May 022013 7 Responses

How Tyler Wilson Made a Good Decision Which Cost Millions of Dollars

Good decisions can lead to bad outcomes.

Quarterback Tyler Wilson bypassed the 2012 NFL draft to return for his senior season at the University of Arkansas. His hope was the possibility of leading his home state school to a National Championship. His hopes were dashed when his head coach wrecked his motorcycle and his career, the team was thrown into disarray, Wilson experienced an early season concussion, and the preseason Top Ten team ended with a 4–8 record.

By the time the 2013 NFL Draft rolled around, the QB who had been projected a late 1st round to early 2nd round pick ended up being drafted in the 4th round. A conservative estimate would say Wilson may have lost up to $7 million dollars in returning to school.

The reaction by many people has been to conclude that Tyler Wilson made a bad decision. He lost millions of dollars so clearly his decision was bad.

But was it?

Far too often, we judge the quality of decision making by the outcome of our decisions. If we experienced good outcomes, we must have made good decisions; if we experience bad outcomes; we must have made bad decisions. While it sounds logical, it is mistaken.

Imagine you are choosing to buy one of two houses. You research, seek advice, spend well within your means, get the best interest rate possible, and negotiate one of the houses well below market value. You buy that house. A month after you move in, a tornado levels the house.

Did you make a bad decision?

Clearly not. You made a good decision, but “an act of God” destroyed the house.

Imagine the same scenario as above, but instead of a tornado destroying the house, the national economy greatly turned, you lost your job, and have to give up the house in foreclosure.

Did you make a bad decision?

Possibly. Maybe you should have foreseen what was taking place or found a way to lower your risk, but it is also possible you made the best decision you could with the information you had and life took an unexpected turn.

The point: decisions are different than outcomes.

We can make good decisions and still experience bad outcomes. We can also make bad decisions and luck into good outcomes.

We make a major mistake when we only judge our decisions based on outcomes. A lot of bad stockbrokers have made a bunch of money in the last few years. They aren’t necessarily good at picking stocks, they just happened to pick them during a bull market when most stocks made money.

When I was in High School, me and some friends volunteered at the Boys Club to coach little league basketball. In our first season, my team won our first 5 games. At 5–0, several of my friends asked for advice because their teams were 1–4 and 2–3. Five games into my coaching career, I was a consultant.

The good news is that the teams I consulted with won their last 5 games. Unfortunately, my team lost its last five games. Come to find out I wasn’t a great coach, our early schedule was just easier than everyone else. The teams I consulted for beat the same teams I beat. I just happened to play them to begin the season while my friends played them to end the season.

I confused outcomes for ability. I confused results with decisions.

It is important that we separate outcomes and decisions so that we can fairly evaluate ourselves. A bad decision which gets rewarded by a luck outcome is the most dangerous of things in life. It deceives us into thinking we are more skilled than we actually are and sets us up for tremendous failure the next time we have a decision to make. A good decision which results in a bad outcome can create tremendous doubt which is undeserved and can hinder us from acting the next time we need to act.

By separating decisions from outcomes, we are more likely to evaluate ourselves properly and make better decisions.

Tyler Wilson lost millions of dollars, but that does not mean he made a bad decision. He made the best decision he could at the time and events beyond his control cost him a lot of money.

What’s an example of a time where you made a bad decision but got a good outcome?

7 Responses to How Tyler Wilson Made a Good Decision Which Cost Millions of Dollars
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