Should Some Decisions Fail?

For many people decisions are challenging. They want to be right. Being right has a price — not enough decisions. Therefore not enough practice and in the end not much skill.

Most decisions are made without all the information. The spread between what you think you should know and what you do know is a measure of risk. Most people don’t like risk. Some people cannot tolerate it. Others learn to manage it.

One way to manage this risk is to build a less than perfect decision that includes a test. The presence of the test gives permission to try something. If it works, all good. If it does not work, the test will fail early on. Go back and try something else, but with the added knowledge about what did not work.

As Thomas Edison said, “I do not see myself failing a thousand times when building the light bulb. I see myself having learned a thousand ways that won’t work.”

All education has a price. The price for most of it is recurring failure. Not irretrievable failure but setbacks. Setbacks with a lesson to carry forward to other decisions.

The key to this method is that the decision is reversible for an affordable price. How hard would it be to get back to your original condition? If you cannot get back then you need to learn more or find an alternative way to proceed.

In life there are few decisions where you can know more than 70% of what is possible. Most of what you need in the last 30% is too hard to find, too new, contradictory or complex.

There are no meaningful decisions where you can know 100%. If you cannot get to 100% sure, why bother trying to get much past 70% sure? You will have a better chance of reaching a good result with three tries, the first two of which failed, than you will have of getting all the information you could need.

In tactical situations, the military suggests that candidate decisions should begin when knowledge reaches 40%. Little tentative steps. Test the situation. Not such a foolish idea in life.

Maybe you should ask for a raise, sale, or maybe ask for a date or a job. What can you lose. The worst that can happen is “NO!” When you look at it, you will be in exactly the same place as you were before you asked but with some added knowledge, practice and a clearer path to the future.

No one has a 100% successful close ratio. Some are close but they are the most experienced and perceptive. It is not how they close, it is about how fussy they are in who and what they ask. They spend more time selecting the candidates and they have highly personal and highly refined presentation skills. They look for people that fit them and ignore the ones with whom they would need to change their methods.

When they choose not to be involved it is because they have more productive places to spend their time and energy. It has nothing to do with perfection. They recognize their scarce resource and relate decisions to that.

If you can learn from rejection or failure easily, then you can ask for anything. All it takes is a little courage and the recognition that the other person can say no and you can respect that. Willingness to be rejected together with 30 seconds of courage, will lead to more successes than all the planning you can do.

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario. | Twitter @DonShaughnessy | Follow by email at moneyFYI

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