What is the anatomy of a good decision?
What is the process to follow to make a good decision?
What if I do everything right and I end up with a bad outcome? Does this mean I made a bad decision?
What type of information do I use? What info do I need?
How unbiased or biased are those decisions? How can I know?
How much do I trust my gut feeling? and when?
How do you become better at decision-making? What is the metric to use?
You see, I have more questions than answers.
Just a bit about me: I am 36 years old and I’ve had a rich life by the measure of experiences. I was blessed as a child to be what in American slang is called a “military brat”. That gave me the advantage to live in multiple cities within Greece (my home country), go to an international English-speaking school in Italy, and spend a year in the US as a sophomore at an American High School. As an adult, I continued my own journey and lived, studied and worked in Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, and San Francisco. I’ve also traveled to more places. During that journey, I met so many different people by the measure of culture which only made me much more open to ideas, people, and social constructions than I would have been otherwise.
I am not a good decision-maker
A couple of years ago as part of a professional training course, I did a 360-degree evaluation. If you’re not familiar with it, this evaluation collects answers from colleagues, peers and yourself about yourself.
Prior to this evaluation, this is how I would describe myself if nobody was around: hard-working, of average intelligence, thirsty for making a dent in the universe, ambitious, empathetic, honest, a good decision-maker, a bad strategist, anti-social, and vastly insecure.
Going through the 360-degree evaluation I found out about quite a few hidden strengths (my self-assessment on a given skill was much lower than my peers) and quite a few blind spots (my self-assessment on a given skill was much higher than my peers).
What shocked me most was my score on decision-making. I scored the lowest on it from my peers and I scored myself the highest.
Reflecting on it I was ashamed to realize that I have been making lots of decisions throughout my career and life without really knowing what decision-making means or what is the best process to make decisions. I never really looked back to my decisions or their outcomes. I just jumped from the next thing to the other; often without thinking. I thought I was always taking decisions with a good mix of data available and gut feeling. I always thought I was a good “informed gut-feeling” decision maker.
Parenthesis: to say you’re taking decisions with an “informed gut feeling” is BS. You know why? Because it’s a perfect lie to tell yourself so that you feel good about the decision you took: you used data and your gut, so how can you be wrong?
You see, I am an avid tracker of all things you can imagine, steps, calories, mood, thoughts, quotes, books, articles and much more. Nevertheless, I never tracked my decisions, why I took them, what process I used. What mattered most was the outcome:
Good outcome = Good decision = Good Process = Repeat
Bad outcome = Bad decision = Bad Process = Change
That has been my logic subconsciously. I know now it’s flawed to its bone.
Think about this simple decision you might have made today: you crossed the street while the stoplight was red for pedestrians. You probably did this because there was no car coming, or if there was one coming it looked like you could make it.
Think about the outcome: You didn’t get hit by a car. You didn’t die. You were not a cause for others to die. Therefore, it’s a good outcome, so it’s a good decision. So, you should do it again till you actually get hit by a car.
I know, a rather simplistic example but also true. I’ve seen it in business, in life, in myself, and others. We tend to reward and celebrate outcomes but we fail to look back on how and why those outcomes were achieved so that we can ensure that the process of the decisions which led to those outcomes were right.
This realization started a process of reflecting, coming up with ideas on how to track decisions, reading, and repeat. I always wanted to build something around it but I just didn’t have the energy/time to go into it.
I have a “builder’s” curse
This means that any idea I have I want to turn it into a product or a business. Common sense and experience, though, don’t allow me to jump to every side project as I know two things about a side project: 1) it will take me more time than I think, 2) day-to-day business will push me towards dropping it. My startup journey so far has taught me that focus is important, and ideas don’t matter as much as execution and experimentation do.
So I thought: what if I didn’t treat my thirst for learning more about how to make better decisions as a product or a business? What if I didn’t put a deadline to it and embarked on a life-long learning journey to learn about making better decisions and running individual or group experiments?
This is where I am at; I am collecting articles, books, videos and will be running experiments of my own (already did the first, will publish it soon), possibly involving others — selectively — to join me.
The experiments will be presented in the format of quantifiedself Show & Tell presentations, which are made of 3 questions:
- What did you do?
- How did you do it?
- What did you learn?
Here is a quantifiedself talk I gave a while ago about mood tracking following this format:
My primary goal in this journey is to learn from others.
If you’ve made it that far in this post then I will assume you’re interested (or you’re just a dear friend :-) ).
Here is the Ask:
Would you enjoy being part of this journey and learning along with me? If yes, you can sign-up HERE for a mailing list I’m building.
If you join the mailing list here is what you can expect:
- A newsletter of my latest findings and/or experiments.
- Interviews with individuals you might not know, and you should know, who have something powerful to say about making better decisions.
- Polls and/or Surveys.
- Invitations for individual and group experimentation.
Here is what you should NOT expect:
- Ads or promotions. If I feel the need to monetize anything out of this journey I will ask for your explicit consent first.
- A product. I will go against the “builder’s” curse as much as possible. If it happens it will only be because it’s really really needed.
- A Social Media nuthouse. My approach will be to use only a blog (using Medium, later WordPress). I will not create a twitter handle, or a facebook page, or a LinkedIn page, or the next thing that will come up. I will use my own social media handles. I like my sanity.
As a reward for making it that far and hopefully joining the list and helping me learn, below you will find one article I enjoyed recently, one fun video about decision-making, and one random piece of information you didn’t need but might come handy in a date, a business conversation, or simply something to think about when bored.
An Article I recommend
A Video I recommend
A Random Piece of Information You might Never Need
Thanks for reading.