My dad (Chubby) didn’t start life with advantages (like he gave me).
His dad died when he was young, and he was raised by a single mom who worked two jobs and could not afford to send him to college. He also had no father figure to guide him (like he did for me).
Yet without a mentor or an education, Dad found a way to build a successful real estate firm. He was also respected as one of the smarter businessmen in Cincinnati.
While growing up Chubby told me a key to his success was disciplining himself not to make stupid mistakes. He knew he had no safety net. One big, horrible decision could set him back years.
Because Chubby got me thinking about the importance of avoiding mistakes by making more disciplined decisions, I have, over the years, identified factors that might cause me to make a bad decision.
We all make mistakes, then look back and wish a MENTAL GREMLIN had jumped up and yelled (loudly): “Stop you fool, that MAKES NO SENSE.”
Think of these mistake avoidance techniques as MENTAL GREMLINS inside your head who yell “STOP” when you’re about to screw up.
We have a tendency to presume that more information is better information. Sometimes that’s true. Often it’s not. Judging from the quantity (and deplorable quality) of today’s political television commercials, politicians are attempting to take advantage of our “more is better” bias.
TAKEAWAY: Don’t presume quantity of information is quality of information.
Studies show that information acquired recently influences our decisions more than information acquired long ago. We are biased to assume that what we learn today is more accurate than what we learned yesterday. Often that’s not true.
TAKEAWAY: Don’t presume that recent information is decent information (or that recent advice is decent advice).
Even when they’re not asked, friends often volunteer advice (and knowledge) because they want to be helpful. Just because people care about us doesn’t mean they know what’s best for us. It’s usually better to get advice from someone who really knows even though they may not personally care.
TAKEAWAY: Don’t presume a caring friend is a knowledgeable friend.
I have a friend who won’t engage in meaningful relationships because her first husband was a loser. That’s like a child who won’t get back on her bike because she fell and scraped her knee.
TAKEAWAY: Don’t make broad decisions based on narrow experiences.
Failure to do the appropriate amount of diligence is a HUGE reason we make bad decisions. But remember, diligence should be in proportion to the importance of your decision. Deciding where to eat lunch shouldn’t require the same degree of research and thought as choosing someone to care for your child.
TAKEAWAY: Do diligence in proportion to importance.
Salespeople create reasons why we should act swiftly. It’s their job to close sales. But a hasty decision is likely to be a regretted decision. When you know you’ll be in a sales situation, prepare in advance with a reason you won’t decide at the moment. State in advance that you won’t make a decision now. You can always change your mind, but at least you won’t feel pressured to make a decision.
TAKEAWAY: Make decisions through considered analysis rather than pressured paralysis.
Know whether time is working for or against you. Moving slowly often favors buyers because things typically decline in price and improve in quality. Moving quickly often favors sellers because time on the market diminishes the price of everything from cars to homes. In almost every situation time should be a relevant factor in making decisions.
TAKEAWAY: Before you decide, consider the impact of time.
What may seem like a big decision is not a big decision if you can change your mind. Because circumstances change, what looks like a good decision today might turn into a horrible decision tomorrow. So try to carve escapes into your commitments, even if you don’t think you’ll need them. The bigger the decision, the more important it is to have an escape hatch.
TAKEAWAY: Having an escape makes a good decision a better decision.
One last thing. Sometimes our MENTAL GREMLINS make mistakes too. If this happens to you, remember that bad decisions can make great stories.