It’s All Relative: Shuffling the Deck

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Every time you shuffle a deck of cards their order is one that has never before, and will never again happen in the universe.

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There are over 80 unvigintillion ways a deck of cards to be ordered. I promise I didn’t make that word up! That’s an 8 with 67 zeroes after it.

 

If life ever seems repetitive just shuffle a deck of cards and know that you created something that has never before existed in the 13.8 billion year history of the universe.

 

Each shuffle seems ordinary and plain, but the odds of every card shuffling into their original “new deck” order is the same as any other arrangement. Likewise, the odds of getting a royal flush of spades in exact 10 through Ace order is exactly the same as getting 2,7,Jack,8,4 in mixed suits.

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One only SEEMS special because we have designated it so. The feeling we get upon seeing a royal flush on the board should be felt every time a hand is dealt because every hand is equally special (or ordinary depending on how you choose to view it).

 

Take a moment to think how odd it is for us to work this way. There is no difference between the worlds most exciting hand, the world’s most mind numbingly boring hand, or any hand in between these two extremes. Every deck has identical odds of existing.

 

The sensation we get when seeing a “great” board get played comes purely from our fabricated ideas. It is not an emotion forced upon us by the outside world, but a feeling we choose based upon our interpretation.

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This points to a deeper truth. How we feel at any given moment has nothing to do with outside circumstances. Our feelings and emotions are a result of our interpretation of reality, not reality itself. If we wish to interpret our day as a series of stressful and agitating events, then that is precisely what we will experience.

 

This is great news because it means we are in absolute control of how we feel about our lives, moment by moment, day by day we create our happiness or sadness, peace or anger, despair or hope.

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Usually, we think we are the victims of what unfolds. When something unexpected happens – the flight is cancelled – we feel we MUST have a negative feeling. I’ve been waiting for 2 hours and the flight gets cancelled, I get angry; the marriage falls apart, I get sad; the car cuts me off, I rage.

 

If only reality was dealt as expected we could be happy, but instead I got the wrong deck!

 

But all decks are equal. No deck is “good or evil”, it is not out to get you. You are out to get yourself! You choose how to interpret the hand you’re dealt.

 

She broke up with me. Now I’m sad. Is the universe forcing me to be sad? Or am I imposing it upon myself by means of how I CHOOSE to look at it.

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So the deck wasn’t shuffled in the order you expected it to be shuffled. The universe didn’t let me down, I let me down with my own expectations. No ordering of cards is better than any other.

 

We cannot control how the cards are ordered, but we need not control that. We are in complete control of how we perceive each shuffle. We define what makes us feel good or bad.

 

If ever you are frustrated, sad, angry, annoyed, or agitated just ask yourself “Am I required to feel this way? Who is creating this emotion, me or the outside world? What feeling would I like to feel?” From there, create an interpretation that leads to the emotion or results you desire.

 

If I hate my job and I focus on why I hate it, I am merely fostering that crappy feeling. If I change my interpretation, my focus, I can change my emotion. What parts of the job do I like? Could this be the perfect motivator for finding something better? Maybe billions of others have worse jobs, and mine isn’t so bad?

 

These are all interpretations, and they lead to vastly different emotions, different results, different experiences, and different futures.

 

What makes us human is our ability to consciously choose our reactions and emotions. Often we are not truly in control, just like any other animal is not in control.

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What makes us special is that we do not have to go with whatever our reflex is. In that moment I convince myself I have to be angry, even that I WANT to be angry. We get lost in the emotion and just roll with it instead of being truly human, being conscious, being aware, and stepping back, observing, consciously controlling our emotions to produce happiness and results.

 

We have the power to choose how we interpret our circumstances, and this tool is more powerful than any drug or any amount of money. With diligent focus and effort we can re-claim the right to see the world in whatever light is delightful and beneficial, instead of being a monkey that sticks with its default reaction.

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Are you a victim of what happens to you, or are you the creator of your experience? Both can be true. The choice is up to you.

 

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” -William Shakespeare

Hot Streaks Are Hot Air

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There is no such thing as a “hot streak” in basketball (or any sport), even though 91% of fans believe in “hot streaks”.

Someone with entirely too much time on their hands did a gruelling and all inclusive statistical analysis, which revealed that after making several shots in a row players are actually slightly LESS likely to make the next shot.

The reason for this is a phenomenon known as “reversion to the mean” where performance after a particularly good run (or bad run) reverts toward the average. This effect of probability explains the “Sports Illustrated jinx” where players featured on the cover perform more poorly the next season.

Your favorite football team had an unusually good season? Sorry to say, but reversion to the mean dictates that they’re likely to perform closer to the average next season. On the other hand, you can actually make large sums of money by betting on the fact that 91% of sports fans falsely believe in hot streaks. It leads to overconfidence, and a willingness to make larger bets when the laws of probability are against them.

It’s also the reasoning behind Warren Buffet’s motto to buy stocks when everyone is fearful, and sell when everyone is exuberant. Partly by using the law of reversion to the mean Warren Buffett has become the 4th wealthiest person in the world.

Coaches used to believe that praising excellent performance lead to poor performance, and scolding bad performance improved results. They were accurately assessing what was happening, but wrong about what caused the change in performance.

What they didn’t realize was that they were merely experiencing regression to the mean. Excellent performance would lead to poor performance regardless of praise or punishment. Humans are keen at noticing patterns, and we naturally assume some agent is creating those patterns, but in many instances simple laws of probability are the root cause.