Monday Velocity - Better Decision Making

published11 months ago
4 min read

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Better Decision Making

Our success in most endeavors ultimately boils down to our ability to make good decisions. Depending on what you’re pursuing, these decisions must often be made with incomplete information, under varying levels of pressure and stress, and generally have a large impact on the future.

When confronted with these situations, many people freeze up. They seek more information than is necessary and are uncomfortable with uncertainty. Some of the most talented people get stuck in place because they are unwilling to act, instead trying to weigh options until the moment has passed them by.

Creating a decision-making framework for yourself is a good way to build systems where they typically don’t exist. The next time you have to make a tough decision in suboptimal conditions, you can fall back on your systems instead of shooting from the hip. As we will see, successful people in positions of power almost always create frameworks and systems to fall back on.

Jeff Bezos was once asked about his typical day at the helm of Amazon. In the early days, he had to do everything; there were hundreds of small decisions to be made each day and he was often shipping packages himself while steering the company in the right direction. As the company grew, he aimed to increase his impact with fewer, more important decisions.

“As a senior executive, what do you really get paid to do?” Bezos once said. “You get paid to make a small number of high-quality decisions.” When asked to put a number on this statement, Bezos replied, “[T]hree good decisions a day, that’s enough, and they should just be as high quality as I can make them.”

In this interview, he also highlighted the prolific investor, Warren Buffet, who once gauged his success on making 3 good decisions a year. When it comes to long-term investments, each decision carries substantial weight; Buffet aims to learn as much as he can, and act with conviction when the time is right.

The importance of decision-making is clear, but how can we overcome our natural paralysis when it comes to these tough moments? Former President Barack Obama has a 3-step framework he often relied on when it came to making tough decisions that would affect the future of our country.

First, he aimed to swap certainties for probabilities. Obama once said that many of his decisions were made with just over half of the information. It is almost impossible to solve every problem, or know every detail. In these instances, you must ask yourself what the probability of certain factors is, and weigh these probabilities to decide on how to take action. Nothing will ever be certain, but we can certainly predict the likelihood of different outcomes.

From there, Obama recommends getting the smartest people in the room. Who in your circle is well-versed in this situation? Who can you turn to for advice or guidance? In life, we must all build our own “board of advisors” where we can voice our questions, comments, and concerns. Turn to people you trust, and people smarter than you, when you get stuck.

Lastly, he always tried to ask dumb questions. We often let our ego get in the way when trying to make important decisions. We pretend we know more than we do to avoid the embarrassment of being wrong. This is the opposite of what we should do in difficult situations. If we can admit we don’t know the answers, and instead ask as many questions as we can to better understand the situation at hand, we will make a better decision in the end.

Making hard decisions is necessary if you want to be successful. The environments in which these decisions must be made are always challenging, but creating a reliable framework for yourself to refer to will remove the emotion from these situations and allow you to take action. We can learn a lot about these systems and processes from those who have experienced success in important roles; take what works for you and focus on always having a bias toward action instead of indecision!

Hit List

The articles this week shed a bit more light on the decision-making frameworks I described:

Jeff Bezos: "Why Jeff Bezos always thinks three years out and only makes a few decisions a day" by Jade Scipioni

This articles is a deep dive into Bezos' framework, and why he believes it's so important to limit his decisions each day. While most of us are not in the same position, focusing on high-quality decisions and creating a system for doing so will serve all of us well.

Obama: "Borrow Obama's Simple 3-Part Strategy for the Toughest Calls" by Jessica Stillman

There aren't many positions tougher than being the head of a global superpower. Political beliefs aside, the office of the President brings with it many difficult decisions. Creating simple rules to better our ability to act in high-pressure situations is helpful for anyone.

What I'm also reading: "Man of Extremes" by Dana Goodyear

James Cameron is a juggernaut in the film industry, and someone I have always respected for the fact that he swings for the fences. Very few filmmakers are willing to play in a sandbox that large, and it takes a level of resolve and creativity that is unparalleled. I didn't know much about him otherwise, so this article was a cool read for me!

The Lean List Goal Setting Template

This goal-setting system was born out of a desire to help my clients who were struggling to put words into action. It went through many iterations until it evolved into its current version. If you want a complete goal-setting system that will help you do a self-assessment and create meaningful habits, all with examples provided, look no further!

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Justin Wright

Former chemist, former pro athlete, and current film producer sharing the lessons I've learned along the way.

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