You Can't Pick the Time

One of my favorite past times and a favorite of countless millions of other people, too, is filling out the annual NCAA men's basketball bracket.

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By Matt Forck

One of my favorite past times and a favorite of countless millions of other people, too, is filling out the annual NCAA men's basketball bracket. And, if one really spends some time analyzing each team, coach, player and match up, you can actually come pretty close to picking a perfect bracket, right?

In March 2014, billionaire Warren Buffett and Quicken Loan founder Dan Gilbert added a little extra incentive to the annual bracketology exercise-and by "little extra," I mean a $1 billion dollar prize for anyone who submitted a perfect bracket.

The offer was simple. Anyone who was able to pick all the winners in all of the games in each of the rounds would be rewarded with his or her choice of $25 million over 40 years or a cool $500 million, winner's choice.

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Thinking about the path to a perfect bracket starts with the first round of the tournament, which has 64 games-each game would have one winner. Each team has a ranking; the first seeded team, for example, plays the 16th seed. Easing picking, right? The next round has 32 games, then 16, etc. On paper, it seems fairly easy, but in reality the odds are stacked against you-why do you think Mr. Buffet is willing to put up a billion dollars? When one adds up the odds of picking each game correctly for each round, the numbers stack up against you and your picks, big time. The odds of picking a perfect bracket is a mind boggling one in 9.2 quintillion. If you were to write out that number, it would be nine with 10 zeros.

Unfortunately, too many of our workers sometimes take a small chance or a quick short cut, reasoning that they will not get hurt-it's the same as picking the five seed over the 12-the five always wins, right? Actually, the 12 seed wins one of three games over the much higher five seed. Which, by the way, is the same odds as an 11 seed beating the higher six seed. Co-workers and supervisors sometimes see at-risk acts but make excuses that, "he knows what he's doing" or "he's a journeyman so he won't get hurt." In reality, reasoning you won't get hurt is like thinking you can pick the entire NCAA basketball bracket-the odds are stacked against you. The odds are against you or anyone taking a short cut on not getting hurt.

This year it only took the first 25 games to eliminate all of the many thousands of participants who submitted brackets in the billion-dollar bracket challenge. And, a seven seed, University of Connecticut, won the entire tournament. I can't tell you when you or a coworker will get hurt if a shortcut is taken, but I can tell you that you will get hurt. Those odds are just as certain as not picking a perfect NCAA bracket. I'd bet a billion dollars on it.

Matt Forck, CSP and JLW, is a keynote speaker and writer specializing in the field of worker safety. Matt serves clients across the United States and more than 10 countries. He lives in Columbia, Mo. with his wife and two children. Eliminate shortcuts today with Bucket List. Learn more at

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