In most of our decisions, we are not betting against another person. Rather, we are betting against all the future versions of ourselves that we are not choosing.” – Annie Duke, Thinking In Bets

As we enter the first full work week of the New Year, I’m focused on this concept of Second Order Thinking and working to apply it better in my life.  In short, asking what will be the consequences of doing this versus that in the first order, the second order and the third order?  If I eat this donut because it looks delicious (first order), then I’ll add more empty calories and gain weight (second order), which will make me more stressed out in the future when my pants are getting too snug (third order).  Second and third order thinking is a way of fast-forwarding into the future as you decide on whether or not to do something in the present.  It gets you out of the self-centered immediate gratification of now and looking at the ultimate satisfaction of then.  Ray Dalio describes it as the lower-level you winning out over the higher-level you.  I haven’t been consistent with this in my lifetime, particularly when it comes to snacking.  I’d say it’s time to look up from the proverbial candy dish and think beyond the moment.

“Decide what to be and go be it.” – The Avett Brothers, Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise

I didn’t believe I’d like the book Thinking In Bets.  I’m not a poker player and have no desire to immerse myself in the world of poker. They wear sunglasses indoors and pull their hats down low to cover expressions on their faces.  I mean, who wants to hang out with people doing that?  But this isn’t a book about poker, it’s a book about decision-making.  And making better decisions is something I’ve been working on in myself for some time.  It started with this idea of Second Order Thinking, where you weigh the consequences of your decision now and into the future.  I’ve made plenty of decisions in my lifetime that made sense in the immediacy of the moment that turned out to be bad decisions down the road.  And a few that I thought weren’t great early on that turned out to be brilliant (and lucky) decisions with hindsight.

We’re the average of the five people we hang around with the most, as Jim Rohn would put it.  Applied to what I’m reading, I’m currently hanging around with stoics, poets and experts in creating and sustaining better habits.  And now I’ve invited decision-making experts to the party.  I’m okay with that mix, and will enhance it over time.  But reading about something isn’t doing something.  That’s a trap that you realize as you read book after book without applying the knowledge you pick up from all that reading.  No, the rubber meets the road when you take action.  Applied knowledge, repeated daily, leads to exponential improvement over time.  I’ve seen that working in all things over the course of my life.  The focus now is to improve the decision-making process so I spend that time on better, more productive activity.  Dance a bit more in the higher-level self.  Now is as good a time as any to get to it.