After you build a decision-making system, it will change everything because everything in your life results from your decisions.
If you tend to go into analysis paralysis, then the past two week’s emails may have left you thinking every choice in a day requires a full-page analysis.
What I propose is a method for improving outcomes. This is the crux of decision-making.
Think about the deal or no-deal scenario. The prudent action is to take the offer. It is a certain outcome of $80,000.
What could change in your life with a 100% chance of increasing your income by $80,000? Far more than 20% probability of winning $300,000.
However, that one in five chance gets you on the decision roller coaster.
That’s when emotions kick in from resulting.
You imagine spending $300,000, or if you took the $80,000, would you replay it all in your mind and regret not having the guts to take the risk to go big?
All of that is in your head, a potent cocktail of neurotransmitters triggering your lizard brain.
Look at the news of all the paper crypto millionaires. Very few will realize those paper profits and hold on to those profits in a way that creates wealth. Yet, you’ll see them on social media talking up their winnings.
Like the situation with my son and his ear-piercing, it may not be about the act of deciding but the fantasizing and mental gymnastics of the decision—the action.
This email is about some of the insidious mental traps that lurk around decisions.
You will make excellent decisions that result in bad outcomes. The only thing worse is giving up your agency to decide because of fear and confusion.
Our aim is to help you get better at tipping probabilities in your direction. For some, this also means making a decision when it’s got some scary outcomes.
Simply put, most of life is a series of decisions and their outcomes.
What’s makes life purposeful is changing from spending your time after an outcome learning from that decision outcome rather than rationalizing the results.
Please take the time to watch Ray Dalio’s: embrace reality and deal with it. It’s a short video, and it helps to set the tone for how to think.
As an author, you’re familiar with the story structure of the hero’s journey. Why it resonates with so many people is that we are all reluctant heroes of our own stories. We are looking to make the best life and feel unprepared for facing what comes our way.
Ray shares the formula Pain + Reflection = Progress. By reflecting on why something hurt, we can learn from it.
From time to time, you’ll make the wrong decision or make the right decision and get an unforeseen outcome that hurts. It will hurt, and you’re built to rationalize away your responsibility and its impact.
Instead, lean into the lesson.
Why did it hurt?
If the only hurt was a bruised ego, then is it that bad?
Was there a financial or personal loss?
Understand the difference between genuine loss and hurt feelings.
Then there is when we won’t even look at certain possibilities because of our fear, or when we don’t look at options because of our attachments to the status quo.
Identify your fears call them out
Babies are born with only two fears: loud noises and falling. All other fears are learned.
Many of the fears we have are well-founded. They were learned and have brought you through life to this point. The question is if they are limiting you from going to where you can achieve your full potential?
When we fear something, we let our emotions dictate our actions (or inaction).
Is this influencing your decision-making?
Call out this fear and write it down. Walk through what is the worse manifestation of that fear tied to this decision you must make.
Think through how probable is it of happening and if it’s as bad as it seems.
Neglect and Loss aversion
Too often, I’ve been negligent of what I hold dear.
It’s existing clients that pay the bill, not new customers. Yet, most of my energy goes to winning new business.
This isn’t to harp on the retention of clients, but to highlight we typically freak out about losing a client when it’s too late.
I’ve put too much energy into trying to get back to where things were rather than where an outcome inevitably will go.
The flip side is loss aversion. Loss aversion is when you value losing something more than an equal gain, like the status quo. These biases influence our ability to see clearly.
In the test (thank you again if you did that work), the decisions were binary. There was, at worse, a 50% chance of getting the answer wrong. Life rarely gives us decisions that are binary and that there is a right and wrong result. There are shades of right and wrong, unknown outcomes, and only a guess at the payoff in most cases.
If we could look down on your life’s journey, it would look like the branches of a tree. The further out from the present, the more choices. Each decision you make eliminates other branches.
From your perspective, going through life looks like a relatively straight path. You may even have convinced yourself that the path was fated, that you didn’t have a choice.
Both perspectives hold some truth.
The decision-making system attempts to help you change altitude and look down to see more of those branches, or if something you fear, or value is holding you back from a high reward low-risk opportunity.
This is happening for you, not to you
I have a friend that reminds me when I share with him that “this is happening for me, not to me.”
Your life philosophy influences your decision-making.
Many people feel things happen to them and they are bad luck magnets. Others are certain that a divine path is being laid out for them.
Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, having an attitude where there is a lesson to be learned is important. Remember Ray’s formula PAIN + REFLECTION = PROGRESS.
Looking for the optionality of a situation is critical. Does a door closing open up another, or when you get a door slammed on your foot, what is the lesson to be learned?
It is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all.
The chances of making a full-time living from writing is below 1%. Making a million dollars a year is no better than 0.1%. If you’re already making a living, you’ve caught lightning in a bottle.
If you’ve not published and dream of making a living from writing, you’ve decided to do something very difficult. Wisdom suggests that you don’t risk the time and money to try it.
Would that leave you with regret?
Most people who try this will fail to earn a living from their writing.
They will lose money in the pursuit. Likely in the order of tens of thousands of dollars.
If you do try to earn a living and fail to do so, you’re part of the majority.
Failing doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Rather that you got the same results that the 70% of authors get.
What is failure?
Putting out one book and not becoming a bestseller isn’t a failure. No, that’s called getting started.
It will always be painful when your work doesn’t hit the levels you wished, even after you are earning a living full time.
That pain is part of learning. The bigger failure might be not trying and having a life of regret.