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The Anti-Luck, Decision Making Framework: Mastering the Art of Making Smart Choicesby@scottdclary
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6,907 reads

The Anti-Luck, Decision Making Framework: Mastering the Art of Making Smart Choices

by Scott D. ClaryMay 13th, 2024
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I've been there. Early in my career, I found myself making choices with real consequences. It was exciting and terrifying at the same time. I had no formal training in decision-making, just a gut feeling and a lot of sleepless nights. But I learned, through trial and error, through mentors, and through diving deep into the wisdom of those who'd mastered the art of making smart choices.
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Ever catch yourself daydreaming about a life where you're crushing it? Jetting off to exotic locales, building a business empire, living life on your terms?


That dream isn't just about luck – it's about decisions.


Think back to the big choices you've made: that career move, that investment, even who you married.


Those decisions weren't random. They shaped your trajectory, like invisible forces guiding your ship.


But here's the kicker: most of us never got a manual for decision-making. We're winging it, hoping for the best, and crossing our fingers that the choices we make today won't come back to bite us tomorrow. It's like playing golf without ever taking a lesson – frustrating and inconsistent.


I've been there. Early in my career, I found myself making choices with real consequences. It was exciting and terrifying at the same time. I had no formal training in decision-making, just a gut feeling and a lot of sleepless nights. But I learned, through trial and error, through mentors, and through diving deep into the wisdom of those who'd mastered the art of making smart choices.


Now, I want to share that knowledge with you.

The Myth of the 'Smart' Decision

We often assume that "smart" people make good decisions. But history is littered with the wreckage of terrible choices made by brilliant minds: Napoleon invading Russia, Blockbuster passing on Netflix, and countless examples of hubris and miscalculation.


The truth is, even the most intelligent among us fall prey to cognitive biases, limited information, and plain old stupidity. We cling to the familiar, prioritize the easy over the right, and chase validation instead of results.


It's not about being "smart" – it's about being wise.


Think of it like this: intelligence is having the raw materials, but wisdom is knowing how to use them. It's the carpenter with a whole toolbox, not just a hammer. And just like a carpenter can build anything with the right tools, we can build our dream life with the right decision-making skills.


But where do we find these tools?


Well first, it starts with taking a less myopic view on life.

The Multidisciplinary Mind

We live in a world that loves specialists. We're told to pick a niche, become an expert, and stay in our lane. But true wisdom comes from crossing lanes, from applying knowledge from unexpected sources.


Think of the world as a giant buffet of knowledge. Why limit yourself to just one dish? Sample the flavors of physics, philosophy, history, and art – each one offers a different perspective, a new way to see the world and the problems we face.


Take Warren Buffett, for example. He's not just a financial genius; he's a voracious reader, a student of history, and a master storyteller.


That multidisciplinary approach gives him a unique edge, allowing him to see patterns and opportunities that others miss.

Your Decision-Making Toolbox

The good news is, you don't need an Ivy League degree or a lifetime of experience to make better decisions. You just need the right tools – mental models that help you understand how the world works.


These models are like cheat codes for life. They give you a shortcut to wisdom, a way to see through the fog of uncertainty and make choices that move you closer to your goals.

The Anti-Luck Framework

So, how do we turn these mental models into a practical framework for decision-making? I call it the "Anti-Luck" framework – because it's about stacking the odds in your favor, not relying on blind luck. Here are a few of the mental models/tools that make up the Anti-Luck framework.


  1. Inversion:Instead of asking, "What do I want to achieve?" ask, "What do I want to avoid?" This helps you identify potential pitfalls and roadblocks before they become problems. Think of it as a pre-mortem for your decisions – a way to spot and eliminate the worst-case scenarios.
  2. First Principles Thinking:Break down complex problems into their fundamental truths. What are the core principles at play? What are the underlying assumptions? By understanding the basics, you can build a stronger foundation for your decisions.
  3. Circle of Competence:Know your strengths and weaknesses. Play to your strengths, and don't be afraid to ask for help in areas where you lack expertise. It's okay to not know everything – the key is to surround yourself with people who complement your skills.
  4. Probabilistic Thinking:Not all decisions are equal. Some have a higher probability of success than others. By assessing the odds, you can make more informed choices and avoid unnecessary risks. Think of it like poker – you're not just playing the hand you're dealt, you're playing the odds.
  5. Second-Order Thinking: Consider the consequences of your decisions, not just the immediate outcomes but the ripple effects that extend into the future. What are the second, third, and even fourth-order consequences? This helps you anticipate unintended consequences and make more resilient choices.

The Anti-Luck Framework: Your Personal Growth Algorithm

Imagine the Anti-Luck framework as the code underlying your personal growth algorithm. Just like tech titans constantly iterate and refine their algorithms to deliver better user experiences, you too must continuously update your decision-making "code" to navigate life's complexities with finesse.


Every interaction with the framework strengthens your decision-making "muscle memory." You'll start seeing the world through a multilayered lens, effortlessly identifying patterns and applying mental models like a seasoned chess player anticipating their opponent's next move.


For example, consider a young entrepreneur deciding whether to launch a new product. Instead of relying on gut feeling or hype, they could apply the Anti-Luck framework:


  • Inversion: What could go wrong? Identifying potential obstacles like manufacturing delays, competitor reactions, or market saturation helps them create contingency plans.


  • First Principles Thinking: What are the core needs this product addresses? By understanding the underlying problem they're solving, they can tailor their marketing and messaging to resonate with the right audience.


  • Circle of Competence: Recognizing their own limitations in areas like finance or legal, they bring on experts to fill those gaps, ensuring a well-rounded team.


  • Probabilistic Thinking: What are the odds of success, given market research and competitor analysis? This helps them set realistic expectations and make informed decisions about resource allocation.


  • Second-Order Thinking: What are the long-term consequences of launching this product? Will it cannibalize existing sales? Will it require ongoing support and updates? Considering these factors helps them plan for sustainable growth.


By applying the Anti-Luck framework, this entrepreneur is not leaving their success to chance. They are actively shaping their future through deliberate, informed decision-making.


This is just one example. The Anti-Luck framework can be applied to any decision, big or small. It's a tool for navigating life's uncertainties with confidence, for turning setbacks into opportunities, and for continuously evolving into the most capable version of yourself.

Leveling Up Your Decision Game

If you want to accelerate your journey to becoming a wiser decision-maker, here are some resources that have shaped my thinking and helped me refine my own Anti-Luck framework:


  • "Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger" by Peter Bevelin:This book is a treasure trove of mental models, with insights from some of history's greatest thinkers. It's like a crash course in the art of worldly wisdom.
  • "Thinking in Bets" by Annie Duke:A former poker champion, Duke reveals how to embrace uncertainty and make better decisions under pressure. She teaches us to think in terms of probabilities, not just black-and-white outcomes.
  • "Super Thinking" by Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann:This book offers a practical toolkit of mental models for everyday life, from decision-making to problem-solving to creativity.
  • "The Great Mental Models" series by Shane Parrish: This multi-volume series delves deep into the world of mental models, exploring their origins, applications, and limitations. It's a must-read for anyone who wants to elevate their thinking.

Your Anti-Luck Challenge

Now, my biggest pet peeve… don't just read this newsletter and move on. Take action! Here's your challenge:


  1. Pick one decision you're currently facing.It could be anything from a career move to an investment opportunity to a personal dilemma.
  2. Apply the Anti-Luck framework.Analyze the situation, identify potential pitfalls, consider the long-term consequences, and assess the probabilities.
  3. Make a decision and own it.Don't let fear or indecision hold you back. Take a leap of faith, but do it with your eyes wide open.
  4. Reflect and learn. Once you've made your decision, take some time to reflect on the process. What worked? What didn't? What could you do differently next time? Use this experience as a stepping stone to further growth.


Remember, the goal isn't to become a perfect decision-maker overnight. It's to make progress, to improve your odds, and to build a life that's less about luck and more about deliberate design.

The Ripple Effect of Your Choices

I've seen firsthand the power of good decisions. I've witnessed how a single choice can ignite a chain reaction, leading to unexpected opportunities and life-changing outcomes. But I've also seen the devastation of poor choices – the missed connections, the lost fortunes, the dreams deferred.


The truth is, our decisions don't just affect us. They ripple outward, impacting our families, our communities, and even the world at large.


The butterfly effect is real – a seemingly insignificant choice can set off a cascade of events that shape the course of history.


Think about the decisions that led to your being here, reading this newsletter. Your parents' decision to have you, your teachers' decision to invest in your education, and your own decision to pursue your passions – each one played a role in shaping who you are today.


Now, imagine the impact you can have by making wise choices. By investing in yourself, by building a thriving business, by giving back to your community – you can create a ripple effect of positive change that extends far beyond your own life.

A Final Thought

Life is a series of choices. We make thousands of them every day, big and small. But the decisions that truly matter, the ones that define our legacy, are the ones we make with intention, with wisdom, and with an unwavering commitment to our values.


So, the next time you're faced with a difficult choice, don't just go with your gut. Take a deep breath, apply the Anti-Luck framework, and make a decision that moves you closer to the life you want to live.


Remember, the future isn't just something that happens to you. It's something you create, one decision at a time.


Until next time, keep building, keep learning, and keep making smart choices.


Scott