If you want to accomplish more things in life, you have to learn to make decisions quickly.
Did you know that I often go out for coffee when brainstorming for new Your Wealthy Mind articles? Bonifacio Global City (BGC)’s High Street area is like a long open park with shopping mall-like stores, quality restaurants, and good coffee shops. Aside from the usual Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and Seattle’s Best, there’s also my favorite Filipino coffee stores like Bo’s, Figaro, and Local Edition. There’s also Cafe de Lipa in Market Market and % Arabica near 30th street.
It takes me around 20 minutes of walking before I finally decide where I want to stay, order coffee, and then think about all the new lessons and articles I want to write for you here. Unfortunately, that’s not a good thing and it’s not about “overpriced coffee” this time.
How to improve your decision making skills
Procrastination brings failure
A lot of international chess tournaments use a format called “blitz” chess. You have a minute or so to decide your next move and if you don’t make one you lose a turn and the enemy gets to attack.
Unfortunately for us, life has similar rules. Time passes by whether you do something or not, and back luck tends to happen to people who do nothing. If you don’t decide to wake up early and commute to work every day, you get fired. If you don’t get a job to earn money, then you can’t pay for food and you become homeless and hungry. If you don’t decide to perform maintenance on your car, it’ll break down much faster than you’d want. The point here is simple: If you don’t make a decision and act, you lose.
Why you must make firm decisions
1. Decisions kill fear and make you more effective
In my parkour article I told you about how I learned to jump and leap over obstacles effectively. If I’m afraid of leaping to the next platform because I might fall and get injured, I’ll probably hesitate on the jump, fail to land properly and THEN get injured. If I decide to jump even if I might fail and get injured, I can usually jump full force without hesitating and that commitment alone increases my chances of success.
2. Decisions kill regrets
Have you stayed awake at night thinking about some past job offer, business, or investment opportunity that you regretted not taking because you took too long to decide and someone else got it The next time you find another good opportunity but you are not sure if you want to take it, remember that it’s always alright to say “NO” to great opportunities if you’re not ready. The world hasn’t ended yet and you’ll always find better ones.
3. Decisions increase your chances of winning
Opportunities will keep passing you by if you do nothing, so make sure to make a decision with each one. Make a decision to leave those opportunities that are not good for you and those you don’t really want to take, and stop imagining all the “what ifs”. For opportunities you took and failed, treat it as a lesson. For those you took and succeeded at, treat them as another victory and move on to the next ones. In a one hour basketball game, it’s better to take 100 unsure but good shots and land only 10 than waste the entire game deciding which single shot or position you want to take.
How to improve your decision making skills
1. Never assume
Jerry Belson once said “Never ASSUME, because when you ASSUME, you make an ASS of U and ME.” Imagine firing one of your employees when they couldn’t report to work. You thought they were just being lazy when in reality they got into a car accident and were hospitalized for a day. Imagine angrily dropping the phone because you thought it was another telemarketer when it was the company representative who wanted to offer you a better position and salary.
In the Philippines we have a saying, “maraming namamatay sa maling akala.” (Many have died from wrong assumptions). Before you decide, you must always attempt to get the most important facts first.
2. Trust your gut
This is a tip most top leaders like Jack Welch (former CEO of GE) use, and it’s so important it’s being taught to soldiers deployed in war zones (read Left of Bang by Van Horne, Riley, and Coyne). Our brain processes a LOT more information than we consciously think about. Just imagine how you can think of the last TV show you watched while you’re driving in a busy highway. You don’t need to concentrate on the other cars around you or think of how you will step on the brakes when the bus in front of you stops. If you’re an experienced driver, your mind does the calculations automatically.
3. Make a decision even if you don’t have all the details
Imagine that you attended a party on a Saturday and you just left it at 2 am. You’re walking home that night and you see someone in a dark alley wearing a hood, shades, and face mask. That person has their hands in their pockets and they’re walking diagonally toward you from behind. What should you do?
A wise choice would be to run. Of course, you shouldn’t “assume” that he’s a criminal up to no good right? (Did you also assume it was a “he”?) They might be from a rival company offering to give you an executive position at their new branch you know! Well, that’s unlikely.
This might run counter to the “never assume” rule, but it doesn’t. Like I said before, “you must get the most important facts first”. What important facts did you get from the encounter? First, the person was wearing a hood, mask, and shades to conceal their identity. It’s mostly only celebrities or criminals who don’t want to be identified who do that. Next, they were hiding in a dark alley at 2am and they’re approaching you from behind. That pattern is consistent with how criminals try to get their victims. The information is limited (you don’t know their true intent), but it’s enough for you to make a decision. What should you do? Trust your gut/instincts. You RUN to safety (hopefully to the nearest police station).
The Millionaire’s Test
Andrew Carnegie, one of the wealthiest men of his time, noticed that his great wealth came from his knowledge and all the life lessons he learned from experience. He wanted someone to develop a philosophy based on what he and his successful friends learned, and he wanted them to teach it to others. He interviewed over 250 candidates until he came across a young man sent by a magazine to interview him.
After the interview, Carnegie told the young man about that project and he asked him if he would volunteer to spend decades, at least 20 years, doing all of the research in order to complete that philosophy of success. The young man thought for a moment and answered, “Yes, I will not only undertake the job, but I will finish it!”
Carnegie was holding a stopwatch at the time. If the young man didn’t decide in 60 seconds, the opportunity would have been withheld. The young man answered in 29 seconds.
You probably know that young man. He was Napoleon Hill, the author of Think and Grow Rich and one of the most famous and most successful self-help authors of all time.
Carnegie explained why he was timing the answer:
“It has been my experience that a person who cannot reach a decision promptly, once all of the necessary facts for a decision at hand are explained, cannot be depended upon to carry through any decision that person may make. I have also discovered that those who reach decisions promptly usually have the capacity to move with definiteness of purpose in other circumstances.”
In short, those who are slow at making decisions usually fail to do what they want and those who make decisions quickly can usually get things done.
The ability to make decisions quickly is incredibly helpful and it’s something worth practicing. Is there a decision you’ve been putting off recently? A plan to take a vacation, career move, a business or office purchase, or something else? You can accept, reject, or do something else about them. Whatever the case, you have to make a decision and the sooner you do it, the better.
The world will forgive you if you make mistakes, but it will never forgive you if you make no decisions.
— Napoleon Hill