Have a gambling problem

Column by Hallie Beard, Opinion Editor

Hallie Beard

Through some soul-searching and introspection, I’ve acquired some alarming knowledge about myself: I have a gambling problem.

Don’t worry, I’m not confessing an addiction to slot machines or card games at lavish casinos or throwing bill after bill on a horse at Churchill Downs. I don’t gamble money, and I’ve never set foot inside a casino. But I gamble everyday, and you should, too.

As students who produce work that will be seen by others – whether that’s a piece of writing, an oral presentation, a sketch or a lesson plan – we must decide while preparing those pieces if we will take a gamble or play it safe. Maybe you’ve stumbled upon an astute idea that contradicts scholarly research, or maybe you plan a lesson using a concept you haven’t been taught. Something in you says, “Hey, I’m smart enough to know what I’m talking about, and this feels right.”

You want to listen to that voice, but considering your status in the classroom, university or social circle quiets it. Another voice says, “Don’t try anything new. The experts are right, and you are wrong. Stick with the plan.”

So, you make the play: you either put your knowledge and grit to the test, or you surrender, not ready to face the repercussions of a bad gamble.

I’m a big fan of asking my friends for advice on a multitude of issues – outfits, relationships, dinner choices, you name it. One of my good friends, though, pointed out something about my asking that’s both true and most likely frustrating: when I ask for advice and receive a majority opinion, usually with sound reasoning behind it, I do the opposite. Despite all the effort my friends have gone to in order to equip me with the best decision, I take my bow and do a 180.

For a long time, I couldn’t figure out why I did this. Was I just being contentious? Did I not trust the opinions of my friends? Did I have some strange, ultra-delayed rebellion coming out in those trivial decisions?

It was none of these things. Of course I trusted my friends, and I didn’t want to waste their time just to cause a debate.

When faced with the decision alone, I wasn’t ready to gamble. I knew the right answer – my instincts never lead me astray, in the typical human way. But I couldn’t commit to what I knew was right. Instead, I had to see all the cards from every angle, thinking it was an issue of knowledge or computation.

But I didn’t need to see any cards – I already knew my play. So when everyone else chimed in, all I had to do was turn up the volume on the voice who says, “You know what’s up. You know what you want.”

To the group, it seems I’m taking a gamble. How could I turn my back on all the support they just gave me?

In writing a paper, how could I risk writing the sentence I want to write when I already know how to write the one I should write?

In the end, you know the evidence doesn’t stack up. Your gut is not one to bow down to logic or reason.

You have to gamble every day and be confident in facing whatever follows.

The payoff won’t always be as glorious as you expect, and there’s always the chance that you’ll miserably fail. But if you play it safe, what’s there to learn? Where’s the agency in safety?

Live a little. Develop a gambling problem. You might get lucky one day.