How to make decisions

I have often thought about the art of making decisions. Not just routine, everyday calls, but the big ones, when you feel that your life is going to change. One of my favorite quotes is that "life all comes down to a few moments" and you really need to have the clarity to identify these life changing ones. But then what? Does this realization of the importance of the decision come with the right answer attached?

Sometimes. It's the clarity of being in the right place and time. The clarity of feeling that today is the first day of the rest of your life. You just know what to do.

Then again, sometimes you just don't know. What do you do then?

Trusting your gut is one way to go. Conventional wisdom (as represented by all the self help/growth/success books) suggests that you should find your calling in life. After all, decisions are based on emotion anyway, according to neuroscience, so you are better off trusting your gut with major decisions.

There are some quotes that really encapsulate this very nicely. One of them is the rule of "30/10" (or something like that), which basically suggests that you need to make decisions as if you had 30 million dollars or just 10 more years to live. Think about it. You consider quiting your job or staying there for another year until you get that promotion they have promised you. What would you do if you just had 10 years to live? Yes, of course you would quit that lousy job.

Put it in a different way: "In the words of the ancients, one should make his decision within the space of seven breaths. It is a matter of being determined and having the spirit to break through to the other side." I repeat: having the spirit to break through to the other side (this is from the way of the Samurai)

There are many success stories of people who have done exactly that. We hear about them everyday. We read about them. But then again, we know that there is a bias associated with this... there are just not many books out there about people who failed while pursuing their dreams. It is less inspiring and less "interesting".

And then some people will actually dare to give you the whole truth, however "uninspiring" it may sound. To quote Antony Bourdain (Kitchen Confidential)

"The most dangerous species of (business) owner - a true menace to himself and others- is the one who gets into the business for love. Love for the song stylings of George Gershwin, love for that great Bogie film he has all that memorabilia from. These poor fools are the chum of the (restaurant) biz, ground up and eaten before most people even know they were around."

How uninspiring is this? You feel the need to challenge it. To say "wait a minute, I will be different. I am going to make it work." And maybe you are right. Yet, I personally think that Antony Bourdain is right. Love and passion are important parts of the "mix". They can really make the difference when all the basics are there. But the basics need to be there.

Coolhunting II: the n+1 dimension

I started writing about cool and cool hunting a few days ago, triggered by a conversation I had with a friend. I posted a question on linkedin and other forums trying to understand what people think about cool, what defines it, how important it is and how to get it.

Most of the stuff that I got back was recycling of existing ideas, suggesting that being cool is absolutely essential. Some people went as far as to say that having a strong brand is synonymous to being cool, suggesting that no other positioning is as desirable. I don't have a problem with that. I get it. Starting from high school, moving to college, your only currency is popularity and in order to be popular you really need to be cool. But it is really strange if you think about it. Being cool means being authentic. Being authentic, sometime means being different, certainly it means not being mainstream. I mean, what is the meaning of being cool when everybody is cool?

How cool is that? Not cool.

In a time where you can buy your passport to coolness for $199 (that's how much it costs to get the new iphone), I wonder what it takes to be "really cool". Maybe cool is not even the righword anymore. Actually, cool is what is used to be "hot", or "in" or even "the knack and how to get it" in the 60's. The name changes, but the desire to be authentic, clever, or stand out is always there.

So how do you go around this?

Everybody seems to agree that being cool means being authentic. I buy that. But what does "being authentic mean"? Does it mean being yourself? Sounds simple enough, at the end of the day all you have to do is be yourself. But this short of authentic doesn't cut it. You need to be authentic but also stand for something that inspires people. So in order to be yourself and be authentic you need to "become" yourself. And we all know that this is a long, very long process. That's why Apple is cool. It is authentic but is far from effortless and "just being yourself". You either need to reinvent yourself all the time or find other ways of staying relevant.

On that note, I feel like introducing the concept of the tenth dimension. Maybe you want to watch the whole movie, but you can find the point that I am trying to make in the first 2-3 minutes, actually it is the third dimension.

I am sure you liked it. So, where am I going with this?

In order to stay ahead of the game and be authentic, you really need to think different. In a two dimensional space you need to introduce the third dimension. According to Rob Bryanton, a higher (N+1) dimension allows someone to transport from one place to another in the existing (n) dimensional space. In other words, instead of trying to find the white space in an existing n-dimensional market, you just need to redefine it. Add another dimension.

Maybe it's just a new way of seeing things. Or maybe it's just another way of saying that you "need to think outside the box".

But it is definitely more cool like that, isn't it?