It is popular knowledge that emotions do not mix well with decisions. The best leaders do not let their moods dictate their judgement. Nor do the best traders let a downturn upped their portfolio.
And yet, consider the parable of Buridan’s donkey. The fabled donkey stood at equal distances from a bale of hay and a bucket of water. This donkey was also hungry and thirsty in equal measure. Therefore, unable to decide whether to go towards the bale of hay or the bucket of water, it dies of both hunger and thirst.
The neuroscientist Antonio Damasio studied patients who had undergone brain surgery. His subjects could not feel emotions, but were otherwise unimpaired. Damasio then observed how they made decisions. These subjects were unable to make the simplest of decisions. They could not even get out of bed in the morning. They were paralyzed like Buridan’s donkey.
The best decision makers aren’t free from emotions. They are just more familiar with their emotional sides. And in real life, a donkey placed between hay and water would make its way towards one of them, at random. Donkeys are, after all, creatures with emotion.
Inspiration: Fooled by Randomness – Nassim Taleb