Be Smart, Not Right

Be Smart, Not Right

June 12, 2020

To have Big Points delivered into your Inbox every week, click here.

Wait, is he yelling at me?

I heard guy saying, “Hey, you know it’s not airborne, right?”


“It’s not airborne,” he repeated. “You don’t have to wear a mask.”

“Um, okay.”

I kept my mask on.

But it got me thinking.

What was he trying to say? What was his point?

Granted, it was in the early stages of the pandemic and maybe we all didn’t have enough information.

Still, what was he talking about?

Let’s say he was right. Maybe he had special, truthful information about the situation, and I didn’t need to be wearing a mask.

What kind of scenario was he advocating?

For him, the upside of telling me this is that he gets to look manly, brave, and prescient by ignoring the prevailing guidance.

The downside of his directive is that he and/or other people might die.

Doesn’t seem like a great risk-to-reward proposition.

Further, what was the scenario he had in mind for me?

If I wore a mask and it turned out nothing was airborne, my mask wasn’t helpful and I have a slightly-sweaty face for a few minutes.

On the other hand, if masks do reduce the danger of infection, I potentially kept other people from harm.

If he’s right, the worst case is a sweaty face.

If he’s wrong, the worst case is people die.

So, again, what was he thinking? Why play the odds is such a potentially disastrous way?

And what’s next in this high risk, small reward lifestyle?

Following this train of thought, why not quit my job and invest my life savings in a business that nobody wants me to create? (Upside: I get to call myself a daring entrepreneur and work 7-day workweeks; Downside: financial oblivion.)

Why not have a few drinks with friends and drive home? (Upside: I get to prove I can hold my liquor and I get to save a $12 Uber fare; Downside: I send multiple people to the hospital.)

Why not bet bet five years of savings on a roulette spin coming up red? (Upside: I get to impress some strangers and I have a lot more money to spend! Downside: I’m in a deep financial hole.)

A lifestyle of putting odds in our favor looks quite differently.

I would start a business that already has demand while keeping my day job until I have two years of savings. My new business makes money while I save money. Downside? I still have my day job and my life is the same as it was before.

I wouldn’t drink and drive. I still have the good time I wanted to have and a guarantee I won’t hurt anyone.

I wouldn’t bet it all on red. I would bet $5 a spin and have some fun in Vegas. No after effects.

We all have an addiction to being right. It’s enticing to try to say something we think we know to get attention and to look right.

But the boring probabilities will keep us safe, happy, and inevitably successful over the long run.

Ignore the desire to be right, be probabilistic instead.

No downside to that.


My book is called The Inevitability of Becoming Rich, and you can find that here.