Skin in the Game

In Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder [Amazon affiliate link], Nassim Nicholas Taleb talks about the concept of having “skin in the game,” which is to say, being invested in the thing in which one is giving advice.

Golden rule: one is not ethically allowed to tell others what to do unless he is doing it himself, and can suffer harm in case it turns out to be bad advice.”

~Nassim Nicholas Taleb (source)

Think about personal development and self-help gurus: Do they take their own advice? And more importantly, do they suffer as a result of giving bad advice?

It often seems to me that the way to become recognized as a popular personal development expert is precisely to give bad advice. One source of bad advice is that which is contrary to the conclusions of rigorous scientific research (e.g. fantasize to realize your goals). Another is to give vague advice that could mean anything at all (“think positive!”) and therefore risks nothing. These are ways of having “no skin in the game.”

How about psychiatrists? How many psychiatric professionals would take the drugs they prescribe to their patients, yet how many are convinced that the drugs are completely safe? If their patients are harmed by negative side-effects from one drug, many put them on a second drug to counter the side-effects, and so on, until the patient is on a complex cocktail of powerful medicines. At no point does a psychiatrist go out of business due to a patient experiencing drug side-effects. Again, lots of advice but no skin in the game.

In this project, the first beta tester for all of my new methods is me. On this page, I will give updates as to my successes and more importantly my failures (and what I learn from them), as I take my own medicine and use the techniques I recommend to others. If my methods fail, I will fail.

However, since making one’s goals public might backfire (See also Gollwitzer et al., 2009), and it seems to me that bragging about what one wants to accomplish before having accomplished the goal probably decreases goal shielding by getting praise for not having done anything yet, I will only report here after having either succeeded or failed at a goal intention.

My Personal Results with
the Methods I’ve Developed

Goal intention: I intend to get one person to sign up at minimum (max 3 people) in January, for a month long, 4-session coaching program at $345 each person, testing out the Creative Solutions Generator v0.2.
Status: FAIL
Read more…

Goal intention: (in process, so a secret for now)
Status: Learning
Read more…

Goal intention: Gain 5lbs/get up to 167lbs.
Status: Win!
Read more…

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