest tennis player in the world!’”
Never mind, Cosby says, that most B tennis players make that shot only 13% of the time. It’s the one time you do make it—when your gamble pays off—that keeps you trying to make it again.
Same with golf. If a pro hits a ball into the rough behind a tree, he’ll chip it back onto the fairway. A duffer will stand behind the tree, squint through the branches and decide he’s going to hit the ball around the trunk, between the branches, to the green. He shouldn’t even try a shot like that, Cosby notes, “but he’s thinking that if he makes it, he will feel wonderful.”
Lesson: Can you remember a time your team took a wild leap of faith that the market would love this new design? Or a customer service meeting in which every step in a transaction would have to work perfectly, down to the nanosecond, to meet a shipment deadline?
That’s gambling. Next time, make sure you’ve built in safeguards the way the professionals do, not the duffers.
— Adapted from I Am What I Ate … and I’m Frightened, Bill Cosby, HarperCollins.