Advancing Requires Skill

People often expect to do better in future and without much thought sometimes take on counterproductive methods to do so. Bernard Madoff is an example of one who had the skills and the connections to do well, without theft. Evel Knievel became famous attempting and usually succeeding at things that were beyond the reasonable ability of his body to tolerate. Blues guitarist, singer, songwriter, Robert Johnson reputedly sold his soul to the devil.

We know enough to avoid those.

Moving ahead

We can all estimate the value of knowledge, experience, attitude, integrity, and hard work. We can all assess how to acquire those and in what quantities. We can each set about doing it.

Is that enough?

The impediment for many of us

Knowing what to do is not the same as doing it. The first two are theoretical, the third practical. Theory and practice are connected but a strong theoretical basis gets little done by itself.

Decisions connect the two.

Almost all of us have some weakness in our decision making skill.

These are common ones:

Magical thinking – I will move to Hollywood and become a star. It could happen but the odds are not in your favour. There many very attractive waiters and waitresses in Hollywood.

Misunderstanding the prerequisites – Cardiac surgeons make more per year than factory workers or tradespeople. Why? To justify the learning period. If someone must apprentice for 11 years they must be well paid or no one would do it. Their investment is immensely larger than what is made in other careers. Not to mention their emotional risk when practicing. If a bricklayer installs a brick improperly, they likely don’t lose much sleep over it. Not so true for the surgeon.

Inability to finish what we decide – Good decisions must be executed to have effect. Not everyone counts on the discipline, the unanticipated problems, and the things in their life that change and make it harder to move ahead.

Being wrong – not every decision, no matter how well-considered is immune to error. Not many build in the restart plan. Richard Feynman had an idea we should all notice. “If you don’t make mistakes, you’re doing it wrong. If you don’t correct those mistakes, you’re doing it really wrong. If you can’t accept that you’re mistaken, you’re not doing it at all.” Mistakes you correct lead to far better solutions. They lead to the evolved solution.

A newly observed problem.

Daniel Kahneman, Cass Sunstein, and Olivier Sibony published a book last month about decision making. “Noise” Decisions are how we express judgement.

The thesis is that we don’t make the same decision every time we are presented with the same circumstances. Do judges provide more lenient sentences after lunch? Do any two judges arrive at the same result in similar cases?

The variance is “noise.” That variation from the norm we all expect. Sometimes it’s bias, often it’s some set of nearly random factors in the context of the decision. We are all susceptible to that kind of noise.

Usually noise cancels over time. With big decisions you should not rely on that.

Think about it. If our decisions are slightly random, should we consider that? Do we make better investment decisions in February than July? Do we have more energy in May than November? Does it matter if we are a morning person?

If you know your random tendencies, you can factor those into consequential decisions. Sleeping on is not so crazy. Deferred intuition.

I have not yet read the book, but it is ordered. I think I will learn something from it.

The takeaway.

It is one thing to assess the need, the resources, and the time. It is quite another to fit the pieces together and act.

We advance by good decisions. Be sure you develop the skill. Learn how to build good decisions.

Learn how to implement them. Learning more as you advance is a necessity. No decision you make will be the final one. Anticipate the need to change.

Planning is a form of anticipating and allows you to set out some of the likely future situations you will face. Planning supports good decisions.

Then: Just do it!

I help people have more retirement income and larger, more liquid estates.

Call in Canada 705-927-4770, or email

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