Monday, April 21, 2014

Gambling and trusting.

I am making a major mistake. I have written something that is entirely too long for a blog post - but it is legitimately a good piece - so I am posting it hoping you make it to the end. I use gambling as an illustration to look at some principles involved in developing good trust-relationships. Sometimes trust-relationships feel like a gamble - right?I hope you enjoy the read!

I think inside of me is a gambler. Although I rarely walk through the doors of a casino and to this day have no idea how to find a bookie (not that I want to), inside of me in a gambler. I love the thrill of knowing when I don’t know. That is what gambling really is, thinking you know and being right. I think the thrill of gambling is the possibility that you could be as smart as you want to be. You want to be right and you choose to set yourself up for a reward if you really are as smart as you hoped. I have sat down at a few blackjack tables in my life and I generally walk away having paid out more money than I received. However blackjack is a game that can be won by an individual, the game is based upon odds, and odds can be understood and when understood can be predicted fairly accurately. When an experienced (maybe even professional) blackjack player sits down at a table they take into account all the variables that will produce odds, and then they predict how the odds will play out. They know how many decks of cards are at the dealers disposal, how many of each card in in each deck, how many cards will be dealt per hand (this is something that is always changing, but can be observed), and they know what cards they have and half the number of the other players. This is a lot of information. This is really revealing to them the character of the game. On a basic level if you see a lot of face cards (or have seen in previous hands) the likelihood of a non-face card becomes stronger and vice-versa. This information lets the player make a decision that is based on the character of the game and generally that decision can be pretty accurate. When a professional blackjack player loses, they generally know they will before the hand is ever over. With blackjack you can lose even when you have all the information. To a professional it is like watching a baseball game again that you taped... you know that the ball is going to be hit in the gap, but you can not move the man into position, because you are just watching it play out. 

This gambling illustration has some obvious flaws to it, but at the same time sheds light onto our issue of trust. When we look at someone’s character or something’s character, we can predict what will happen in the future. The better you get at recognizing character the better you get at “betting” on trust relationships. You start to hone your skills in choosing people to trust and through that you develop better relationships and steer clear of ones that will destroy you. But how do we get better at this? How do we hone our trust relationship skills? Well in blackjack there are three things that help you hone those skills 1. Learning the math, 2. practicing observation and 3. choosing the right table. I think all three of these things can be applied to trust relationships as well.

1. Learning The Math
In Blackjack a normal casino shue has 6 decks of 52 cards (312 total), 96 of those cards are worth 10 (these are the “easy cards”), 24 of the cards are worth 11/1 (these are the “power cards”). Then there are 24 cards that are worth each of the values 2-9. Understanding how the deck is set up is the single most important fundamental in blackjack. Since the objective of blackjack is to get the closest to 21 as possible without going over, knowing how they add up together is also important. Really in blackjack a 3rd grader could do the math. But learning it is a priority to the game. Sometimes we think we understand it only to find out that we thought to quickly and our King, Ten and 2 is a bust. Learning the math of Blackjack is crucial.

Learning the math of trust relationships is equally important to us in life. We need to understand what plus what equals what. By the time you graduate High School and go into the adult world or into college, you pretty much know yourself. That is information you know, Other people however, you don’t know everything about them. In comparing them to a blackjack deck you need to identify how many cards of each are in the deck. Only then can you understand a person’s character and create an appropriate trust relationship with them. When you learn that a person is easily offended, gossips when given the opportunity and has a poor relationship with their siblings. This gives you needed information; this allows you to understand whom you are dealing with. You know the cards you are playing with, and through that knowledge you start to create the appropriate trust relationship with that person. You also start to understand what about yourself plus them adds to success. A successful businessperson would call this “understanding your people assets, both beneficial and destructive”. Knowing whom you are dealing with is vital in trust relationships. I think this is misstep number one when people develop trust relationships, if you don’t understand the cards you are playing with and how they add up, you are in for a bad night at the tables of trust.

2. Practicing Observation
A good blackjack player does more watching than they do playing. Observation is key if you want to succeed at Blackjack. Even if you know the aspects of the decks: how many cards and what they are worth, you still need to observe how those cards are being used. You see as hands go on, cards are discarded. So observing which cards have been discarded and which cards are currently on the table is very important. You get to know the character of the deck by knowing what is still left. In most circles this is called “counting cards”. Which is exactly what every good blackjack player does (some better than others). At the heart of being successful in blackjack is the ability to “count cards”. Although this is frowned on by casinos and often times will get you removed from a game, this is truly what blackjack is all about... the only way to be a winner time and time again at blackjack is by being able to keep up and process the cards you observe.

In trust relationships you need to observe as well. Before you jump into a hand, standing by the table and watching how the cards fall for a while is always a good idea. Seeing how someone reacts to hard-times, stress, success, etc will give you a wonderful look at their character and tell you whether that is a good relationship to be a part of. Observation is something that is safest done from a distance with nothing at stake. But sometimes you have to be a part of the game already to really observe it. Blackjack players sometimes post small bets they know they will lose just to observe cards, this is all a part of the observation process. Sometimes for us in relationships we have to place small amounts of trust in people, even if the math tells us they will fail us, just to observe how it will all go down. Having a trust relationship fail you is not the worst thing, not knowing it is going to fail you or not knowing how it will fail you - that is the worst. Observe, observe, and observe... you can never watch too much. My father always told me to succeed you need to learn and to learn you need to listen and to listen you need to shut up. That is the same with trust relationships, if you want to succeed you need to learn and to learn you need to observe and to observe sometimes you need to not be in a relationship and sometimes you need to not have too much at stake in it (small bets you don’t mind losing).

3. Choosing the right table
There is a lot to look for when you are looking for the right blackjack game to join, some would say the table selection helps you decide how much you will win or lose. At a normal casino most blackjack players don’t know what they are doing, they may know the math... but are probably not observing or applying anything. They are simply relying on their “luck” that day. That causes problems for those who know what they are doing. So as a blackjack player walks around the floor of the casino they are looking for a table of people that generally know what they are doing, or are at least consistent. For a gambler, consistency is success, if they can find consistency they can generally find a way to come out ahead. However, when faced with erratic players that throw money around and take too many or not enough cards inconsistently, the game for the seasoned player becomes harder.

Again, I think there is something we can apply to our trust relationships here. Finding people who are consistent is going to help us to develop better and stronger trust relationships. People who are consistent can be read and observed better than those who are inconsistent. As stake holders in a relationship we need to build them with others who are going to be consistently trustworthy (or untrustworthy). Oddly enough, consistently untrustworthy is better than randomly untrustworthy. This may sound a bit strange, but it makes since. If someone is consistently untrustworthy then you can trust them, you can bet on that! You can trust that they will continually let you down. I actually think it is pretty healthy to have people in your life that will let you down. If you are building a business this may not be true, but I think in life let-downs help us to develop ourselves. Regardless of whether you agree with me on that, wouldn’t you rather know what you are getting into when you are dealing with people than being surprised every time with a new response to your trust?

I think, hands down, these three elements are the essentials for building trust relationships. Without taking into account who the person is, how they react, and their ability to be consistent I think you are doomed for failed trust-relationships. What do you think? 

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