Annie Duke on Thinking in Bets, Part 8

In her book, Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts, Annie Duke draws on examples from business, sports, politics, and poker to share tools anyone can use to embrace uncertainty and make better decisions.

In the chapter, “Adventures in Mental Time Travel,” Annie Duke discusses the technique of recruiting out past-self and future-self to help our present-self in the decision-making process. These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

“Ulysses contracts: time traveling to precommit”

The Ulysses contract is an action we commit to as part of entering into a decision. By committing to a set of actions or constraints, Ulysses contracts, when used correctly, can help to raise a barrier against irrationality.

The pre-commitment can be an excellent interaction between our past-self, present-self, and future-self. A past version of us, who anticipated that we might decide irrationally about something we might do in the future, helps our present-self commit to an action that will prevent our future-self from getting into a certain kind of mistake.

“Decision swear jar”

A “decision swear jar” is another simple kind of pre-commitment contract that we can leverage to aid our decision-making. We can identify the language and thinking patterns that signal we are veering from our truth-seeking goal for the decision swear jar. Annie listed some examples of the decision swear jar:

  • Signs of the illusion of certainty or overconfidence
  • Irrational outcome fielding
  • Complaining about bad luck to off-load it
  • Generalized characterizations of people meant to dismiss their ideas
  • Signals we have zoomed in on a moment
  • Expressions that explicitly signal motivated reasoning
  • The over-use of the word “wrong”
  • Lack of self-compassion
  • Signals we are overly generous editors when sharing a story
  • Terms that discourage engagement of others and their opinions