Friday, September 21, 2012

Respect and appreciation

are the two things we hunger for the most. Years of working in the family business — an environment where respect and appreciation were something you gave, but never received — caused that deficiency. It has scarred us, and we carry it with us wherever we go. Being a scar, it will never really go away, constantly lingering in our psyche.

The problem with this is that it is easily reopened. The slightest sense of disrespect or disparage and the scar opens back up into a bleeding wound. It hurts us, and this is where our challenge lies.

When the scar reopens there are two things we can do: we can fight the offender with anger, putting aside cool and focus only to "show them"; or, we can realize that the hurt we are feeling is not really the scar reopening, but ghost pains from a wound long ago inflicted...

If you realize this, if you understand where it comes from, you will notice that the control it has over you will slowly abate. The "pain" will subside and your mind will clear, allowing you to better deal with the situation at hand.

My scar still itches every now and then. But I've learnt that choosing the "fight" option only causes it to hurt even more. Instead, I recognize that it's just an itch, and itches eventually go away...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Thoughts around game theory

I had another thought around my post yesterday: In a perpetual game (a game that does not have a finite number of moves — which is more like real life), do you know what the best playing tactic is?

It's called tit for tat, and it states that you play the move your opponent played in the previous round. So, if your opponent defected in the previous round, you defect in the current round, to teach him a lesson. If he trusted, you trust. and on the game goes...

But there is an inevitability to the perpetual "real-life-family-business" game. At some point, after rounds of tit for tat, you will become exhausted and worn out from calculating your every step and move. Weary and tired, a possible end to the game will start looming on the horizon. When that happens then mathematical theory teaches us that the best tactic at that point is to always defect (it's called the Nash Equilibrium), and we know where that will lead us to...

I guess what I am saying is: play the trust card for as long as you can hold out — fight for it. Just remember that once you decide to switch tactics, once you move to a tit for tat game, there is an inevitability that you will no longer be able to ignore...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Game Theory and the Son's Dilemma

Game theory is the study of decisions that two sane individuals choose to make in relation to one another. These decisions confront each "player" with different dilemmas. A classic example is the prisoner's dilemma — a situation where the two players choose not to cooperate even though it's in their best interests to do so. Instead of cooperating, and both making a gain, one, or both, will choose to deceive the other — defecting from the partnership. If one defects, he makes a gain at the other's expense. If both defect, both loose. The prisoner's dilemma is a test of trust, each player will choose to cooperate as long as he trusts the other player to choose the same (and not defect). And herein lies the challenge.

The challenge, obviously, is maintaining that trust, a sense that is so painstakingly forged, yet so easily crushed — one foul move and everything you've worked so hard for is gone. When the trust is gone, defecting becomes an option, with each player defecting to "teach the other a lesson". In theory, if the game has a foreseen end to it, the optimal strategy for each player at that point is to always defect...

Does this sound familiar?

When I was playing the family business "game", I was faced with what I call the son's dilemma. In the game, you put your (blind) trust in your father, trusting that he will work with you. But every so often the father chooses to defect. It is at that point that you are confronted with the son's dilemma: trust your father again, or defect from the relationship, teaching him a lesson. If your father has defected numerously in the past, what would your turn be — trust or defect? How long would you continue this game?

For me, it was one defection too many, and trust was completely lost. The game was finally over.