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How many times have you faced a decision, either large or small, and said to yourself, I don’t know what to do? I venture to say the number is too large to count. This is true for most of us, but for some, decision making is their strongest skill. Are they born with a skill that grows over time or is it entirely learned?
I’ve come to believe that successful decision-making is learned. With that in mind, let’s explore what I’ve discovered about the decision-making process. Life is all about making decisions, some easy and some hard, some critical and others that don’t matter. While some decisions are temporary and can be rescinded without much impact, others last forever with lifelong consequences.
We make thousands of decisions every day. Most of these decisions occur in our subconscious. Think of all the decisions made just to get out of bed, get dressed, eat breakfast and go to work or school. How many of those are thoroughly thought out? Not many, since those actions are mostly on autopilot.
Very few of those decisions have a impact on our life or the lives of others. On the other hand, there are those decisions that are critical. What if you chose not to wear your prescription glasses while driving? The result might be an accident that hurt or killed those involved. This would be a critical decision with lasting consequences. Was forgetting your glasses a conscious decision? No, but once you realized your mistake not going back to get them was a critical decision poorly made. Part of making the right decision is understanding the possible impact if the decision is wrong.
Let’s examine one decision-making process I call the filter. Think of it like pouring water through a coffee filter. The structure of the filter let’s the water pass through the coffee grounds while keeping the particles away from the liquid below. The filter removes debris just like our decision- making process removes doubt.
So what would this filter look like and how is it formed? I often talk about the importance of having a mission statement that spells out who you are and what you believe. It defines your ethics and morals in simple and direct terms. For example in my mission statement, do no harm is part of my filter. Another part of my filter is be honest in all things. When I make a decision, I pass it through my filter to see if it passes the test. If it does, then it’s aligned with what I hold true, and the decision is made. Does that mean the decision is always right? Unfortunately not, but it does agree with who I am or what I believe.
When I was young and had to make what I considered big decisions, my father would always say, “Remember the elephant.” Was he referring to the proverbial elephant in the room? I don’t think so. Instead, his elephant theory answered what to do when a decision with multiple parts seems too big to make. Break the problem down into small decisions. The combination of making those decisions individually help make the big decision more obvious. Handle it just like you would eat an elephant, one bite at a time.
The Pros and Cons
I like using the Benjamin Franklin Close, comparing pros vs. cons, to aid in decision making. Let’s suppose I want to buy a new computer, and I need to choose between two brands. First I’d make a list of features I want in a computer. I would then give a point to the features that met my needs or wants. To modify the technique a little, I could give two points to the most critical features so they are more heavily weighted. The brand with the most points wins my purchase. Although this an effective way to make complex decisions, not all decisions are complicated.
Malcolm Gladwell authored the book Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking. I agree with Mr. Gladwell’s premise that we tend to overthink a decision and talk ourselves out of the right choice. We may even talk ourselves into the wrong choice. Likewise, we can think about the decision so long that it’s either made for us or the opportunity passes us by. Many times our first choice would have been the right one.
Have you heard the saying, paralysis by analysis? This is when we are paralyzed by our need to over analyze, when our intuition was right all along. Is intuition just a guess? I don’t think so. I believe it’s the instantaneous culmination of knowledge and experience that expresses itself as a feeling. You may be surprised at how quickly that feeling comes to you. But don’t misunderstand; it’s not a guess. Believe that feeling. Trust your stomach, not your head. Your head can lie to you, but your stomach never will. Your gut feeling can show you the right decision in the blink of an eye.
The Spock/Sherlock Approach
Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame and fictional detective Sherlock Holmes both expressed the adage, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” When faced with a decision that has many possibilities, eliminate the impossible ones. What is left may lead you to the right decision.
Our life is controlled by the decisions we make and the ones that are made for us. Learn to trust your decision making process and your filter, but mostly trust your stomach.
Good luck and choose well.
In a previous blog I talked about having 20/20 vision, the ability to see the world through someone else’s glasses. It is a powerful tool to build relationships, both personal and business. However, having 20/20 vision isn’t very effective without the right actions. If you want good results then you have to do the right things.
Here are 8 right actions to guide you on the journey to success.
Make no excuses. We must take responsibility for our own life, its successes and its failures. Part of growing up and becoming a real adult is being responsible. It’s not your parents’ fault, it’s not the government’s fault and it’s not society’s fault. It’s your life, your fault and your job to make it better. Step up.
Become wise. Knowledge + Experience = Wisdom. Study hard. Learn in school. Learn from others. Sharpen your knowledge into wisdom by your actions. Get involved. Get experience. See what’s really happening. Don’t skip the details. The devil is in the details. It’s the pebble in the shoe that stops the climber, not the boulders ahead.
Make good decisions. If you want things to get better you must make better decisions. Are your decisions aligned with your beliefs?
Commit to a goal. Plan to achieve something. Set your sights on a target. Don’t give yourself an easy way out. Have lofty objectives.
It’s better to go hunting for tigers and find a rabbit, than to go hunting for rabbits and find a tiger.
Never give up. If you don’t give up you can’t fail. Persistence may be the single most important quality of achievement .
Have faith, not fear. Don’t be afraid to fail and don’t be afraid to succeed. You must believe to achieve.
Enjoy the trip. Don’t take life too seriously, it’s a short ride.
After watching Disney‘s Alice in Wonderland, I learned a new word to describe an old concept, muchness. The Mad Hatter said to Alice, “You’re not the same. When you were here before you were muchier, but it seems you’ve lost your muchness.”
What an interesting thought, losing your muchness. What is muchness anyway? If you go back to the movie you will see what Alice had lost was her courage. Her courage to slay the dragon.
In today’s environment, muchness might be the ability to achieve your most desired goals no matter what the odds of failure. But what about the dragon? There are no dragons today, right? Wrong.
When you’ve lost your job because of Covid, who do you think is at the other end of the phone line demanding you pay an overdue bill? The dragon. If you listen carefully you can hear the scales rattle as he leans forward in his chair to tell you they’re turning off your electricity.
If you’re a student doing school virtually, you know the dragon. When the lesson doesn’t make sense, but the class moves on anyway, you may think you’re all alone. You are not. The hot breath on the back of your neck is the dragon.
The dragon and I have dueled many times over the years, and I know the one thing that can stand up to the dragon’s flame is courage. Muchness. So the question we must answer is, how did we lose our muchness and how can we get it back?
Losing our courage can begin with destructive thinking. Destructive thinkers believe all problems are huge and probably permanent. The more they focus on the size of the dragon, the bigger the dragon becomes until their mortal size pales in comparison. We can easily be devoured by our own destructive thinking.
A courage destroyer that goes hand in hand with destructive thinking is having the wrong mindset. Mindset can be divided into two categories: fixed and growth. People with a fixed mindset don’t try hard enough and therefore they give up too soon. This kind of dragon slayer retreats to what he believes is a safe place and then is devoured by the dragon. Someone with a growth mindset never gives up. They think of the possibilities and then focus on a solution that will extinguish the dragon’s flame. I want tp be a dragon slayer, don’t you?
So how do we find our muchness? Alice gives us a hint when she says:
In my next blog I’ll talk about each of the things we can do to regain our muchness. As you may have guessed, the sixth impossible thing Alice believes is that she can slay the dragon.
Sometimes the world seems to be in chaos. This is certainly one of those times. Everything is upside down all because of an organism, so small, we can’t see it without a microscope.
A year ago, I never would have imagined what I am seeing today. Looking around, you begin to realize the significant impact the virus has had on the planet. It has caused us to change the way we live our personal lives and the way business is conducted.
In most U.S. states and countries around the world, we’re asked to wear face masks in public. We’re drowning in local mandates and hand sanitizer. We are asked to practice social distancing. We are told to stay a safe distance away from others. It’s this safe distance that worries me most. Staying away from others is not in our nature, but it does seem to be the best approach to slow down the spread of this virus. How can distancing be called social?
How does this concept affect our lives? The dilemma, for most, is that social distancing is the opposite of our greatest need: CONNECTION. If you have been following my blog over the last few years, you know that the core of everything I write about is connection. Connection is the link between people, and is based on sharing ideas, feelings and fears. Connection is the glue that binds people and things together.
Happiness and well-being are by products of connection in our personal and professional lives. All businesses have people at its core. After all, the business we are all in is the people business and the foundation of the people business is connection. Connection is founded on trust and forged over time, one promise at a time. With connection, you can achieve peace, health and wealth. Connection is the foundation of all good and solid relationships.
Since connection brings happiness and success, disconnection brings loneliness and turmoil. I believe we now live in a largely disconnected world that has been made more disconnected by this virus and our reaction to it. Let me explain.
It’s hard to stay connected to others when we feel we must blame someone for our situation. In the case of this virus, we blame everybody from other countries to our own government. Since no one wants to take responsibility, we distance ourselves.
In most societies, people move closer to each other when they want to connect and farther apart when there is fear or distrust. The scientists tell us that transmission of the virus is increased the closer we are to those who are infected, so we stay away. How far? Six feet or more. With that in mind, our social distancing says, “I’m afraid of you and I don’t trust you.” The truth is, we are saying, “Stay away or we could make each other sick.” Our heart is saying connect, but our fear is telling us to distance ourselves so connection doesn’t occur.
In most places we go we are asked to wear a mask. It is the right thing to do, no doubt, but what message does the mask send? Think about what kind of people wear masks. Yes, doctors and nurses, but so do the thieves and criminals who come to do you harm. The mask says, “I don’t want you to know who I am.” Distancing and mask wearing send the same message and it’s not one of connection.
I’ve found that one of the most powerful connection mechanisms is the smile. When I travel internationally I may not speak the local language but I can send my friendly intentions with a smile. The smile translates well, no matter where you are. But what about the smile hidden behind a mask and from 6 feet away. It just doesn’t work, does it?
By choosing to isolate, to stay away, to social distance, we have chosen to disconnect. Being disconnected too long is dangerous. Disconnection breeds misunderstanding and misunderstanding leads to conflict.
What can we do? We need to understand the importance of connection and realize in tough times many don’t know what to do, so they do nothing. Don’t be one of those people. Take the initiative and find ways to bridge the gap. Make a list of all your relatives, friends and even customers, and then call, email or send a hand written letter. Maybe all three. Acknowledge the tough situation and tell them how important they are to you. Work together to find ways to stay connected. It’s better to be a great listener than an overpowering talker. Friends listen, politicians talk. Be a friend.
This is not a time to spend all day worrying. It is however, a time to reconnect with those we care about while keeping their safety and ours the first priority. We will get through this by following the scientifically sound guidelines we’ve been given, but we can not afford to lose our connections on the way. Find a way to reach out.
Stay connected and be safe.
Before I publish my next blog let me explain my obvious absence from blogging and most everything else. In January, the final episode of a three part project, The Man, the Lady, and the Tiger was published. Catching the Lady asked the question, “What are you running to and what are you running from?”
The ideas in my head for the next blog were numerous and I was excited about putting them on paper. Then, news of a fast spreading virus appeared. Management cancelled my meeting in China but the seminar in Korea was still on. Two days later that was also cancelled and travel outside the U.S. was shut down. Then, all hell broke loose.
I’ve worked in most parts of the world over the years, so my circle was rather wide. Now, my circle became small. As the days and weeks passed, the circle became even smaller.
I have always been able to reach inside myself and find feelings or passions to write about. But suddenly, this invisible enemy occupied nearly every thought and emotion. I somehow lost the path to inspiration.
But once again, my soul cries out to be heard. So, I reach out to you, my friends, and ask that you read my next blog, The Covid Disconnect. Coming Monday, November 16th.
Catching the Lady
The man finally catches the lady, they enjoy a moment of sublime bliss, and then, the tiger who was chasing him, devours them both.
In my previous blog we wondered if the man was chasing the lady or running from the tiger. I then proposed that catching the lady without dealing with the tiger first would mean certain death as they would enjoy a moment together, but then both would be caught and devoured by the tiger. This happens because the tiger that pursues us never rests.
Do you think catching the lady is worth being devoured by the tiger? Maybe. But terminal bliss is not what most would chose, understanding that the word terminal is final. I believe we must first face our fears before we chase our dreams.
However, isn’t it possible to chase a dream and actually catch it? It certainly is. But don’t forget what was said in an earlier blog, the fantasy of the conquest is almost always better than the conquest itself. It is the chase that brings the rush. But putting that aside, how can we catch our dream?
We should first make sure our dream is one we can really catch, and is within our capabilities to accomplish? I have one and only one repeating dream. I dream I can fly like superman.
It’s a great dream but not one that is within my capability, no matter how hard I work or how long I try. So, I have learned to just enjoy the dream.
Then we need to decide if our dream is aligned with our mission statement. Would it help reach a life goal? An example, in my own life, is to start a charity to help underprivileged families and especially children. So let’s see if that fits my two criteria. Is it within my capability to accomplish? Yes, I believe it is. Does it support something in my life’s mission? Yes, again. My mission statement is to live such a life that other’s lives are made better by their relationship with me. I think this type of charity would fit well here, so it would be a good dream to pursue.
Am I saying that all dreams must be noble and selfless? No, of course not. It’s okay to reach for a dream that benefits only you. Sometimes it’s good to be selfish. Just don’t make it all the time and don’t be selfish to the extent that others are hurt.
To achieve a dream you must have a plan. Hoping or wishing for your dream to come true is not a plan or strategy. If you do not define and describe your dream, how will you know when you’ve reached it? I like what Stephen Covey says in his Seven Habits book ‘Begin with the end in mind’.
I believe we are all born with natural talent, perhaps a gift from God or the act of providence. It’s much easier to reach your dream if you use some of the talent you were born with. For example, I have no natural talent for opera singing so pursuing that dream might not be wise. Although talent can be nurtured and grow to great heights, it can also wither and die if not fed and watered. It helps if your dream pursuit allows you to use one or more of your talents.
Next you must have the skills to achieve your dream. Although talent is a gift, skill comes only through hard work. The great thing about skills is they can be learned if given time and commitment. I’m not a great runner, but could I learn the skills that allow me to reach a goal of running a marathon? It’s possible.
Finally, we must have the fuel necessary to develop the skill. This fuel could be called energy. Attaining enough fuel might take long hours and very tough practice. Fuel is what we burn on the road to our dream. Although desire lights the match energy keeps the fire burning.
Lastly and most important is execution. Nothing happens until we start something. And starting can be the hardest step.
Taking the first step in your plan takes courage and commitment. It’s your race, what are you waiting for?
The time is now. Go catch the lady.
The Lady or the Tiger
In my last blog we see a man running. A closer look shows he is chasing a beautiful woman. Zoom in and we realize that the man is being chased by a tiger.
What are we really seeing? Is the man running from the tiger or is he chasing the lady? Is there a difference?Running is running, you must admit. So, is running to catch something better than running away from another thing? It might be even worse.
I read an article by Leonard Kim in which he says, “When you decide to chase something, what you decide to chase starts to run away.” So with that in mind, can the man ever catch the lady? And, if the man does catch the lady, will he be happy?
What if it’s the chase that brings the rush and not the conquest? What if the conquest usually ends in disappointment? One of life’s rules is this: the fantasy of the conquest is almost always better than the conquest itself. Do we run because we believe we can, or run because we believe we must?
Let’s suppose that the man catches the lady and they stop to enjoy the bliss of the moment. As she falls in his arms, her kiss is everything he hoped it would be.
As they enjoy the fantasy fulfilled, they are eaten by the tiger.
The tiger did not stop to rest. The tiger that chases us never rests. Was catching the lady worth being devoured by the tiger? Most would say no. With that in mind, it would seem that we should face the tiger before we ever chase and catch the lady.
I’ve been lucky to achieve most of my life goals. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. I have a wonderful marriage, three talented and loving children and a great job. I work for a company that puts people ahead of profit. Within this corporation I’ve been able to build a company that has grown from $5 million in sales to nearly $300 million.
I’m not boasting, well maybe just a little, but I’ve been able to grab almost every brass ring as the carousel of life went around.
What’s your tiger? Maybe it will help you identify yours if I tell you mine. I am one of those individuals that never stops running. I really don’t know how to rest and relax. In many ways it is my strength but someday it will probably be my undoing.
We will talk about both the hows and the whys, but for now, let’s discuss the whys. Let me start out by telling you, in my case, the why was the tiger. My motivation to succeed was my fear of the pain that comes with failure. To be first, for fear of being last, and at times in my life, to be first, for fear of being second.
My personal life is not much different. Every day I feel I must accomplish something because I do not want the pain of accomplishing nothing. So I run. Not literally, but figuratively. I get up early every day and I look for projects. I need something to do and something to accomplish. If I do nothing, it makes me an easy target for the tiger, and the tiger never rests. Neither do I.
There are three ways to live in the jungle. The most common situation is we forever run from the tiger. Second, we can turn and fight the tiger, but the injuries we would suffer could be terrible or even fatal.
But there is a third option. We can turn and embrace the tiger.
We can discover what chases us and instead of fighting it or running from it, we can use it to our advantage. If we no longer fear the tiger, and use the tiger’s pace to quicken our own, we might indeed catch the lady.
So what’s the moral of the story? Only by facing our tiger, and using that fear to our advantage, will we ever be able to catch the lady.
Don’t miss my next blog, Catching the Lady
Imagine you find yourself in the forest; deep, dark, and dense. You look and listen for things familiar. There is a faint sound in the trees. You sit quietly but you see nothing. All of a sudden, you see the source of the sound. A man is running and running fast. You wonder why.A closer look reveals a possible reason. Running in front of the man is a beautiful lady, long hair falling across her bare shoulders and down to her waist. She glances back, smiles at the man and picks up her pace even more.
Her allusiveness has made him out of breath and needing a rest, but the lady never stops, so the man presses on. The quest to catch the lady has consumed most of his life, but somehow he believes the prize is worth the sacrifice.
But another glance shows the shadow of a third figure. This darkness runs as fast as the man and matches his every step. A little light falls on the shadow and now we know the third figure in the race is a tiger.
His eyes are fixed on the man and his claws dig deep into the Earth as he runs. Never looking left or right, he has but one prey in sight. So what will be the outcome? If the man runs faster, he may catch the lady, but then what? He’s not sure, but he runs all the same. If he slows down he knows he will definitely be caught by the tiger.
So here is the question: Why does the man run? Why do we all run? Are we running from or running to? Is it the prize we seek that makes us run, or the fear of getting overtaken? Most would say the prize, but I disagree. I believe for many, it is the hot breath of the tiger that quickens their pace.
We all recognize the lady. She’s the ribbon for winning the race or the good grade on a test at school. Later, she’s the promotion at work or the bonus for achieving a goal. We know the lady very well, but what about the tiger. Most of the time we’re not sure what the tiger looks like. We would rather not imagine the sharpness of his teeth, but still, we shudder at the thought.
Do we run the race to get the trophy or not to be overtaken by the runners behind us? Do we make good grades in school for our own achievement or to avoid our parents’ disappointment? Do we study hard for the college chemistry to pass or not to fail? Do we marry to be happy or not to be lonely?
I’ve had the good fortune to manage a very large sales force and have always considered myself a leader that motivated others to achieve by painting the dream for them. I was in a meeting with an attorney I admire and trust. He asked, “Do you know why people perform so well in your company? It may be different than you think. They perform because they don’t want to disappoint you.”
I must admit, I was taken aback. But when I think about the man, the lady and the tiger, it makes sense. I have come to believe that most decisions in our personal and business lives are made from fear of loss rather than pursuit of gain. We are running from something rather than running to something.
But is that so bad? Maybe not. Thinking of the tiger’s teeth creates the urgency that may be much greater than the pleasure of the lady’s kiss. Isn’t it results that we desire? Just a thought.
Now you can resume running.
Can a connection to morality be repaired once broken?
Let me propose this to you. If you are lost, you cannot find your way until you find yourself. You cannot find yourself until you face the fact of who you really are and admit that you are lost. Lost, alone and confused, but ready and willing to be found.
Found in this context is an interesting word. Can someone who was lost, grab hold of something stable and find their way? Can they write a narrative for their life and maybe a new code to live by or are they forever lost? I hope to answer that question in this blog. To give you a hint of my position on this matter, I don’t believe anyone is incapable of salvationI had an interesting experience the other day. I was talking to a friend about morals and ethics and said to him, “I want you to imagine something for me.” He seemed perplexed, but willing. “I want you to imagine you grew up in a very dysfunctional family. Your father was a drunk and left your mother when you were only 6 years old. Your mother never got over the hurt and turned to drugs to medicate the pain. With no functioning family, you got in with the wrong crowd and became a troubled youth and then a real problem as a teenager. A few brushes with the law and some time in juvenile detention were just the beginning. But somewhere in your 20’s something changed. A close friend died from an overdose and another went to jail for dealing drugs. You wanted out. Out of the life that was spiraling to destruction. You needed to start over. “What would you do?” I asked this of my friend and he quickly said, “Not an easy answer.” Not an easy question, is it?
Let’s think of it another way. You’re the captain of a sailing ship lost in a storm. When the winds subside and the seas calm down you realize you are truly lost. How do you find out where you are so you can set a course to where you want to be? Can you ever navigate to where you want to be if you don’t know where you are? I don’t think so.
Seems to me you are just like the captain in need of a star. A fixed point in the sea of confusion. So maybe that’s the key but where do you look for a star? Just like the captain, you look upward, of course. In navigation we must first find a seemingly non-moving object in order to use as our sextant or our senses to chart a course.
Where can you find this object that is so solid it can’t be moved? For some it’s family. Family is the solid rock they can navigate toward and from. For the sea captain and many others, it’s the heavens where they came from and where they lean, in times of chaos.
Find that still, unchanging point to look toward, and then build your map around it, no matter whether it’s family, faith or a faraway star. If you want to be found bad enough, you will find yourself. I am sure. Once you are ready, that stable thing in your life will start you building a new map. A moral map based on principles that you can build a life around. But the process of building a new moral map is not easy. It’s not. It first requires desire to change and second a commitment to weather the storms that will surely come.
There’s an interesting force in nature that will pull you back to your past ways. Nature might welcome change in the form of evolving of species but in the case of a persons’s moral direction, change is much more difficult.
Let’s look at this in the case of coping skills. We might work very hard to develop skills to handle difficult situations and in most cases these skills work fine. But what about those situations that push us past our ability to cope? Here’s what happens. We resort to old behaviors in order to survive. That could be shutting down and refusing to engage but it might be the opposite. Our fight or flight system kicks in and we chose to fight. This could be a verbal, but unfortunately, in some cases it results in violence. But that might be the only coping mechanism you know.
Let me give you a sports example from my own life. When I started snow skiing, many years ago, I began with my skis in a wedge. This provided the best control.
Later I graduated to a more parallel position and 95% of the time I glide down the intermediate runs in great control.
But from time to time I become overconfident and stand at the top of a black expert slope. I start down but eventually realize I’m past my skill level and so to regain control, I resort to what? You guessed it. My wedge. My survival skill. Think of this as coping in the worst of situations. Life mirrors the mountain and from time to time we are faced with an expert run full of bumps.
This same situation can occur whenever you’re faced with tough moral and ethical decisions. I can promise, you will resort to old habits unless new habits from your new map are developed and old habits are erased. So how do you develop a new habit if the one you have keeps getting you into trouble?
You must build a new you.