The coolest thing that I’ve learned about our human minds is that the conscious portion of our brains is merely the PR department for our sub-conscious. The way we decide depends on tens of thousands of years of evolution of genes designed to reproduce themselves. Before the nurture crowd starts screaming, I must also point out that those genes have evolved to adapt to the environment in which we find ourselves. Nature has found that flexible genes work better than inflexible ones.
The latest example comes from Charlie Batch, a man who has made tens of millions over a long career as a quarterback for the Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers. Check out his story here. The man sounds intelligent…coming across as someone who makes sense and thinks before speaking. In spite of all that, he has managed to squander away tens of millions of dollars. His story is not unique. Mark Brunell made even more and ended up in the same place.
It is true that bad luck plays a part in bankruptcy, but often, overconfidence plays the largest role. Can’t miss construction company, let’s go all in! Of course it sounds silly when I write it like that, but in reality the decision is not presented in such stark terms. It feels like a great opportunity, so the conscious mind starts inventing reasons why it will work. Overconfidence in your own judgment is inherent, especially in men. If it wasn’t, your genes and you wouldn’t be here.
Think about your own lives…how often is someone so supremely confident that they are right, only to be proven wrong? How many times is the most confident person in the room the most intelligent? How many times does the most confident person make everyone else follow him/her to their collective peril, all the while refusing to listen to dissenting opinions?