Known as the Ecom Warrior, Matt Lepre is an Australian digital entrepreneur and thought leader targeted toward Millennials and Gen Zers.
As a young, successful entrepreneur with a public profile, I am often asked to reflect on how and why I achieved what I have in business. Was I just lucky, or were there certain characteristics, actions and behaviors that made the difference? People want to know the secret sauce of success. They may see me representing some aspects of the life they want to live, and they are identifying the distinctions between who they are right at this moment and who they want to be.
When I reflect on what may be the distinctions of success, what continues to stand out above most is the necessity to make firm, active decisions in a world where choice is infinite and fear of failure is rife. Decision making prowess is an important piece of my arsenal in business success.
I remember reading about Henry Ford in Think and Grow Rich and his success with “reaching decisions quickly and definitely, and changing them slowly.” Since then, other philosophies have arisen that challenge this famous idea, suggesting that there are certain types of “deciders” and stating that the ones that take a little longer tend to make better decisions (although they are ironically less happy with the results). But I think there is no question that decisions are getting tougher in the face of a lightning paced world.
So, what have we learned from this when it comes to making decisions, and how does it align with my own strategies around decision making? How is the present day affecting the types of decisions we make and the required speeds for making them? For a start, I think we must acknowledge that, in the present day, slow decision making could have a significant negative impact on your business. If it’s not a virus that can rapidly spread around the world, it’s technology that can render an entire business strategy out of date. We all know the stories of great companies like Blockbuster Video falling victim to a rapidly changing landscape. But these companies saw the writing on the wall for sometimes years. These days, it seems like the same change to effect can occur in weeks, and I think this only going to get faster.
The culture changes alongside technology. Previous generations may have stayed working as an employee for one company for their entire employed life. My generation of millennials and Gen Z are more likely to switch jobs according to data from Gallup (registration required) and, therefore, must be able to adapt to their environment and be able to create their own stability.
But making decisions for the sake of deciding is certainly not enough. Rash decisions are still a very real risk. Ego or current success can lead people to make risky decisions. So, how do you balance the risk of making bad decisions with the risk that comes with not making them at all? Well my strategy is pretty straightforward and for the most part has served me very well. In fact upon reflection, most of my regrets come from the moments in my life where I didn’t follow my proven track. Here is my seven-step process to making decisions:
1. Understand and accept that making the perfect or safe decision will never truly exist. You must be able to accept that there will be both positively and negatively perceived consequences of your decisions.
2. Gather the data. Write out pros and cons of the decisions you face. Recognize the risk and be okay with failure. Accepting that you’ll adapt and make it through if it all goes pear-shaped can be incredibly liberating and make it much easier to move forward into the unknown.
3. Assess whether the choices align with your values. I’m a big believer in the philosophy that knowing yourself makes decisions easier.
4. Leverage the knowledge and experience of the people you respect, like mentors or teachers — people who are qualified to give you advice. Add their expertise to your gathering of data. “Smart people learn from their mistakes; wise people learn from other people’s mistakes,” is another one of my favorite quotes.
5. Breathe and get in touch with your body. When thinking about the decision, how does it make you feel? But don’t confuse your instincts with your fears. They are not the same thing. Fear can block your higher-self messages. I’ve found self-love is the antidote of fear of failure.
6. Recognize that the regret that comes from not deciding is almost always worse than the fear of making the decision.
7. Trust yourself. I believe there is an unexplained fortune that really does favor the bold decision maker. Once you move forward, I’ve found that the natural laws of the universe will more often than not land on your side.
With these rules by your side, decision making can become more effective for you. As you move forward on your choices, continue to test and measure as you go. But, while remaining flexible and agile in your decision making, don’t let this be an excuse to respond to your emotions. If your theories and strategies are proven successful, hold onto them in the face of a storm, but if the data and reality shift, be willing to swerve with them.
Let go of needing to be right all the time. It’s exhausting. In most cases, when you get it wrong (which can become rarer the more you practice), all you need to do is pick yourself up, dust yourself off, learn from your mistake and get on with it again. Adopt these strategies and embrace your daily and life decisions before you pay the price for inaction.