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How To Make The Decisions That Shape Your Life

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Daily Blog #50

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We’re faced with a million decisions throughout our lives.

Some of these are small, almost insignificant;

Do we order a long black today, or a cappuccino? Do we order it from the laneway cafe near home, or try somewhere new? Do we put on the red sneakers or the blue sneakers?

But many of the decisions that we face shape the entire course of our lives, and the lives of the people with whom we interact. Those decisions are monumental. They feel almost crushing.

Decisions about who to ask out. Whether or not you ask your boyfriend to marry you. Whether or not you take that one job that would move you to Silicon Valley, away from the people you love. Whether or not you agree to that contract, or take that one leap that could separate you from the chaff.

Those decisions seem incredibly difficult, while we’re in them. Because we let those decisions drag us down into the fucking mud. And then we wind up covered in crap and floundering.

I want to talk about how some of the world’s best make decisions.

Don’t Listen To People Who Have No Skin In The Game.

It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.

– Thomas Sowell, leading American economist, social theorist, columnist and author.

When we look for advice around our decisions, we often make the mistake of trying to talk to people who don’t have skin in the game. People who won’t be affected by the choice, either way. We think that makes these folks unbiased, so that they’ll give information and advice that is balanced and open.

What we’re actually doing, is seeking advice from people who genuinely don’t give a fuck. They have no reason to give a fuck. If they don’t have skin in the game, the outcomes literally do not matter. So they’ll say whatever sounds good, whatever sounds reasonable and balanced, and none of it will mean anything much to them.

Make Your Decisions Based On What You Actually *Want*

I think most of us are raised with preconceived notions of the choices we’re supposed to make. We waste so much time making decisions based on someone else’s idea of our happiness – what will make you a good citizen or a good wife or daughter or actress. Nobody says, ‘Just be happy – go be a cobbler or go live with goats.’

– Sandra Bullock, actress, producer, author, philanthropist

So many of the crisis moments in our decision making process are based on our pre-conceived ideas of what the right choice is. People yell at us from the day we’re born about what we should do. We should choose career over family, or family over career, depending on the values of the folks who surround you.

We should buy houses, and get into mountains of debt in the process. We should play it safe. We should put down roots. We should settle. We should do everything, the way we’re taught as kids.

But the truth is, that’s not going to lead to any kind of long term happiness. It just won’t. All it will lead to is a re-enforcement of the values of others. And that’s fucked.

Don’t Wait For The Right Time. It Does Not Exist.

There never is a good time for tough decisions. There will always be an election or something else. You have to pick courage and do it. Governance is about taking tough, even unpopular, decisions.

– Jairam Ramesh, Indian politician, journalist and economist

This is the truth. There is never an ideal time to make a difficult decision. There is never an ideal time to make any decision. Ultimately, we have to make a call, one way or another, and delaying it or putting it off just doesn’t help. Jairam is talking about decisions that impact the lives of millions, but it’s just as true for decisions that only impact your own life.

Delaying a decision is, in fact, making a decision. It’s choosing not to engage, choosing not to make a call, choosing not to make progress. The more you do that, the more you are damaging and debilitating your own ability to decide for better or for worse.

You Have To Consider The Big Picture.

No decisions should ever be made without asking the question, is this for the common good?

– Michael Moore, filmmaker, activist, author

This is something that we don’t consider nearly enough. The truth is, when we make decisions, they always seem small. They always seem unimportant. But all those tiny choices are what make up the bigger picture of the world that we’re living in, enjoying, and to some extent, destroying. Sure, it might not seem like your decision about whether or not to take a job at company X or company Y is going to shape the world.

But what if you looked deeper? What if you looked under the hood, and instead of just considering the salary that you’re being offered, or how sexy the startup’s office is, you asked about the long term impact of the company on the health of your own community? That’s something to consider.

Consider Your Courage. What Terrifies You?

In my experience as CEO, I found that the most important decisions tested my courage far more than my intelligence.

– Ben Horowitz, author, founder, venture capitalist

Every time I have a decision to make, it’s the choice that truly scares me that works out being the right one. And that’s the case with many decisions. I think we know, inherently, what the right call is going to be. Because it stops us from sleeping, and it represents the greatest risk and challenge.

Your courage should be tested by your decisions. That’s the dividing line. Courage and cowardice. Do you have what it takes to make the biggest decision of your life? I would bet any money that the choice you’re wrestling with right now isn’t between what choice is wrong and what choice is right. It’s between what choice scares you, and what choice is easy.

Think About The Past. And Look To The Future.

In Iroquois society, leaders are encouraged to remember seven generations in the past and consider seven generations in the future when making decisions that affect the people.

– Wilma Mankiller, first woman to serve as Chief of the Iroquois Nation, author, politician and community leader

We tend to focus either on the past or the future when we make a choice. And then get caught the fuck up on them. We don’t think about the combination of the two. This is one of the most important quotes I’ve ever read about decision making.

If you consider the choices and the good and the lives of the past generations, and you consider the implications on the generations yet to come, you are providing more context for your decision than you ever would have before.

Ultimately, You Can’t Run From Decisions.

🍕 The hard choices are always going to be hard. Nothing makes shit easier for you. There’s no shortcut.

🍕 When you’re faced with a decision that could change your life, don’t flinch. Face it head on. Use the knowledge in this post, and search for more, but know that eventually you have to face it.

🍕 Understand that, right or wrong, a decision made is better than a decision delayed. I know that the choices I’ve made in my own life have lost me more than $1,000,000. I know that objectively. And I don’t care. At least I made a choice.

🍕 At the end of your life, if you’ve lived it right, you’ll have the knowledge that these folks have. But for now, draw on theirs. It’s your best bet.

If you enjoyed this article, please hit that clap button. And just hold it the fuck down. That would be incredible! 👏

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