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.