The “Millionaire” Phenomenon

The TV Show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” demonstrated a very basic truth in a way that even non-math people can comprehend.

The bell curve.

The bell curve can be applied to almost anything in life (although the shape of the curve may be steeper or shallower depending upon the topic). In the TV show, the contestant can “poll the audience” if they are unsure of the answer. There are four answers to choose from, and almost without exception, the audience would pick the correct one. At least, a majority of the audience would pick the correct one.

Of course there were audience members that selected incorrectly, but they were always the minority.

Why is that?

In most things in life, the majority, if given the opportunity, will make the correct decision based on the facts at hand. There are obvious social exceptions such as slavery, but even that was eliminated eventually.

If you go into a bar full of drunks and ask a trivia question with four possible answers, they will pick the winner. It’s just a fact. Try it yourself if you don’t believe me.

This same thing can be applied to other aspects of life besides trivia.

If you go into a business meeting and present options, most of the time the majority will make the right choice (unless there is some sort of unspoken political pressure involved).

I see this all the time in both my work and my personal life. People with positions of power have the correct answer right in front of them, but they refuse to acknowledge that the dissenting majority could possibly be correct. They proceed with their foolish course, and wouldn’t you know it… they fail.

If everyone gives you the same advice about something, chances are, they are correct. You can still choose to ignore the advice, but that’s stubborn foolishness.

Most of my life I’ve resisted making changes because I like consistency. I’m slow to make major decisions and I’m far too long-suffering. My wife, friends and family all give me the same advice but I still resist changing anything. I don’t want to upset people. I don’t want to cause problems.

Sometimes none of that matters. Sometimes you just have to look after yourself for a change. I’m starting to understand that.

  1 comment for “The “Millionaire” Phenomenon

  1. Megs
    September 16, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    You have to take care of you. If you aren’t, who will? Your mom and dad won’t – they’ve taken their turn. Your wife won’t – she’s your partner not your caregiver. I won’t – I live too far away. 😉 Change is hard even when we know it’s for the better, but if it truly benefits you, you have to do it now and then. Hang in there. You may find out that the changes make your life SO much easier.

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