How to stay away from optimism bias

Optimism bias can be a good thing at times. You will tend to make more irrational and riskier decisions, because you will feel good about your chances for the outcome turning out in your favor. How can that be bad?

It can be bad when you are always running on optimism bias. Because, we know that life has it’s ups and downs. Not every decision we make is going to turn out in our favor. And if we continue to make decisions only thinking of the positive outcome, then we will inevitably begin to feel the wrath of those outcomes not in our favor.

There is a way to trigger optimism bias in most people. That’s with low sleep.

As soon as I heard that, I began thinking of those big time entrepreneurs who have taken incredible risks to get to where they are currently at. Then, I started to think about how most of them have admitted to sleeping very little in order to work longer hours. Think, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Arianna Huffington, Steve Jobs and Gary Vaynerchuk. The list is a lot longer than that.

So how much of their risky decision making is based off of their unique skills, and gut feelings? How much is simply due to the fact that they were running on low sleep (optimism bias)?

It’s a mind boggling idea to me.

Where does skill and talent come into play? Where do brain malfunctions (that’s essentially what it is) come into play?

A lot of the big name entrepreneurs are recommending, the younger crowd, to value sleep much much higher, but that’s not what they did to reach their own successes. And, apparently, low sleep could have been a major contributing part of their successes.

What do we make of this? It’s hard to say, but at least we can be aware of the entire situation and try to make the best decision possible. You can watch a TED talk on optimism bias here.

Do things happen for a reason?

Do things happen for a reason? Or do things simply happen, and we do our best to assign a reason to them automatically. Looking backwards, the path always looks clear.

The later is what many professionals/ scientists believe, and I’ll agree with them for now.

Remember my roach story? Well, the very next day I decided to browse Craigslist to see if there was anything else available, after that less than ideal experience. There was. I found exactly what I was looking for. I found something that I wasn’t able to find during the previous month of searching everyday. And I stumbled upon it only 3 hours after it was posted to Craigslist. Coincidence? Most likely. Or, like they say, when one door closes another door opens.

I went to check it out the very next day, and it was as good as it sounded. I moved in a week later, and I’m now typing this up from my new room. As bad as the roach experience was, it was definitely worth it since it led up to this.

That’s how most things in life are though. If you put in the honest effort, hard work & grueling hours, things are in your favor to turn out well. That’s why people at the top recommend putting in the work & the hours. You can’t control what will happen, or what won’t happen, but you can control your effort. And sometimes your effort is just enough to tilt the odds in your favor.

Roaches, standards and being too picky

What is the difference between having standards and being too picky? Where do you draw the line?

I had an experience this weekend that made me ask that question. Did I have high standards, or was I simply being too picky? I’ll let you be the judge.

After searching for a new place to move into, I finally found one that had all the requirements I was looking for. Cool roommate, ideal location and affordable rent price. When I checked out the place 3 weeks prior, I did notice something that alarmed me. I saw three dead cockroaches on the kitchen counter tops. I asked the landlord/ potential future roommate if he had a roach issue.

The guy said no, and that he started noticing a few here and there only weeks ago. He said not to worry, because on move-in day they would be completely gone. He promised to clean up the house and get the roaches exterminated himself.

A few days later, I decided to take the room. I put down my deposit, shook his hand, and proceeded to wait for 3 weeks until move in day.

Finally, move in day arrived. I showed up to my new apartment, with my belongings, excited about the next few months. When I walked in I noticed something that got me worried.

I saw a few dead roaches scattered around the living room, and much much more in the kitchen. I even found two alive in my empty bedroom. I asked him what happened to his promise.

He said he had been working on spraying the house, and that they were dying. In my opinion, the issue looked significantly worse. WAY worse. I tried to remain cool and stated that we could work on it together and spray the house with Raid until they were completely eliminated (deep down inside I’m hesitant that it’ll be enough).

I walked into my new room, for a closer examination, and noticed that it was dusty and dirty. I decided that I should clean it up before bringing any of my belongings inside. I drove off to the local Target, only two miles down the street, to purchase some cleaning supplies. I bought a 3-pack of roach fumigation canisters, 2 Raid spray cans, disinfectant spray, and Swiffer wipes (he already had the mop).

I got back to the apartment and my future roommate was gone running errands (he had told me he would be gone). I unlocked the door and the place was completely dark (it was already dark outside). I turned on my phone’s flashlight, and proceeded to walk into the kitchen (the only light switch I knew of). To say the least, I didn’t like what I saw.

My flashlight poured onto the counter tops and I saw ROACHES EVERYWHERE. Easily 20 to 30 roaches. When I turned on the kitchen light most of them scattered out of sight. I went to grab a Raid spray can and sprayed those that were still in sight.

I noticed a huge roach scatter, and climb into the toaster. WTF.

I noticed roaches crawling all over the fridge. Again, WTF.

I thought to myself, this is not good. At this point, I was definitely worried. How was I supposed to cook and eat everyday when the roaches were all over the toaster, fridge, dishes and stove?

I walked back into my room after spraying roaches, for a few minutes, in the kitchen. I noticed three new roaches inside. I looked at the hallway walls and saw a few roaches there too. I walked into the bathroom and noticed roaches in there too. Three in the bathtub to be exact.


I asked myself, “am I being too picky or do I have certain standards? Am I exaggerating the issue or am I simply too afraid to live outside of my comfort zone?” You can be the judge of that.

At this point, I’m was not excited anymore. A feeling of dread was creeping in. I felt like leaving and calling it all off. This was NOT what I was looking for.

But again, I said to myself, you shouldn’t be afraid to get outside of your comfort zone.

I know I’ve seen tons of comfort zone related pictures on Instagram. Is this what they are talking about?

I began cleaning my room. Dusting, sweeping and mopping. I even sprayed the perimeter with Raid. Around 80% through, I decided, that I didn’t care about stepping outside of my comfort zone, and into this specific situation. I know comfort zones are not ideal, but I didn’t care about exploring this zone.

I was not going to live comfortably. Period. Roaches were even crawling on the walls. It seemed out of control to me. It was clearly an infestation.

I texted the guy, asking when he would be returning. He responded with 15 minuets. I stepped outside to think and stood by my car.

I decided, that I didn’t care if I was being too picky. It was my money and I would have never agreed to this.

The guy finally comes back and we stepped into his apartment to chat. I told him that the roach situation was exaggerated. As we talked, I kept interrupting him by pointing out new roaches. I asked him, “How many roaches have you sprayed in the 10 minuets that we have been chatting?”

He said, “10 to 15.”

As he said that, a huge roach crawled next to him on the sofa. He flicked it off and sprayed it.

Roaches were even on the SOFA.

I told him that this was not what I had agreed to. He tried to convince me to stay for at least one month while he searched for another roommate. He assured me that the roaches would be completely gone in two weeks. Even if that was true, which I highly doubted, was I supposed to deal with roaches in the toaster and on the sofa for the upcoming two weeks?

I can’t. He said, “In that case, I’ll be forced to keep your deposit.”

“That’s understandable. Good luck with the roaches and finding a new roommate,” I said.

That’s the end of my experience, and the story.

Would you judge it as a standards issue or being too picky? When do you draw the line between the two?

Is this a case of being too hesitant to step outside of my comfort zone?

What will artificial intelligence bring?

I have noticed a lot of talk about artificial intelligence recently.

First, I’m reading The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly. This book has an entire chapter dedicated to artificial intelligence. It doesn’t view AI as a threat, to humans, as other sources are predicting it to be.

Second, the last two conferences I’ve been to this year have heavily gotten behind the idea of machine learning.

Third, one of my favorite bloggers (David from Raptitude dot com) wrote a post about it this week. David’s post, definitely, took the view of seeing AI as a potential threat to humans.

Four, it was announced today that Elon Musk launched a company called NeuraLink. Its goal is to merge the human brain with AI. Elon has stated that the purpose of this venture is to protect the human race against the likely threat of AI destroying us. The venture is aimed at keeping us ahead of the curve.

A lot of smart people are worried about the future AI, including Stephen Hawking. They seem to believe that once machines get smart enough to grow and think on their own, the only logical step will be to wipe out the human race. Or, since they will grow, very rapidly, and be much smarter than humans, we will eventually cease to exist. Our incredibly slow biological growth rate won’t be a match for AI’s rate of growth.

I agree with Kevin Kelly on this one. Since our human brains developed consciousness, and the ability to be social and empathetic, who is to say that artificial intelligence won’t do the same. It could be the nature progression of higher intelligence.

The predictions of AI, assume that it will be cold blooded and completely rational. If the human brain developed empathy, social skills, and emotions to survive, why won’t AI do the same? Honestly, no one knows. I suppose it’s a safe bet to assume the worst, and begin preparing just in case AI is cold blooded.

In the short run, I think that AI will indeed remove a lot of jobs that we have had for years, but it will add new jobs that we can’t yet imagine nor predict. I don’t think that AI taking over our jobs is a real threat, because it will simply create new jobs for us.

At one point, being a farmer was a common job. At another point, doing the same task in a factory was a common job. Right now, accounting and other office jobs are very common (truck driving is incredibly common), but those will soon be replaced with something new for us to do. We have to wait and see what those new jobs will look like. What if we all have to become programmers?

*After writing this post I stumbled upon Tim Urban’s articles on artificial intelligence. Wow. They’re really good and really long reads. Check out part 1 here and part 2 here. They painted a vivid picture as to why AI will be a big deal for humanity’s future. You’ll definitely like them.