Buy-in or Opt-out

Here’s another interesting term: “Hedging your bet”. It means betting against your main gamble, to limit your risk. That way, if your original bet fails, you recover some of the money from those other bets. Generally, it also means that you’re refusing to fully commit to one idea, to avoid being wrong.

My life used to be entirely governed by bet-hedging. To lessen the risk of looking foolish when doing anything new or strange, I’d do it in a half-assed manner. this was supposed to broadcast to everyone “hey, I already know that I look ridiculous so there’s no need for you to point it out”. It was a kind of pre-emptive strike designed to deter criticism.

I was perpetually in a state of fear, expecting a torrent of negative feedback to come hurtling at me even though, in retrospect, there was never any such salvo sent my way. It’s strange that I’ve been so brittle to criticism when I’ve received so little of it: let’s chalk it up to the chasm of low self-esteem that I have almost entirely escaped from. And, as an interesting side-effect, now that I acknowledge that I may be somewhat of an interesting and compelling person with real potential, I kind of want to do a good job at things. And this means that I have to stop hedging my bets.

Here’s a recent example of partial commitment that I witnessed at the medical scool last week. I was working as a practice patient for the first year med students, and they were practicing their interview skills on me.  This particular patient had a migraine that was exacerbated by light, so I shielded my eyes and feigned great distress when put under a bright light. The student proceeded with the interview, but never made any attempt to change the lighting level of the room. When he called a time-out to discuss strategy with his fellow students, they brought up the light, and he replied “I didn’t know that I was allowed to turn the lights down”. They then suggested that he pretend to turn the lights down (evidently none of them felt empowered enough to just dim the lights. Way to think inside the box, guys). His response to the suggestion of pretending was “I thought this was medical school, not acting school”. This young, would’be doctor, was only partially committed to the exercise. Yes, it was all pretend. I wasn’t really suffering from a migraine, we were sittiin in a classrom, not a doctor’s office, and there were students and teacher in the room. He could have chosen to accept the artificiality of the situation and act as if it were all real, but he didn’t, and I think he missed the opportunity to learn a little bit more from the scenario.

If I have to go back to an old proverb (and it seems like I always do) it would be : “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing well”. If you have decided that you’re going to take part in an activity, any activity, then commit to it. Put an honest, enthusiastic effort into it, no matter how silly it will make you look. If you can’t do it like you mean it, then sit this one out and try again when your courage wells up again.

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