The Default Settings Are Not Safe for Business Owners


The Default Settings Are Not Safe for Business Owners

Most electronic devices come with default settings already preconfigured. They’re designed to suit the average person and provide a basic level of functionality so you can use the device in your normal life.

But there’s so much more you can do, if you change these settings. The problem is most people don’t know what the default settings are.  They abdicate their experience of life to what was pre-set for them, not what could be.

Research has shown most people never change default settings on phones and computers.  This means you can predict how most people will experience those devices if you know what the default settings are.

The researchers at Google discovered over 90% of people don’t know how to use Ctrl-F to find a piece of text in an electronic document or web page.

Are your default settings are letting you down?

The default settings in life are not meant for business people (or anyone wanting to be anything other than an average).  Frustratingly we often know what needs to be done – but we still don’t do it. And it all has to do with our default subconscious settings to avoid risk and minimise discomfort.

When capable people live small lives.

Have you ever wondered why so many capable people live smaller lives, find themselves stuck in soul sucking careers, trapped in unfulfilling relationships and have mid life awakenings only to find they’ve regrettably befriended their captors?

The quick answer is it’s easier to exchange the risks of the unknown for the ‘promise’ of an easier life. But this promise is hollow and what ‘defines an easier life’ is never agreed upon. To live any other way seems somehow ‘risky’.

A ship moored in the harbor is safe — but that’s not what ships are built for.

The new threats to our existence are internal.

Our default self preservation preference while primitive, may have kept our ancestors from being eaten by saber tooth tigers, but the life changing threats we face today are usually internal, rather than external.  In today’s highly competitive and fluid business environment, the default settings of simply ‘fight or flight’ might need to be upgraded to ‘stand up and speakup’.

Same problem different excuses.

As we get older we swap our reasons for living smaller lives from fear of what others say (traditionally the domain of the moody teenager) for the less obvious but equally cowardly reason comfortable life.  There are four default settings keeping many people, their relationships, their interests and their businesses, from being anything other than average.

1. By default, we overestimate the probability of something going wrong.

This unwelcome legacy of our biological survival setting brings with it the problem of our habituality focusing first more on what might go wrong and what we may lose, rather than what could go right and what we could gain.

It seems the desire to avoid losses is hardwired more deeply into our brain than the desire to achieve gains. Some studies suggest loss aversion is twice as powerful psychologically, as gains. We fixate on not losing $100 by doing nothing, than making $100 by doing something new.

The risk of something going wrong is nowhere near as high as we usually first believe and the odds of it working out are much better.

2. By default, we catastrophise and exaggerate the consequences of what could go wrong.

Catastrophising thinking is an all or nothing approach to life and usually our default is set to expect the worst. You can see this in the attitudes of people who regularly default to comments like, ‘why bother’, ‘what’s the use’, ‘an insurance policy will never pay out’, and the king of abdication of all choice, ‘why should I even try?’.

This default setting (particularly strong in the domain of the moody teenager) is a lazy approach to risk management (and parenting), allowing a disproportionately large burden to live rent-free in one’s mind.

Because it’s default temptation is to say no to opportunity, we often avoid taking new challenges or proactively pursuing new opportunities, all because we don’t trust sufficiently in our own ability to rise to the challenge and move on. It’s time to doubt our doubts.

3. By default, we underestimate our ability to handle consequences.

The codependent enabler of catrosophinsing is our underestimating our ability to bounce back and persist and to ‘find a way’ through difficult times.

In life we all have to find a way through difficult times. So rather than waste our energy hiding from it, we need to channel the same energy into finding a way through the problem. Often is starts with us needing to put more time into thinking deeper about an issue, or removing distractions that dilute our creative problem solving focus.

4. By default, we ignore the cost of inaction.

Better known as opportunity cost, there is a cost in not taking an opportunity when it emerges. Not making a choice can actually have a significant cost associated with it. There is a cost to both action and inaction to consider. And if you’re hiding somewhere in the middle ground, playing it safe also has a cost.

Hope is not a valid business strategy.

So how do you change a default setting?

Perhaps it starts with reordering what we fear most.  As I enter the part of my life where there is potentially fewer years ahead of me than there were behind me, I’m resetting my default setting so the thing I fear most is the fear of not trying and the fear of doing nothing.

History shows our failures in life and business are far more the result of our being timid rather than our being courageous.  So what’s the benefit I, my family and my business gain from this new default setting?

Simple. We believe secure people live bigger lives and grow bigger businesses.

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  • Michael Hanrahan

    Thanks Drew. A great article and some valuable words of wisdom at the start of the year.

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