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The Easy Button trap: Why our brains love shortcuts (but hate the results)

Admit it: when faced with a problem, how often do you ask yourself, "What's the absolute best answer?"


Probably not that often.


Most of the time, we just want a solution that works without too much brain strain or sacrifice. It's the human version of the "easy button" – the path of least resistance.


This isn't always a bad thing. Often, a quick and practical answer is all you need. But sometimes, these easy choices lead us down a dark alley of misunderstandings and missed opportunities. Here are a few of these sneaky paths we all fall for:


1. Ditching Doubt Like a Hot Potato


Uncertainty is uncomfortable, so we cling to strong opinions, even if shaky because shrugging feels reckless. Who wants to admit they have no idea what the future holds? So, we slam the brakes on doubt and forge opinions, even if they're flimsy.


Remember the predictions before 9/11 or the 2008 financial crisis? Exactly. Easy answers feel comforting, even if they're spectacularly wrong.


2. The Single Cause Trap


Complex events rarely have one simple explanation.


That company's success wasn't just because of the CEO, and that recession wasn't caused by a single policy. Big things are usually the result of a messy pile-up of smaller events.


We crave clear-cut explanations, but the real world is rarely so tidy.


3. Justifying Ourselves, Judging Others


We're brilliant at spotting other people's mistakes.


We judge their actions without considering their internal justifications. We, on the other hand, have a running dialogue in our heads that explains away our bad decisions.


We tell ourselves stories about "calculated risks" and "unexpected outcomes" while judging others harshly. The truth is, that most bad decisions are made with good intentions, and everyone is blind to their own biases.


And if you haven’t already subscribed to my free email series: Charlie Munger’s 25 Human Misjudgement Tendencies – I strongly recommend you to do so here.


Charlie Munger's 25 human misjudgement tendencies offer insights on our cognitive biases.


4. My Worldview is the Only Worldview


Our personal experiences shape our beliefs so strongly that we struggle to understand viewpoints different from our own. We forget that everyone has a unique perspective based on their life path.


Someone born in a different time or place could hold completely opposite views, and that's okay.


5. Stories Over Stats


Facts and figures can be dry.


We crave compelling narratives, even if they're inaccurate. A single, emotional anecdote can trump a mountain of data in swaying our opinions.


This is why statistics often get lost in the noise of social media and cable news.


6. The Expert Shortcut


Ever heard a consultant say their main value is letting managers justify decisions to higher-ups? It's not always about genuine expertise. Sometimes, it's the comfort of knowing someone else considered the problem and came up with an answer.


We readily assume others are smarter than us, especially when we don't understand the limits of their knowledge. Pundits, analysts – we outsource our decisions based on their opinions. Having someone agree with us reinforces our beliefs, even if those beliefs are flawed.

Consultant's main value is letting managers justify decisions to higher-ups.

7. Overconfidence: The Feel-Good Fallacy


Most people understand the world is driven by probabilities, not certainties. We know we can be smart and still wrong, or dumb and get lucky. But probability rarely factors into real-world decisions.


We want clear answers – right or wrong.


Investors, for example, might say, "Higher risk means higher reward." But it's not that simple. Taking on more risk often leads to lower returns, with a smaller chance of a big payoff.


It's uncomfortable to acknowledge the odds of our predictions being wrong, so we cling to overconfidence – a warm blanket of denial that feels far more appealing than the truth.


The "easy button" might be tempting, but remember, it doesn't always lead to the best outcome. By being aware of these mental shortcuts, we can make more thoughtful decisions and avoid getting blindsided by the allure of the easy path.




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