In 2008, I decided to go back to school while working full time. Because I was motivated, I assumed I could handle a large course load. I decided to take on four courses for my first semester. Long story short, I ended up taking an incomplete for two classes that semester. Because of my poor initial decision-making, I began my educational journey from a negative experience.
Former professional poker play, Annie Duke, knows a thing or two about decision-making. Annie won more than $4 million in tournament money before retiring in 2012. Now a full-time author, speaker and decision strategist, Annie offers keen insights for those wanting to improve their decision-making. One question Annie will often ask a person in making a decision is this: Wanna bet?
This question forces a person to evaluate their decision through the lens of confidence. And an accurate picture of what is objectively true breeds more confidence. Annie says, “In a bet, the winner has the most accurate representation of the objective truth.” In other words, sound decisions are not about being right; they are about being accurate.
We make decisions based on the facts we have at the time. We might call these facts data points. These data points are critical to gaining the most accurate representation of what is objectively true. These data points influence the emotional part of our brain, which contributes to the construction of our picture of what is true. It is from this representation that decisions are made.
I based my decision to take on four courses from only two data points. First, I was highly motivated. Second, I had many courses to get through to finish my degree. Looking back, I immediately recognized three data points I either didn’t know about or chose to ignore. First, my wife reminded me that this school program was a complete unknown and suggested I try out a course or two first. I didn’t listen (that’s another article). Second, I had been out of school for 18 years and did not have study habits at that point in time. Third, I neglected to investigate thoroughly the course load that would be required. Adding these three data points, in addition to the other two, would have given me a more accurate representation of reality.
When facing a decision, it is reasonable to assume that the fewer data points I have, the less accurate representation I have of what is objectively true. Conversely, the more data points I have, the more accurate picture I have of what is objectively true. Thus, we are left with an important question to consider: Do I have a reasonable amount of the right data points and enough of them for an accurate representation of reality?
As a leader, you are likely facing multiple decisions throughout your workweek. Therefore, I encourage you to give thought to the quality of your decisions. For example: What data points am I using currently to represent reality in this decision? Do I have enough data points to represent what is objectively true? Who might offer me additional data points to help me construct a more accurate representation of reality?
The journey to perfect decisions is one in which we will never arrive. However, our experiences have much to teach us about our decision-making. As Mark Twain once said, “Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from making bad decisions.” Whether through the good or bad, I wish you a life of decision-making success.
Erik Dees is a partner with Milestone Leadership in Siloam Springs. Milestone Leadership’s Mission is to “Build Leaders Worth Following.” The opinions expressed are those of the author.