It is extremely difficult to see straight when the world is crumbling around you. Emotions overwhelm, logistics tangle and solutions feel farther away than ever. Sometimes it is necessary to strip the humanity out of situations. Disregard feelings and look at the numbers. Treat prospective casualties and gains as data on a page. Sounds very cold, but every once in a while you need to find your footing to get through. To make hard decisions, it helps to break them down in front of you and see them clearly. Emotions do not translate well onto a page – but statistics, dollar amounts, time and body counts do. Get the situation out of your heart and out of your head. Only then will you be able to think straight and act diligently.
You know that gut feeling? The one that tells you to do or say something? The one that hits you like a hockey puck and knocks you over – almost without your permission? Yes, they call that intuition – and it’s a special gift. In the prehistoric days, intuition was the essential mechanism that kept us alert and alive in the wild. Today, it serves a far less animalistic purpose and yet still informs our judgement calls.
Acting on intuition can be a terrifying thing. No information, no data and no time to support your gut. What if someone judges you for it? What if it gets you into trouble? Takes you down the wrong road? What if you misunderstand your inner voice? What if you’re wrong?
You may not be right. But there’s no way to know ahead of time. That’s why they call it a risk. Many situations do not have time or the infrastructure for the kind of research most decisions call for. Sometimes you just need to listen to your belly and do something. It takes balls. Or ignorance. Or blind luck. Whatever it is, you don’t have time or reason to think. Just do it. And see what happens. Intuition can be a magical thing if used diligently.
Seems like such a silly little tool, but do not underestimate the power of pros & cons lists in helping you navigate difficult decisions. Simply getting your thoughts down on paper can help you better-objectify the situation. If you take the list seriously and generate genuine pros and cons in your brainstorming session, the visual key to how many thoughts land in each column can really help you clear the air and see the right choice. If you take your time and add to the list over a longer period, you will be surprised how objective the tool can be. I use pros & cons lists to assess almost all of life’s big decisions. As far as I can tell, none of them have failed me yet.
Data is good and can be very useful. Manipulated data is bad and can hurt you. What’s the point of collecting information in the first place if you’re going to mess with it? Your method of collection isn’t as accurate as you would like? You must stand behind the data you collected so far and move forward with another method instead. By adjusting numbers you’ve collected, you are misrepresenting the method or formula. Ethically better, I think, to publicly acknowledge a broken metric than stand behind massaged lies.
If the numbers are not for you and instead for someone else (boss, investor, customers, etc.), get to the bottom of why you want to change the numbers. If you feel the data misrepresents your business or project and worry that the numbers might throw you under the bus, it’s important to push back against the people asking for them in the first place. Again, better to admit a broken method than stand behind numbers that aren’t true. Honestly, I can think of no situation where it is ethically or practically appropriate to manipulate data you collected. It’s fine to do that in a budget or estimates, but actual cold hard data should not be toyed with. No one can learn anything from our lies except for the person with something to hide (or of course until the truth is revealed – don’t put yourself in that situation).
Be honest with yourself and your numbers. Don’t lie. Try a new formula instead.
Long term, second place can pay off in spades. I see second place more as a second chance than a loss. Watching someone else cross the finish line ahead can empower you with the drive to improve and an insight into the victor’s foundational success strategy. Knowledge and motivation in hand, you have the key ingredients to better yourself against the competition.
On several occasions, I’ve had the pleasure of following the first in line. I was the second graduating class of my high school, so I watched an entire group of kids go through the ropes before me (always being an upperclassman definitely had its perks). We had the opportunity to fix their mistakes and build on their accomplishments. It was a great deal.
I’ve seen companies beat my ideas to the market. A sad day turns happy when you start to find all the flaws in their approach and the opportunity to perform differently or better. You can refocus your efforts and take more informed strategic bets in the space. Also a great deal.
No, you did not cross the finish line first this time. I’m sorry. But next time, you can win the race and break records in brilliant form. All great athletes lose every once in a while. If they didn’t, they would get bored with winning and have no room to grow. Growth is important. A challenge is a great thing. Competition makes the world go round.
I think people forget that phones can still be used for voice conversations. I get so many back and forth text messages or email chains on a day to day basis. In the hours that pass trading notes, the discussion could have passed and resolved in a handful of minutes. Texts make sense for updates. Emails make sense for a bigger pile of information. For making big decisions or catching up? Not even close.
Call someone. It’s quicker, more personal and less ambiguous.
You cannot snap your fingers and wake up a leader; you must earn it through the respect of people who might follow you. Good leaders earn respect on their own, without nomination or title inheritance. Strong leaders grow through decision-making in everyday life, in small groups and in situations where no one else stands up. Picking a place to eat and pushing solutions to problems are small decisions that, if successful, will help you build a full portfolio of respect. If not earning credibility enough to become the President of the United States, your immediate circle will at least look to you as a problem solver or for restaurant recommendations. Leadership and title come in many shapes and sizes, so it’s important for you to choose how you want to contribute to the world. You can lead few or many, intimately or anonymously. Earn respect by mastering your trade, making a difference or showing compassion for others. Demonstrate your actions in public. You cannot fancy yourself a leader until other people fancy you a leader first.
A great leader can make decisions quickly. Better than most, he or she can efficiently break a complicated problem down into its component parts and take action. Without hesitation. Without fear of being wrong.
Do not be afraid of being wrong. While leaders can only build great things with higher batting averages, it takes practice to hit the ball. With enough experience and mistakes, you should have better chances at making good choices. Over time, two wrongs can make a right.
Opportunities for decision making start small. If you cannot decide where your indecisive group of friends should dine together, then you probably cannot make important product, market, or life decisions.