The World Cup and thinking like a freak

Are you ready to change how you think and make decisions forever?images
Imagine you are a soccer player and it’s the World Cup final.  And it has all come down to one penalty kick, that YOU have to deliver.
GULP!  Talk about pressure: the whole world watching, the hopes of your nation pinned on you and you know this moment – this moment in history – is exactly when you could become an international hero, or your life could turn to zero.  The only thing that will really help you is, of all things, stats.  Statistics.  Surprising, isn’t it?
Levitt and Dubner, in their new book Think Like a Freak: How to Think Smarter About Almost Everything‎paint this exact scenario and tell us that according to the stats, goalkeepers jump to the left 57% of the time and to the right only 41% of the time. Keepers also can’t wait to see where the ball will go as it travels at high speed – they simply have guess when you begin your kick, choosing to throw themselves in one direction or the other.
So far, the stats don’t seem to be helping us much.  But wait a minute: look at them again.  Keepers jump to the left 57% of the time, and to the right 41% of the time. Which means keepers only stay in the centre two times out of 100. Two times out of 100. 
Levitt and Dubner recommend a kick aimed at the centre is significantly more likely to succeed, even though this sounds insane.  To quote them: “Who in their right mind would kick the ball straight at the keeper – it seems unnatural, an obvious violation of common sense.  But then so did the idea of preventing diseases by injecting people with the very microbes that cause it.”
This, is one element of thinking like a freak – thinking and being brave enough to be counterintuitive.  Even when it seems hard or impossible – particularly when it seems hard or impossible.  Where have you seen counterintuitive thinking work?  

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Happy World Cup finals viewing and I hope it doesn’t come down to a penalty shoot-out!

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  • Sundar Rajamanickam

    It is true how many acts we perform based on assumptions and perceptions, that eventually go wrong, like in the case of the goal-keeper. Reading this story, I feel only must stay focused and concentrated and then act. Like your early story about ‘Ninjas don’t run in the rain’

  • Reply

    The one & only time I saved a penalty I did exactly that Yamini- I stood rooted to the spot right in the middle of the posts (perhaps through sheer terror or indecision rather than any sense of statistical probability)! Regardless, its my joint-first greatest personal sporting moments!…
    Great post!- thanks…

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