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Go With Your Gut

Even though the odds are 300-1, I’ve just got this gut feeling that the Browns are going to win the Super Bowl next season.


I enjoy reading business advice telling me to go with my instincts, to trust my gut reaction regardless of the situation. These experts tell us to “do a body scan,” “engage in intentional mind wandering,” and “focus on your body signals.”

So, do I go with the 300-1 odds if that is what my body tells me?

While I occasionally say something to the effect that, “My instincts tell me to _________,” I really do not put that much trust in gut instincts.

Three Shells and a Pea

Case in point. My family and I attend all the home college basketball games where I live. During one timeout each game, the video board plays a game with the crowd that is a form of the three shells and a pea game.

On the video board they have three hats and under one hat is a basketball. The three hats then zoom around the video board attempting to confuse the audience which hat is covering the basketball. Once the hats stop moving the crowd all yells out which hat they think is covering the basketball.

Now by just paying a little attention, it is very easy to follow the correct hat and get the right answer at the end of the game.

Since I have been studying the use of my instincts, I decided this would be a good time to practice. Before the hats start to move, I close my eyes, focus hard, tap into my instincts, and choose the winner before the game start. So far in 19 home games, I have never once picked the correct hat.

So much for instincts.

Instinct or Experience

The reality is that when you use what you think are your instincts (or your gut) you are consciously or subconsciously tapping into an analysis of the problem. Two potential clients come into the office. One knows exactly what she wants, when it needs to be done by, and its ultimate use.

The second client is not sure exactly what he wants to be designed, has a vague timeline, and is vacillating about the project’s future.

Your gut tells you the first client will be fun to work with and the second is a potential problem. That’s not your gut or instincts talking, that is your years of experience talking.

Of course, you may say they are the same. I don’t think so. I’ve watched the three shells and a pea game for years and still get it wrong. If I do get it right, it is only because of mathematical probabilities and nothing more.

When presented a business problem, rely on your experience and business skills. If it is something you have never done before, do not rely on only what you think is instincts. To do so would simply reduce your business management expertise to a gamble and nothing more.

The Bible

The Bible supports making good, well thought out decisions and not relying on our instincts.

“The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15)

“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 16:25)

Our instincts come from somewhere. They are not a parlor trick involving shells and a pea. In most instances, our accumulated work history is stored in our subconsciousness and can be tapped to make sound rational decisions.

We also get subconscious advice during our decision-making process that comes not from our gut but the Holy Spirit.

You can trust your gut and gamble, you can trust your experiences and be relatively safe, or you can trust the Holy Spirit and be assured you are following God’s will.

Don’t trust your instincts, trust God.