It came in the form of a brief appearance on the game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. To answer the reader’s question – No! I did not win a million dollars. The entire experience was a lesson in serendipity. I was reading the paper at my law office when I came across an advertisement seeking applicants for the show. As a lifelong trivia addict, I was immediately intrigued. I consulted with my partners to make sure that my appearance (I was already being presumptuous about my chances) would not reflectively negatively on the firm. Everyone expressed their enthusiasm.
I was sitting in a waiting room for my turn “on camera.” One of the things that people ask when they find out you were on the show is, “what was the waiting like? Simply stated, it was awful. I was in the room for close to eight hours a day, for two days, while my fellow contestants were called in to film one by one. My phone was confiscated, so there was no interaction with the outside world. Other than conversations with your fellow contestants, the only thing to take your mind off of the task at hand is the television in the corner, which is playing re-runs of Millionaire on a loop.
That’s right. Before I filmed my episode, I was forced to watch countless other contestants flub their questions and lose out on the first or second set of questions, in some kind of perverse, game-show purgatory.
The show is not as dependent on raw intelligence or knowledge of myriad useless facts as the casual viewers may think. Instead, after watching hours and hours of shows in the waiting room, you begin to realize that the questions have a rhythm to them. And most of the early ones have clues. What the viewers also miss is that there is no time limit. The waiting, the pauses, et al. are all edited out or re-engineered for dramatic effect. The reality is that you have a lot of time to think through the questions and evaluate your options. But most people don’t take advantage of the opportunity. They yield to their nervous energy and hope for a lucky guess, and most times, they were wrong.
Then again, I wasn’t much different. I sailed through the first few questions, and then things started to get tricky. When I was on the show, there were 14 questions. I made it to the tenth question, out of life-lines and out-of-luck. My options – to blindly guess at the chance to win $50,000.00 or to call it quits and walk away with a guaranteed $30,000.00. I looked back at my pregnant wife in the audience (who was intensely messaging with her mind to walk away), and I knew what I had to do. After taxes, some baby items, and daycare for two working parents, that $30,000.00 check is a distant, distant memory.
I grant you; it’s not an obvious connection. But in my view, it’s people. Their backgrounds, behaviors, biases, prejudices – all of which come together in how they process information, how they evaluate risk/rewards, and how they make decisions. Ultimately, that’s what it’s about, people making good decisions. And that’s what we’re about – helping people make the right decisions in the ever-changing world of Medicare compliance.