Processing Information To Help You Decide

People with information that suits their particular problem or opportunity situation have an advantage. It is not an advantage that is easily or inexpensively acquired.

The internet is a marvellous tool, but it does not require that you stop using your own judgement.

Several years ago, I was looking through some quotes on the internet and found this one. “Some of the material on the internet is not true.” Abraham Lincoln. The wrong information is worse than no information. With no information, you could be right by accident.

The internet is a marvellous tool, but it does not require that you stop using your own judgement.

More may not help.

Using information well follows a pattern. There are five steps to it.

  1. Data – Data is something you can find. It tends to be sterile and may not be valid.
  2. Information is data that can be shown to be accurate, and the limits to its usefulness are known.
  3. Knowledge is information that can be attached to a larger structure, and you can see how it interacts with other information.
  4. Assignment of meaning. This part is a bit harder. It attaches the knowledge to what you want to use it for.
  5. Wisdom. Check with someone else to overcome biases in your thinking, and then use what you find efficiently.

How it works

Learn to distinguish facts. Opinions are not facts but could give you a place to start the sorting process. Some opinions are not fact-based, and others have only some of what they need for a sound opinion. Sometimes, your knowledge structure can tell you the data being observed cannot be true because it doesn’t fit. The Smell Test.

As your knowledge and experience increase, this becomes more common.

Assigning meaning involves a few tests. Among them are things like, Does the solution fit my budget? Where is this problem on my priority list? If I choose poorly, can I reverse my decision? Is there a time requirement for action?

The wise decision

The wise decision connects your wants and needs to the resources you have and the tools and techniques that are available to you. Before you can decide, you must discover the tools available. These are the tactics that address the situation. Professionals are tacticians. They can usually find more methods than you can. The price will be worth more when you consider how difficult it is to find and understand complex tools. Try reading your house insurance or car policy to get to the details.

Some decisions are not crucial.

For these, you can usually work with summaries of meaning provided by others. You don’t need to know much about the tax law surrounding RRSPs or TFSAs. As the decision matters more to you, attaching meaning often means learning more.

The bit to take away.

We control the future by deciding what we want, selecting a way to get it, and then doing it. Even carefully done, few decisions are entirely correct, and almost all have or develop a flaw. You enhance the outcome by adjusting as you learn more.


I build strategic, fact-based estate and income plans. The plans identify alternate ways to achieve spending and estate distribution goals. In the past, I have been a planner with a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency, a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business. I have appeared on more than 100 television shows on financial planning. I have presented to organizations as varied as the Canadian Bar Association, The Ontario Institute of Chartered Accountants, The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and Banks – from CIBC to the Business Development Bank.

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