Dreams vs. Visions Revisited

I wanted to take some time to clarify something from my Dreams vs. Visions post.

Dreamers take foolish gambles. Visionaries take calculated risks.

A reader asked for clarification on what the difference was. I’ll use a post from Robert Greene’s Power, Seduction & War blog to explain:

What is the difference between the two?

With a risky action, you may have a 30% chance of success, and if you act with great boldness, you can increase that to perhaps 40 or 50%. But if you fail, you have a fallback position. Your losses will be real, but not devastating. You can recover with the passage of months or a year.

With a gamble, you have the same chance of success as a risk, but if you fail, the consequences are much deeper. It may take years to recoup your losses, or you may never recover. Gambles generally involve too many contingencies you cannot control, and once things go wrong you spend your time fixing problems instead of responding with strategy.

What inevitably sucks people into taking gambles is the rosy scenario–the incredibly alluring consequences if it succeeds. A gamble engages your emotions and makes you ignore the terrible dangers. What happens in gamble scenarios, is that when things start to go wrong and failure seems to be a possibility, attempts to correct the course only make things worse. Your emotions drag you deeper and deeper into a kind of resource sinkhole. You lose contact with reality.

In risk taking, you are as realistic and rational in the planning phase, making the risk controlled and purposeful, then executing it with proper energy. In gambles, you are not aware of how deeply your emotions are coloring the decisions and planning of the war, how they veil the realities on the ground.

Some classic military gambles would include the Athenian expedition against Sicily, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1970s. I would have to include the current war in Iraq as a quintessential example. (Look at chapter 22 in The 33 Strategies of War for more discussion on risk versus gamble.)

So there you have it. The difference between a risk and a gamble.


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One Response to “Dreams vs. Visions Revisited”

  1. It’s also worth noting that gambling addiction is viewed as an impulse control issue. Problem gamblers aren’t really trying to win, they are in it for that feeling of stading on the precipe just about to fall over. They love having it all on the line. There may even be an emotional payoff in the inevitable act of “hitting bottom.”

    Gambling is a pathology and risk-taking is a strategy.