Make more conscious decisions

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Idea Journal Weekly 3
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Idea Journal Weekly 3

March 27 · Issue #236 · View online

We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.


Summary: Not all decisions are created equal, but each one has consequences. Sometimes it seems like the best option is not to make a choice at all—yet even that’s a decision. So, how do you make better decisions? This issue offers a few ideas to help.
(~4 min read)

#1. Do you want to see them, or not?
Entrepreneur Steve Sims writes in his book Bluefishing that there’s a simple way to figure out if someone is a good match for you as a business partner, client, friend, trainer, tutor—whatever.
He calls it “The Chug Test.” 
Here’s how Sims uses it to evaluate his relationships: “If I’m walking down the sidewalk, and I see someone I know walking on the other side of the street, what do I do? … Do I see them and run across the street, jump in front of them and go, ‘Bernard! How you doing? Let’s go chug a beer!’”
Simply, would Sims want to grab a drink with the person or not?
The Chug Test is powerful even without alcohol. If you see someone on the other side of the street, would you rather run over and say “Hi” or avoid them?
Sims tells the story of how he used The Chug Test in deciding to fire his top-performing salesperson:
“I said to Clare, my wife, who works with me, ‘I’m gonna keep it simple. I tell people about this Chug Test concept, but I’m not living by it if I keep her around in the company.’ Regardless of how much money she made for me and the company, regardless of whether the clients liked her, I honestly didn’t. So I fired her. I literally fired one of my top performers because she didn’t pass the Chug Test … 
You could look at it and think, ‘Oh, my God, Sims, you’re an idiot, you just got rid of a big asset, why couldn’t you just suck it up and ignore her and let her do her thing?’ Or you could look at it and realize, ‘You got rid of something that was toxic to you, and anything toxic to you is toxic to the company.’ …  
The strange thing that happened was that the rest of my team was really respectful of the decision. I heard them saying things like, ‘I wasn’t sure if Sims was ever going to do that.’ Behind the scenes they had been thinking to themselves, ‘Does he actually do what he says he does?’ … 
I was a bit stunned myself when I let her go, but my circle became better, my work relationships got stronger, and my reputation became more authentic: ‘Oh, Sims, he’s not just talk. He walks the walk. He lives it.’”
#2. If you can’t decide, the answer is no
Entrepreneur and investor Naval Ravikant says in a Periscope video that our biology is at odds with the number of choices available to us in modern society.
We evolved in tribes of 150 people, and in that context if you passed on one option, a second option was unlikely to come along.
But in modern society, we’re inundated with options: there are nearly 8 billion people on the planet, we’re connected to most of them through the internet, and each of us potentially has access to hundreds or thousands of career opportunities.
It can be hard deciding among all the available options.
To make this process easier, Ravikant uses the following decision-making heuristic: If you can’t decide, the answer is no.
For example, say you’re facing one of the below decisions:
  • Should I take that job?
  • Should I buy this house?
  • Should I move to that city?
  • Should I go into business with this person?
These are all difficult decisions, and their effects can last far into your future. Because of that, you should only say yes if you’re relatively certain.
You can never be absolutely certain, but you should have a positive feeling about your choice: “You have to internalize it in your gut and in your heart – you have to really want something before you go for it.”
If you find yourself creating a spreadsheet to weigh your options or making a list of pros and cons, “forget it.”
The answer is no.
#3. Define your decisions
You’ve probably experienced the natural conflict between wanting to make decisions more quickly, and feeling that you need more information to ensure that you’re making the right choice.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s solution to this conflict is to split decisions into two types: irreversible decisions and reversible decisions.
Bezos writes in a 2015 letter to shareholders that irreversible decisions are like one-way doors: “If you walk through and don’t like what you see on the other side, you can’t get back to where you were before.”
You should make these decisions carefully, methodically, slowly, and with a lot of deliberation. An example of an irreversible decision might be selling your business. Or in your personal life, deciding to have a child. 
But as Bezos points out, most decisions aren’t like that. 
Most decisions are like two-way doors: changeable and reversible.
What happens if you make a suboptimal reversible decision? “You don’t have to live with the consequences for that long. You can reopen the door and go back through.”
Bezos notes that as organizations get larger, they tend to use a one-size-fits-all decision-making process. They’ll apply the laborious process for making irreversible decisions to decisions that are reversible.
As Bezos puts it: “The end result of this is slowness, unthoughtful risk aversion, failure to experiment sufficiently, and consequently diminished invention.”
Quote of the week
“The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.”
- Attributed to French essayist Charles Du Bos in his 1922 book Approximations
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