On Risk and Reward, and Taking Action

September 25, 2015

by — Posted in Philosophy

Just going with the zeitgeist of my mind for this week’s post.

In one sense, this has absolutely nothing to do with credit card hacking. In another, it has everything to do with credit card hacking, and everything else in the world that you could possibly stand to gain anything from.

This is the fundamental problem that underlies everything: if you aren’t able to propel yourself to take action, no matter how much I explain credit cards and how to take advantage of them, it’ll all be worthless to you. You’ll never actually do anything with all that tactical information.

And so I think this is of paramount importance to tackle first. So let’s get into it.

Why don’t people take action?

I don’t know. You tell me: action@pomml.com. Send me an email if you can think of a reason that’s not what I largely try to cover here (look, taking action!).

This being a how-to-hack-credit-cards website, let’s take that as an example.

Okay – the benefits of hacking credit cards for great gain have been clearly delineated, and are hard to refute. For a few minutes of your time, you can get thousands of dollars for free, free flights around the world, and luxury benefits you otherwise could only dream of.

So why doesn’t everyone do this?

  1. Inertia –> Change is hard. Doing something new takes conscious effort, while not doing it does not.
  2. Skepticism/cynicism/suspicion –> It sounds too good to be true!
  3. Too complicated/not worth the effort –> People are lazy/unable to comprehend things/unwilling to do research on their own?
  4. Risk-aversion/uncertainty –> I don’t know/what if I fail/it seems too risky –> more applicable to riskier things, such as starting a business or traveling around the world
  5. Unqualified –> I can’t do this/I’m not ready yet –> also more applicable to riskier things, like starting a business

Those are the main reasons I can pinpoint right now. In order:


Most people see something new and might think – oh cool! Maybe I’ll do this later…and then they never do anything with it.

Doing something takes conviction, will, and decisiveness. It takes a lot to break free of inertia and achieve enough critical mass to see success and get past the dark trough of the initial stages of the learning curve for most things.

So yeah – hopefully being aware of this, coupled with actually doing this a few times to realize it’s not as hard as it seems to take action, and


There’s also the terrible, horrible fear of anything that sounds remotely good that we’ve been unfortunately ingrained with by all of society: “it sounds too good to be true!”. This is basically why 95% of society sticks to a very close norm and never quite distinguishes themselves from the teeming masses –> because “too good to be true” is the kind of thinking that will cause you to be skeptical of anything, simply because it sounds really good.

If someone tells you you really can be a millionaire, retire at 30, and travel around the world for free…well – that really does sound too good to be true, doesn’t it? But it’s obviously been done before, and is being done today by thousands of people. And yet when the vast majority of people hear this, they’ll think – oh, that’s just bullshit. It’s too good to be true. And then they’ll never try.

And then of course it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy – it’s too good to be true because you decided never to try and take action on it.

This will preclude you from ever accomplishing anything exceptionally good, because by definition, anything exceptionally good is ‘too good’, and by this principle, anything that is ‘too good’ is ‘too good to be true’. And so these people create worlds of mediocrity for themselves by dint of self-fulfilling prophecy, as they’ll never attempt anything that promises anything beyond marginal improvement over their current life prospects.

Good post by my friend Tynan on this point eight years ago: http://tynan.com/if-its-too-good-to-be-true


And if things are too complicated and just not worth the effort – well, some things definitely aren’t worth the effort, and some things definitely aren’t. And if someone can’t distinguish between the two of these, and just categorizes everything as not worth the effort, then I’m not really sure anything can help these people.


Risk-aversion/uncertainty: Conflating uncertainty with risk is a serious issue. Just because something is uncertain does not make it risky. Example: deciding to carve your own path in life and consciously choosing to do something other than say, go to college.

Correct assessment: This is absolutely an uncertain path to take. Once you go slightly off the beaten path, butterfly effects will cause your life to go in trajectories you’d never have been able to predict at the outset.

Incorrect assessment: Because your end life situation will be so uncertain, it is consequently risky. This is absolutely false. While it’s probably correct you have no idea how your life will end up, this does not mean that you’re risking ending up in a bad place. No. In reality, it means in all likelihood you’ll end up in any one of an endless number of incredible possibilities.

Indeed, by going off the beaten path, you either don’t change your chances of success at all or arguably dramatically increase them, by dint of just being exceptional in the slightest by doing something different. Chances are, you’re going to end up somewhere spectacular.


The second part of this people too often overestimate the true risk in taking certain actions. Tony Hsieh put this in a good way when asked if he would recommend young people to try their hand at entrepreneurship. He replied, paraphrasing, with an absolute yes, because what’s the worst case scenario when you’re young and you try to start a business? Picture it – the worst case scenario. Everything crashes and burns. Do you still have a friend whose couch you can crash on? Great. Then you can pick yourself up and start back over, and you’ll have some awesome lessons to keep from your experience.


And finally, people feel unqualified to take action. There’s certainly some truth to this in certain instances – and the trick is figuring out when it’s truly justified, and when it’s just being an excuse. There’s also an important point to note that in many cases, the only way to truly become qualified doing what you want to do is to start doing what you want to do, and learn as you go. The only way to learn how to swim, at the end of the day, is to start trying to swim.

Cool. Cheers.


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