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Making Great Decisions Quickly

In business and in life, we are constantly faced with having to make decisions. Luckily, most of the decisions we make in a given day are automatic: Should I put on my right shoe first – or my left? Should I chew this food or swallow it?  Should I breathe now or wait until later?

Thank goodness we don’t have to consciously choose between all of the many paths that come our way. That said, there are many decisions that require us to think and actually make choices. Sometimes those choices are easy. But often times we find ourselves stuck, unable to determine which path to take.

So let’s simplify things. In reality, there are only two types of decisions we ever have to make:

Good-Good: Should I choose vanilla or strawberry? I like both flavors and either way I’m having ice cream.

Bad-Bad: Should I fire employee # 1 or employee # 2? I don’t like either choice.

No matter what the decision, there’s always a choice to be made. So the question is, how will you go about making your choice? There are many people who have addressed this issue, but for me there are really only two options: the one Benjamin Franklin taught us and the one I learned from my grandfather. See which one you like best:

Option 1: Do the Ben Franklin thing

  • Step 1: Draw a line down the center of the page, write out your pro’s and con’s.
  • Step 2: Spend hours, days, even years researching and gathering data to be able to put on that list.
  • Step 3: Confuse and overwhelm yourself until you finally give up.

Okay – in truth, there are many who use Mr. Franklin’s method with great success. The problem with it is there is no way that I’ve found to use this method to make great decisions quickly. If you use this method completely, you’ll find that it takes time to work through the process. Unfortunately, some people take so long that their circumstances change and now they have an entirely new problem – or worse, they miss the opportunity all together and the decision is made by default.

Option 2: Do what my grandfather taught me.

My grandfather, Maurice Frank Lipton was a fascinating man. He was a pioneer in the development of pension and other employee benefit plans in the United States. In fact, millions of employees today still enjoy coverage under plans designed by him. He taught at the University of Michigan, published many papers and offered seminars all over the world (sound like anyone you know?).

My grandfather died when I was 8. I was too young to appreciate the difference he’d made in the world – I just liked hanging out with him. But there was one gift my grandfather gave me that I use to this day: He taught me how to make decisions – quickly and effectively. I call it the No Regret Decision Model. Here’s how to use it:

  • Step 1: Ask yourself this question: Which path will leave me with the least regret?
  • Step 2: Go for that one

It’s simple, it’s fast and it works. Of course, as a motivational speaker, I could argue that this is a horribly negative way of looking at the world.  But the truth is, this model for decision-making is extraordinarily powerful. I’ve used it to make decisions about which speaking engagements to accept, which flight to take to my destination, what food to choose for dinner and which cities to call my home. I’ve used it for exciting decisions (when Hal asked me to marry him) and horrible decisions (when the doctors asked me if I would sign a “DNR” for my mom). Every time, my grandfather’s model saw me through.

Let’s face it – when we’re on the Fast Track, we don’t always have time to consider all of the many issues in our decisions. We have to choose and act! So the next time you have a decision to make, whether Good-Good or Bad-Bad, use the No Regret Decision Model. It will serve you well.  Want to test it? Here’s a decision for you to make right now:

Will you share this article with one friend – or with everyone you know? :-)

Wishing you only the best in all of your decisions.

I’ll look forward to seeing you on the Fast Track!


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1 Lorraine McGregor { 03.01.11 at 4:31 pm }

Hey Wendy, I love your grandfather’s decision making process. Every business owner we work with talks about their past decisions with relief or regret, even when they used data, numbers and pros and cons to make the decision. Despite the business world’s best efforts, in the end we are emotional critters and it that feeling of regret that follows us to the next decision clouding all the pros and cons. Well said.

2 Wendy { 03.01.11 at 4:36 pm }

Thanks Lorraine!

3 Aviva Goldfarb { 03.02.11 at 12:28 pm }

Wendy, your grandfather sounds like such a wonderful man, and I love his easy decision making method. I can’t wait to try it as soon as I have a big decision to make.

4 Wendy { 03.02.11 at 12:31 pm }

Thanks, Aviva! I have to tell you – I often use this process for dinner decisions!

5 Connie Greeley { 03.14.11 at 10:19 pm }

Here I am doing things I think I don’t have time for but for you, I have time. Thanks for all the wisdom you share with us; you never let me down. Blessings.

6 Wendy { 03.14.11 at 10:42 pm }

I’m constantly honored by your friendship. Thanks, Connie!