“More than 30 people burned in Tony Robbins’ hot-coals walk” Associated Press headline June 24, 2016
“Mama says, stupid is as stupid does!” Forest Gump
We are gullible folk. Apparently we can be talked into almost anything, especially if you package it up real nice and surround it with a healthy dose of PR spin. It’s why we do dopey things like walk bare footed on hot coals or pay hefty prices for programs that are mostly smoke and mirrors. We want to prove to ourselves (and others) that we are smart, successful and in-the-know.
But here’s the thing: there are two, sometimes opposing, forces going on in your brain. Your emotional brain and your intellectual brain—you know, the feeling part vs the knowing part. Adding one more dash of confusion to the mixture is your hardwired opinion of the “rightness” of your decision-making. You obviously believe that you’re making the right decision for the right reason—otherwise, you wouldn’t do it. The problem is just because you believe something is true doesn’t make it so.
It’s like buying a stock that you believe will rise in value—if you didn’t believe that you certainly wouldn’t put your hard earned cash on the table. But that belief just doesn’t make it so.
It’s like living on credit card debt on the brink of insolvency without making any changes to your life and just believing it will all turn out all right. Yet, each decision to spend adds to your stress and money misery.
Does that mean that everyone who picks a stock that loses money or lives on credit cards is stupid? No, of course not. But it does clearly demonstrate that our reasoning is not foolproof and our decision-making is flawed by its very nature. We see the world through the lenses of our beliefs (also known as confirmation bias), yet without testing those beliefs, we are destined to make mistake after mistake and experience disaster after disaster.
We are great self-justifiers. Why else would people willingly take their shoes off and walk on hot coals? In this case, they have rationalized their decision because someone they respect told them they could do it, logic be damned! It’s the same in your financial life. If you buy an investment believing it will rise—and it doesn’t—you can always develop a reason why it failed. It’s not your thinking, but some other force in the Universe that changed the game on your otherwise perfectly conceived plan. Maybe it was Brexit or some idiot in the Middle East who opened the valves on oil production…
So here you are, guilty of being human. Suffering from the same condition to which we are all subject: believing what we believe. Instead of falling for that, you can apply some healthy skepticism and take the time to consider the factors and consequences that might not be readily apparent. At the very least, you might decide to walk in the opposite direction of the hot coals.