Making a Sure Bet | Optionality, Decision Making, and How to Embrace Uncertainty


We make millions of decisions over the course of our lives. Most of these seem to be small and of little consequence, and so we make our choices and act with little care or thought. Other decisions require more care and consideration, as their significance will, for better or worse, have a lasting impact on our life: What job offer to accept, what life partner to choose, how to invest in retirement.

When faced with these truly important decisions, many people become crippled by their fear and doubt. What if it’s a bad prediction? What if I am missing information, and so my choice is wrong? Often, such fears have a cascade effect, they trickle down and impact our ability to make even the smallest judgment, leaving us paralyzed.

However, there is a way to increase the likelihood that we’re making a sure bet.

According to Annie Duke, a World Series of Poker champion and the author of Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts, regardless of whether the choice is small or large, the key to solid decision-making rests in our ability to shift our thinking from a need for absolute certainty to “a goal of accurately assessing what you know and what you don’t.” In other words, people need to look at every decision as though it were a bet.

Ultimately, Duke argues that by adopting this way of thinking — by assessing how sure we are of something, tracing the possible outcomes, and analyzing the odds of failure — we can ensure long-term success for ourselves, our loved ones, and our business partners.

Calling on her degrees in behavioral and cognitive psychology, and her years of experience in professional poker, throughout the episode, Duke speaks with host Demetri Kofinas about how we can eliminate fear and unproductive emotions from our decision-making processes, embrace uncertainty, and make better decisions.