For many financial advisors, improving business development strategies can be a challenging task to address. With the myriad tools available to advisors that help them analyze the potential outcomes of their ideas and strategies, collecting the data to do so has become easier than ever. At the same time, though, over-analyzing strategies prior to implementing them can create a substantial gap between ideating a plan and actually putting it into motion. And sometimes, the fear of committing to an idea that might end in failure can be the real reason for the hesitation to implement in the first place.
In our 99th episode of Kitces & Carl, Michael Kitces and client communication expert Carl Richards discuss how advisors can recognize behavior that may be impeding them from starting a plan, how incrementally implementing a plan can help put overall risk in perspective, and how changing small behaviors can help advisors gain confidence to implement important plans vital to continue growing and scaling their businesses.
As a starting point, it’s important for advisors to recognize when they fail to take action because of the human tendency to hide from the pressure of implementing a risky idea. This can emerge as procrastination, overanalysis, or becoming occupied with any number of tasks that they feel are necessary to complete first (such as ensuring every minute detail has been thoroughly examined and vetted) before taking any steps toward executing the actual idea being considered.
One way to deal with this hesitation to take action is to set goals in smaller increments, which can ensure progress while keeping the workload reasonable. As while it is easy to get caught up in the (sometimes unfounded) fears that even just one misstep can have catastrophic consequences, keeping a realistic perspective on the impact of failed attempts also becomes more manageable when aiming for smaller subgoals that are part of a larger process. Importantly, by implementing micro-actions instead of tackling larger tasks, advisors may find it easier to address failure when it does come up, as the fear of failing at one small step in a larger process is much easier to handle than the fear of total failure of the whole system. And by identifying how to break up their process into smaller, more manageable steps and keeping the potential failure of each particular step in perspective, advisors can more easily see their plan through.
Ultimately, the key point is that finding the confidence to take action on a risky strategic plan begins with identifying behaviors that might sabotage our efforts and examining how risky the plan actually is. While it may feel scary at first, taking smaller steps can help the advisor not only put the actual risk of a plan into better perspective, but can also be much easier to implement and test new approaches when those smaller steps don’t work out as planned. Which, over time, can help the advisor build the confidence they need to take the necessary action that will bring them closer to achieving more (and even bigger!) business goals!
***Editor’s Note: Can’t get enough of Kitces & Carl? Neither can we, which is why we’ve released it as a podcast as well! Check it out on all the usual podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Spotify, and Stitcher.
Kitces & Carl Podcast Transcript
Michael: Well, greetings, Carl.
Carl: Hello, Michael Kitces. How are you?
Michael: I’m doing well. How are you?
Carl: I’m great. Things are fantastic.
Michael: You are enjoying end of summer transition into the fall now?
Carl: Oh, so excited for the fall. I’ve been spending a ton of time up in the mountains, and it’s starting… This morning, I almost needed a jacket, which is amazing, so…
Michael: Well, I’ve seen the appropriate weekend reading pictures. For those of you listening and don’t know all the fascinating ways that Carl trolls me on Twitter, one of the many ways that he trolls me on Twitter is that he sends pictures of when he’s doing weekend reading, except he doesn’t actually do the weekend reading. He sends pictures from hiking trails in the beautiful mountains of Utah with picturesque scenes and says, “Doing my weekend reading.”
Carl: So good. And now…
Michael: And now there’s a bunch of other people who have started posting their, quote-unquote, “weekend reading pictures” of hiking and outdoor activities that they do over the weekend when they’re not actually reading weekend reading, which I do not take personally. It’s fine. You can read it on Friday afternoon or Monday when you come back. Feel free to enjoy your weekend if that’s your preference.
‘Hiding’ From Taking Action By Getting Too Distracted On Tactics [01:20]
Carl: So fun. So fun. You know what’s crazy?
Michael: What’s that?
Carl: We talked last time about this challenge that we all feel, and we sort of summed it up by kind of measuring the wrong thing, but the real challenge was not putting yourself on the hook for being the signal instead of the noise, right? And we talked about it, and we started with a little bit about our fee schedules, but we also talked about it as it relates specifically to websites. And so, you challenged everybody to go do something, and the thing was to look at Google Analytics if you’ve had it installed, install it if you haven’t, and just look at the number of people who are coming to your website and compare that to the number of …
Michael: Prospects you get through your website.
Carl: It’s not even clients that you get. Just even an inquiry. A perspective inquiry from your website. And what we talked about last time was that most likely, the number of people coming to your website is X, and we put some number on it. We said maybe it’s 100 to 500. We zeroed in around 300. Don’t anchor on that number. But the number of prospective clients, at least just inquiries, is probably what?
Michael: Zero most months.
Michael: A couple all year. Maybe there’s a few thousand visitors throughout the year and I got three inquiries, one of which is probably a mistake, and one of which was actually a referral who came to my website and then inquired through the website, but it was actually because of some CPA referred me. A number I can count on one hand, which relative to a few thousand people that came to your website is 0.1% or less.
Carl: So, we’ve got this problem. And it’s really interesting to me always when you expose a problem. And I use that word problem for a mathematical problem. We don’t have to feel bad about it. But it always feels a little bad. It feels a little scary to face anytime there’s a gap between what you thought was happening and what is actually happening. There’s this gap between the two. We tend to run from those gaps. We tend to avoid them. You don’t want to get on the scale, you don’t want to know how much money you spent on entertainment last month. We tend to avoid them, like the plague, actually. And we find a place to hide.
And so, I would like to just address… I think it’d be fun for us to talk about, you found this new information that just maybe the framework and the assumptions and the way we’re thinking about at least specifically marketing with a website, maybe there were some gaps in that thinking. And it was… I don’t need to make everybody… Empathetic hug. It was all unintentional. We just didn’t know, right? I kind of want to have…
Michael: No one teaches us to look at it that way.
Carl: I know. Who taught…? None of this was at the advisory school. So I kind of want to now have the punch in the face, though. The punch in the face is, now you know. What are you going to do? And let’s specifically talk about the ways we hide, because advisors… I don’t think this is unique to advisors.
Michael: So how are we not doing something with this?
Carl: Yeah, exactly. What are the ways we hide? Because I don’t know if the advisors are unique, but we can say some things. We like to think about things, we like to research, we like to check things out, compliance. We have things that we can… And let’s talk a little bit about hiding. How do you think about this idea of… Because there is a temptation. Even the analogy you used. People came into the storefront, they looked at your stuff, they looked at you, and they left. There is a sense of like, “Man…”
I want to start with the hiding things. One place we can hide is the fear… One thing we’ll hide from is if that person came into my storefront and they looked around, there was a whole bunch of stuff… And go back and listen to the last episode if you’re not getting the metaphor. But they came into my office, they looked around, there was a whole bunch of different stuff I’d put up. I was trying to be in a restaurant that served really good lasagna, eggs and bacon, and a great croissant. Oh, and I also have…we have really good tacos, too. And occasionally…
Michael: And a tenderloin.
Carl: And a pad thai. So, they came in. If they leave and don’t say anything to me but had all these things around, that’s less painful. Than if they came in they said, “This is what I do. This is who I serve.” Right? If I put myself on the hook, it becomes a little more painful.
So, how do you think about this concept of hiding, of distracting ourselves? Of not actually doing… This drives me nuts when I do it, and it’s very easy to see in other people’s behavior, far easier to see in other people’s behavior than my own. But when I find out that I’m doing it, it drives me crazy that I get caught up in what color the logo should be for 17 days, or when I start worrying about scale before I have a single paying customer. Talk to me about hiding.
Michael: Yep. We all do it. Yes, hiding is fun and feels comfortable, and is easy to dodge the difficult stuff of actually needing to deal with the thing that just came at us.
Carl: Let’s get really specific. Where do you see…? And let’s talk specifically around marketing. So, we could use any example we want, niche marketing, your website, even fee schedule as a marketing tool, right? Where do you see advisors hide the most? Where do you think our favorite places to hide are? What activities?
Michael: I think number one is, well, I got to research this more. I’m going to get a marketing book or two or three, or I’m going to start reading articles on this and find a podcast on this. And the cool thing is if I read enough articles and podcasts, eventually I’ll find one that says, “Kitces’ approach is wrong,” and then I feel better that I don’t actually have to change it all.
Carl: Oh, my gosh. So much to… Because I would imagine that, given what I know about you…
Michael: Because it’s human nature. That’s what we do, right?
Carl: I know. But given what I know about you, research might be something you do a little bit of.
Michael: Yeah. Well, yeah. I’ll start with, well, spreadsheets clearly. So, got to project this, got to model this, let’s run the numbers, let’s see how this would work, what the math would boil out to for my situation. So, any hiding exercise, if you want to frame it that way…any hiding exercise starts with a good spreadsheet in my world, and there are a lot of spreadsheets saved in my folders.
Carl: How do you know the difference? Because there’s two real important things. One, one of the reasons I like to stay away from tactics is because what you just mentioned. I’m reminded of a story that I heard Seth Godin tell once that Stephen King, the author, spoke at a huge writers’ convention. And during the Q&A, the first thing somebody asked was, “Mr. King, what type of pencil do you use?” Right? Now, the reason tactics get so… Because if I don’t like the answer to what Mr. King says about what kind of pencil, it’s not available in my country, I can’t find that pencil, I don’t like that pencil, I don’t have to be a writer, which is really great. I can just let myself off the hook. That thing I’ve always wanted to do…
Michael: Or alternatively, if I just use the pencil that Stephen King is using, then this should have all worked out for me. So I don’t have to do the other stuff that’s really hard that maybe I’m afraid to do because I got Stephen King’s pencil and it still didn’t work out, so clearly, it’s just bunk.
Carl: All of it’s bad. So that’s why I think this…getting too caught up in tactics is one of the places now. But the problem is, those things are really important. That’s what I was curious about research, because research is not bad. Let’s say you were trying to decide how your website should look. How do you figure out when you’re hiding and how do you figure out when you’ve got enough information to make the jump on a simple decision like that? How do you do it? I’m not talking about how people should do it. How do you do it?
How To Objectively Understand When It Is Time To Take Action [10:23]
Michael: Yeah, yeah, yeah. The short answer is, I research the point that the odds feel so overwhelmingly in my favor that it’s almost certain to work. It’s never certain because life isn’t. It’s almost certain to work. And then I figure out the tiniest possible way I can put a toe in the water, because I’m still scared. And then if that works, well, crap, then we just go on because that’s working and I actually tried it. But for the starting point is research it enough that I’m virtually positive it’s going to work, and then take the smallest possible step I can take to validate that.
Carl: Yeah. Well, that’s all straight out of literature, right? That’s the science of making decisions in a complex adaptive environment, right? You orient yourself really clearly around the present where you are and then you decide what the next…the literature says, “Solve for the next local optimum.” And all you’re saying is I’m going to break that down into what I like to call micro-actions. What’s the smallest little experiment I could run? And you’re just saying you’re not ready to run that experiment until you are virtually certain this micro experiment, at least this micro version of it, will work. So you do…
Michael: Well, that wasn’t from reading books and learning about, whatever, managing complex adaptive…
Carl: What I’m saying is, congratulations. Your answer is exactly what the literature says.
Michael: Yeah. Well, cool. So, one of the books that hit home for me around this recently, Adam Grant wrote a book, I guess two or three years ago, I think it’s been out now, called “Originals.” And it sounds like it’s about, as you probably just… non-conformists. People who do a different thing and go against the grain, and what’s going on there? Because per all the discussion we’re having here, nobody wants to do a thing that goes against the norm, because it’s scary and feels awkward and it’s threatening. And to be fair, we are literally…our brains are hard-wired for that, right? If you want to go all the way back to natural selection world, people who do things differently separate themselves from the herd. That’s what it means to do something different. That’s how you get picked off by predators. There’s a reason why it feels so bad. It isn’t just random neurosis. This is evolutionarily preserving to not do things that section yourself off from the herd.
And so, Grant did this really interesting book of, “Well, let’s look at the people who are willing to go against the herd anyways and figure out how on earth does that happen,” right? Because it crops up in art. It crops up in creativity more broadly. It also shows up a lot in business and entrepreneurship, the people that make a thing that’s different than everybody else. How do you get comfortable with that? And one of the things that struck me so much from the book, so the conventional view around entrepreneurship and business in general is, well, you have some version of the Zuckerberg style, have a brilliant idea, drop out of school, go all in on the thing, take a wild blind leap, and it fricking turns out amazing because they are geniuses who had this unique vision of the world that no one else did.
And when you actually drill into the research on this, because Grant’s stuff is all super hardcore research-based, which is, of course, why I like his work. When you drill in the research on this, what you actually find out is that is the polar opposite of how almost all successful entrepreneurialism actually happens. The people that do blind leaps basically almost always fail. Once in a blue moon, they succeed, and once they did a Zuckerberg thing, thus Zuckerberg. But almost all of them fail.
When you look at entrepreneurs that succeed, the overall and dominant theme is they take extremely conservative, hyper-calculated risks. They don’t take blind leaps, they spend like two years saving up for money, and they don’t blindly jump into a business model. They analyze it and research it and study the heck out of it before they put anything out there. And it’s very much a world of controlled calculated risk just to see at all whether this thing is going to vaguely possibly work. And then when it starts working, you plow in the resources and turn around, say, “Oh, my gosh, this is working. Let’s go.”
But, to me, what resonated so much…because I reflected back on this just for my journey as well. I think, admittedly, I’m a little more non-conformisty than most. My whole world has been calculated risks, deeply researched, done from the most conservative place that I can come from. I didn’t launch kitces.com until I had a year plus in savings and multiple income streams already lined up to at least replace the majority of more than half of my income before I left so that I would actually have two to three years in savings at a 50% run rate before I would even need to be able to be self-sufficient in the business. And I spent years saving to get up to that point.
And when I look at most of the businesses that I’ve launched and built over the years as well, it follows very much the same fashion of, how much can I analyze this and how much can I de-risk it before I take the leap? With the asterisk, you never get to 100%. And I think some people get stuck because they’re waiting to get to a 100% certain before they take the leap, and you really never get to 100% certain because, A, life is uncertain, and B, you can always find something to throw a view in the other direction and throw you off. I think that the thing that’s unique, perhaps for my ability to do it, in this framing of when you hide and how do you come out from the hiding, I’d figure out how to get to a point where I’ve taken enough of a calculated risk and I’ve built up enough reserves or safety or de-risking or whatever it is that I need that I’m willing to pull the trigger at only 90%.
Carl: There’s so much to unpack there, but I’m going to try and stay focused on places to hide. Because I want to have this discussion because I have so many questions about 90% enough. These words just to try and put some… Because I have a completely… It’s a very similar framework. It’s just I’m comfortable at a different… Ninty percent. I don’t even think I’ve ever gotten 90% in my life. You know what I mean? So, it’d be fun to have that conversation. But let me ask you…
Michael: That sounds horrible, Carl, but you be you.
Carl: Yeah, exactly. Let me ask you how you would apply that to the encouragement that we gave to make your…? Let’s just stick to website. This applies to everything, but let’s just stick to website for a minute for the conversation. Encouragement that we had in the last conversation around websites more relevant, doing fewer things, being more relevant saying something that matters. We used all those words.
Michael: Well, excuse me, those are hard scary words. I don’t know. Well, the same because that’s ultimately the remedy about how you do it. But we built the blog… I mean I built the blog. I built a platform around… Ultimately, we put some things out there. Sometimes they’re controversial. We say some things. I don’t go do it to say things. That’s scary, and I’m an introverted nerd from high school who was a loner and had very few friends. It’s socially awkward enough out there right now. For me, it comes from the opposite place. Again, it’s why what you actually measure is so important. I think about it not from the, “Hey, let’s go say controversial things that are super meaningful to a subset of people to attract them in like a magnet and build a business,” even though that’s the way it really ultimately ends up working. I think of it from the other end, which is if I take an honest look at what my advisor website’s doing right now, it fails 99.99% of the time. So, let’s see if we can get that failure rate down to only 99%.
Carl: Right. Right.
Michael: That’s a little less scary. Can I figure out how to only suck for 99% of people on my website? I think I’m up to that task. I’m setting the bar pretty low here.
Carl: So, what…?
Michael: But that’s the point. It’s easy to hide from, say, strong things and attract the ideal prospects. It happens to work, but it’s really scary. It’s a lot easier to say, “Let’s get just really honest for a moment about how not effective what we’re currently doing is right now and find one thing that we could do that would, no offense, suck a little bit less than 99.99% failure rates.” And we’re not trying to get to wildly successful. We’re trying to get to, let’s just only fail 99% of the time. I think I’m up to that task.
Carl: That’s my favorite, favorite business model, it is suck a little less, right? A buddy of mine that launched VC-backed firm just told me his entire pitch deck was about how to suck a little bit less tomorrow. So, I think that framing is awesome. But what I’m saying is I’m an advisor now. I’ve heard this. How much more research do I need to do to make a change to my website that will make me suck a little bit less?
Carl: Have we made the case yet or is there more research?
Understanding What A Personal Percentage Threshold For Taking Action Looks Like [20:58]
Michael: Well, at some point, I think there’s some…you can call it a percentage threshold. Obviously, you can’t really objectively calculate this threshold. So you could probably hide in the percentage that you need to reach to unhide, and that’s a whole thing unto itself. I do think there’s something powerful of… So, again, I’m truly just riffing out loud and processing for myself. Name some number, not 100, not 99. I’m a 90. Where are you, Carl? Your’s like a 50?
Michael: Oh. God, that sounds awful.
Carl: I’m just leaping all the time.
Michael: It’s worked for you, so you be you. So, name a number. It’s not allowed to be 100. It can be high, but name a number. Just set some line for yourself and where you are relative to that line, or how certain are you right now that things are going to work? No chance? Is it, “Ah, well.” All right, it’s probably a 70 or 80. I’m not at a 90 yet. But…
Carl: I have an idea real quick. What if we went the other side? Because I like the way you framed this. We’re already… Look, it’s already failing 99.999%. So, there’s actually…
Michael: Oh, two nines, not three. We don’t have enough website traffic for three.
Carl: That’s fine. But I think the idea of saying, “Okay, well then how do we design? Let’s just do this real quickly, let’s design a safe-to-fail experiment. We talked about this, micro experiment. How can you do this in the website? You could easily create, right, whatever, kitces.com/doctor, whatever. You can easily create a single little landing page that did the thing that you are scared to do.
Michael: Yeah. Well, so to me, you’re a step ahead of it, at least just from how I would think about it.
Carl: There’s no more case to be made. You’re already at 90%.
Michael: Well, yeah, but I’m just, as a non-leaper, because apparently you just got… I cannot wrap my head around 50%. We’ll have that conversation another day. So, there’s basically, what’s your percentage? 90, 80. I’m assuming the people who are listening are mostly fairly high percentages, because if you’re like a Carl, 50, you probably already did it before you listened to the podcast. So, assuming you’re a higher number, wherever you are, it’s an 80 or a 90. So, number one’s what’s your number? So just create some clarity for yourself so you at least understand what you’re actually shooting for.
So, the second question is, what if it’s the other 10%, 20%? Let’s say you’re an 80%. So you got to be an 80%. Okay. What actually happens if it’s the 20%? What happens? All my clients quit because I said I want to focus on doctor, whatever it is. What bad thing is going to happen if you tried the thing and you’re wrong? And let’s just live in that moment. Because the gut response… Steph Bogan likes to joke about this, “Yo, I’m going to try a thing, it’s going to go horrible, and then the tiger’s going to eat me and I’m going to die.” Just, the brain goes down the disaster road really quickly.
So take a moment, just be honest. You do the thing and it doesn’t work, what really happens? You get fewer inquiries? Well, okay, but it’s hard to do worse than the zero you’re probably getting on your website right now. A client sees it and thinks it’s terrible and they leave. Okay, not only your clients will leave. Okay. A client sees it and freaks out and for some reason, you can’t bring them back. Realistically, that’s probable because they were going to fire you anyways if the relationship was that bad.
Carl: I can’t even imagine something you could say so offensive to make that happen, but let’s…
Michael: Yeah. But that’s the point. Okay. If I do everything, it’s going to go horrible, my business is going to blow up, and I’m going to die eaten by a tiger. That’s where you start. So, just take a moment and live in the moment. Okay, really, what’s going to…? You’re going to get fewer prospects than the zero you’re getting? You’re going to have a hard conversation with the client that you were already on the rocks with anyway? How bad does it actually get?
And there’ll be something. Process through your fears, process through the consequences, but draw on a moment. You don’t just get to the gut impulse, like, “It’s going to be horrible.” Take a moment and be real or talk it out with a friend or a spouse or a colleague. Like just, “I’m thinking about this thing and I think if I do it, this is what might happen.” Get a sounding board. Are you making this out worse than it is? Or let’s get realistic about the stakes that are on the table because we tend to over-project it. And, again, if you get a little more realistic about it, it may be a little more manageable. And I’m just speaking really for my process as well. Then, once I’ve taken whatever the bad thing is and I’ve gotten it back to reality, then I have to de-risk it further.
So again, I’m really conservative about this stuff. Everybody only sees the endpoint, which is the leaps, and not the years and years of studying and analyzing and building up savings and figuring out how I’m going to de-risk it before I launch, which is what I actually do. Then I’m onto how do I de-risk this further, which is where, again, you know what? I’m not even going to say the thing on…I’m not even going to change my website. I’m going to make a second website over here that just speaks to the niche. I’m just going to do it secret on the side, and see if that gets any traction. Then, if that goes well, maybe I’ll bring it back to the main thing. I guess in your complex adaptive, whatever it is thing, finding your next optimum balancing goal, but just…
So, what’s your percentage? What really happens if the other side of that coin comes up? It’s tails and not heads. How do I de-risk that? So, I can even make that either less likely to happen or really less consequential if it does happen. I can’t change the percentage. Some point, I’ve done my research, I can get it as close as I can get. But I can make the consequences of being wrong lessened, right? Savings, smaller leap, side project, put it in a box, whatever I can do to de-risk the bad stuff further. And then, some combination of, I’ve done my research, I’m pretty darn sure. I know what happens if I’m wrong, and I de-risked the consequences of that to the extent I possibly can. And what the hell? Let’s do the thing now.
Carl: Yeah. Let me ask you a question, because that was really great. If you were remodeling your house, and this… I promised we wouldn’t go deep into this, but now we’re going deep. We’ll have to keep it short-deep. Let’s say you were me and you decided to remodel the house and your wife’s an interior designer.
Carl: Hypothetically. And your wife approaches you and says, “I’m trying to decide on what appliances to have in the house.” Now, which appliances? What kind of oven? Are we going to have that oven? Are we going to have that? Are we going to have this? Which kind of things are we going to have in the house? Which is a thing. There’s so many choices. This didn’t use to be a thing 20 years ago, it feels like. It’s now a big thing. And so, I’m curious how you would…because I…
Michael: I don’t answer questions above my pay grade. That’s how I’d answer that one.
Carl: So how would you… If you were part of the decision. You’re half of the house. You’re going to be in the kitchen. Because what I did was say… My wife’s name is Corey in this hypothetical example.
Michael: In this hypothetical example.
Carl: I said, “Corey, we will have all the information we need to make this decision perfectly six months after we install the appliances.” And I got to 20%. Good. It wasn’t worth it to me in time and mental energy to go any further up. If I were to graph this, I would graph it on amount of information, quality of decision. And that graph is going up just like a normal bell curve and at some point, it does get to the top. And I actually do think it’s like a bell curve. I think it starts to go down. I think more information makes the decision worse. But at the very least, the quality of the decision, either the impact of one more bit of information is only going to move that line barely up. And my wife would love to have…she wants to max that line out. What would you have done? What do you do? Do you need to…? I need to make a decision about appliances. Would you have dug in? Would you have made a spreadsheet? Or would you have just said, “Look, that’s the decision for somebody else”?
Michael: Well, if you’re really down to appliances, yeah, I would probably defer on the decision because this… I really have no knowledge in that domain and I’m not qualified to make any good decisions about appliances. I guess indirectly what that gets to is, well, a version of where you are, which is, I would defer to my wife and my wife probably would have spreadsheets I think similar to your wife apparently in making that decision, doing that analysis. And for me, that’s a version of… I guess there’s room. What are the consequences if I’m wrong on this?
I may not be thrilled with the appliance, but I’m not as vested into the appliances in the first place in our household. So the consequences of being wrong on this are not as high to me. I get stuck…I mean I guess, I get stuck on the business decisions. It’s my livelihood, it’s my family’s livelihood. It’s like shoes and food for the kids’ stuff.
Carl: This is what I was…
Michael: The business stuff to me just in general has a much, much higher bar. I guess maybe that’s my world in money scripts. But it’s livelihood and sustenance and what you need to survive and provide for your family. So, those decisions just sit very, very high, and no offense to anyone who is very vested into their appliances and wants to spend more time on that and considers those high-stakes decisions as well. But just for me at least, those aren’t on the same scale and stakes because Parv is like, “What’s your percentage? What happens if the other…? What happens if the bad outcome happens and then how do you de-risk it?” Right?
In that three-step framework, what happens if the other 20% happens, it’s just not as high stakes for me because I’m not going to be that stressed in my household with the wrong appliance. I’m much more stressed if I try a thing in the business and it doesn’t work out and team member jobs are at stake and my family’s livelihood is at stake. The business ones to me are the ones that really get amped up, which is why I need the savings and the analysis and the research and the de-risked, and how do I minimize the consequences even further if the bad thing does happen, and try to set all of that up so I can get comfortable enough to put my toe in the water and see what happens if I try this thing.
Implementing Calculated Risks To Minimize Consequences [32:59]
Carl: Yeah. That’s kind of why I wanted to bring that up was the idea to me is there’s two fulcrum on which I think this is helpful. One is the consequence, and one is the decision reversible.
Carl: That’s a really interesting… I think I heard…
Michael: That’s one of the ways you de-risk it, is do it in an irreversible way.
Carl: If it’s irreversible, then I may exercise any option I have in terms of time and information because it’s irreversible. If it’s reversible and the consequences are low, I am at 10%. I’m literally like…I don’t learn and then do, I do and then learn. And I want to make that doing as micro as possible so that I don’t find myself way off course down the road. So, I think that those are the things… Go ahead.
Michael: Yeah. I think the end point for us is actually similar. Well, I guess I’ll find a different way to frame at least my three-step version, how confident you need to be, what happens if you’re really wrong, and how do you de-risk that further? And to me, just your bar for being confident is much lower, but you still end up in the same place, which is, at least in my words, you’re looking at all the things that you can do to de-risk the consequences of being wrong further. Make sure it’s reversible, do it in a contained environment. Those are all things that we do to de-risk the consequences of being wrong. And at some point, it would go really well if I’m right. The consequences aren’t that bad if I’m wrong, and I can de-risk it further. And you can tilt that skill enough to say, “What the heck? We’re going to do it and try it.” But what I find for most people, at the end of the day, it’s not really the how confident do you have to be. Because I think it’s interesting. Your line’s 50, my line’s 90. We both figure out how to get there and do some stuff. To me, the place we get caught is what really happens if we’re wrong.
Carl: I was literally just… I think the mistake we make is the over-indexing on the impact of being wrong. Actually, being wrong about the impact of being wrong.
Michael: And so, to me, how do you get more realistic about being wrong? Which again to me is sounding board, but mentors, colleagues, spouses, whoever you can go to to. I think about this thing and what might happen if it goes wrong. Can you just sit…? Don’t tell me about how it’s going to go right. Sit with me for a while in the what happens if it goes wrong because I just want to make sure I’m being realistic about it. I find for almost everybody, if you actually go down that road with someone who’s a reasonable sounding board for you, A, you’re going to find out it’s less risky than you really probably initially thought if you really are honest about it, and there’s probably some things you can do to de-risk it from there further, smaller staff, more savings, more conservative slogans, whatever it is. There’s things. There’s always things.
And that starts to change the calculus, right? And to me, that’s why this whole dynamic… I’m not a leaper at all. I can’t do anything at the 50% level that you’re at. I’m not a leaper at all. But I think what I am good at is calculated risks, and what I think I happen to be particularly good at is figuring out how to manage the consequences if I’m wrong so that I can tilt that equation more favorably. And then, the calculated risk calculates pretty favorably.
Carl: It’s really interesting. It’s a huge competitive advantage if you can just figure out that the consequences are not as bad as you think they are. It’s almost universally true. I’m not talking about betting your life savings, I’m talking about putting up a new website. I’m not talking about moving to New Zealand, I’m talking about writing a blog post. The consequences of being wrong are almost universally not as bad as you think they will be because…for a million reasons. We could talk about. And that’s a huge competitive advantage because you actually act. The people who are doing things, it’s not that they are less risk-averse or more risk-averse necessarily, it’s they’ve literally figured out there’s less risk than you because those things are not as risky. I was trying to figure out the percentage, and I realized I actually quite like to do things… I like before a project, I like to be able to say with a shrug of the shoulders, “This may not work.” If I know it’ll work, I’m actually not all that interested in the game. It’s like the process of figuring out that…
Michael: When I know it will work, I would prefer the game, but that just maybe part of our differences.
Carl: Yeah. But I think the idea of over-indexing on the consequences is a really important takeaway. So, to me, we started with places to hide. We ended up getting into this decision-making process, which I love. That’s way better. And I would just encourage people to think through this. Especially, let’s just use the one example, your website. We’re already talking about your website doing zero. What are the potential consequences of you trying to experiment? An isolated little experiment off to the side, what could possibly be the consequences? Think through those. I’m going to tell you you’re over-indexing on that. Almost universally it’s true. You’re not going to die under a bridge, no one’s going to never talk to you. Your family’s not going to leave you, all those things you think. You’re not going to get eaten by a tiger. It’s just not true. Isolate it so that you know it’s not true and that you can do it under… Anyway. I was going to say find some way to have plausible deniability. I have no idea what’s going on with that website over there.
Michael: De-risk however you got to de-risk. Yep.
Carl: Yeah. And then go do it. That’s all I’m saying. We need more people doing it.
Carl: Amen, Michael. You’re…
Michael: Cool discussion, Carl. Thank you.