In their most recent book, Think Like A Freak, Steve Levitt and Stephen Dubmer tell the story of the penalty kicks in soccer to highlight how incentives move us. According to them, the data shows that 75% of all penalty kicks at the elite level are successful. That’s a high rate, but what can you do if you want to improve a little bit?
Turns out almost every kicker, in almost all circumstances, they kick to the corner where the goalkeeper has to jump. Because he has to jump he has to declare whether he’s going left or right as the kicker is kicking. But if you look at the data, you see that he jumps to kicker’s strong side little less than 60% and about 40% to the other side; and 2% of the time he stays in the middle.
So, what happens if you do kick it dead in the middle? It looks ridiculous because that’s where the goalkeeper is standing. But the authors say that if you look at the data you’re 7% more likely to score if you kick it in the center.
Why don’t more people do it?
Because if they happen to kick it to the middle and the goalkeeper happens to stop it, the kicker will look like a fool.
What holds us back from unleashing our potential
To me, the single biggest obstacle to innovation is embedded in human nature: FEAR.
It’s not lack of processes, lack of frameworks and tools, lack of management or anything technical like that. It is the fear of the messy unknown, of being judged, of taking the first step and of losing control. Put simply, it’s a lot more attractive to protect your reputation as a nice, safe, reliable and responsible person than it is to take a risk.
But, you can be a nice, safe, reliable, and responsible person while also taking risks. As I’ve said before, radical is a matter of perception. So just because some of us are risk takers doesn’t mean we’re not nice, it just means we give a lot more damn than most.
What’s funny is that those few of us who aren’t afraid to stick our necks out are usually looked at like freaks because where not afraid to look in the dark corners for answers and point out the elephant in the room. Well, there’s always an elephant in the room: human nature.
It’s also what holds us back.
If it were easy everyone would do it
Frankly, most people are always in the hunt for that very quick and easy guide, template, silver bullet idea that requires a few steps to fix everything. And so it is with the common cliche of think different.
To me, thinking different means that you should ignore everyone, seek out your own answers and develop your own point of view.
But asking questions about topics and situations, redefining the problem, developing ones own point of view is held as common sense because it’s repeated over and over again. And what’s worse is people believe they do these things. But, as I said, following that common sense takes effort. That’s why it’s uncommon when we actually do it!
This topic isn’t new. I have, as well as others, touched on it a handful of times. And I believe we will continue talking about it forever and ever. People will put a new twist on it, develop different language for it, find a more eloquent and/or poetic way to express, it will resonate with some people and it might even activate them; in the end it is a cycle that has repeated itself for as long as we’ve know the history of humans.
For us to stop talking about it, we need to accept and defeat within ourselves the thing that holds us back: fear.
The risk is not taking a risk
I found the penalty kick example as a metaphor for life. You see, the answers are usually very simple. There’s always going to be risk, even in what looks like a sure thing. We rarely look for a better outcome, believing that what works for others is easier to do than if we set out to find another way!
But biases are always there, and as a result people will take the road that worked for others; the problem is in how they perceive situations.
What is also interesting about this irrational behavior is how people, triggered by a sense that they are ignoring common sense and thus thinking differently, will try all kinds of gimmicks to gain attention. But actually, most people don’t follow their own ideas at all; they just mindlessly follow other people.
Because we’ve all heard the “think different” cliche, and it’s repeated over and over again to no avail. And, just like the common dentist advice of washing your teeth everyday, people know about thinking different, but what they don’t want to accept is that thinking different takes effort. And acting different, well that’s another story!
To start to see the world in a new way that helps you be more creative and more successful, the best advice is simply: Ignore Everybody.
Don’t care so much about what the people around you read, watch, eat, listen to, etc..Find your own answers, take the road less traveled, find what’s interesting in something no one else does. And always remember that anything worth doing requires effort. So if you find yourself alone with no followers, don’t worry because people rarely follow what isn’t easy.