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Posts tagged decision making
The Power of No

I'm beginning to learn more and more the power that comes with saying "No." I detail how (and why) to say "no" in Simplify Your Life, but I'll admit - turning down opportunities and offers is a constant struggle of mine. But, the feeling of saying "no" at the right time is powerful. Doing so can free you to focus on what matters and focus your energy on the tasks and events you're most exited about.

I wasn't sure whether to detail the following scenario here or in my Speak UP newsletter, but after much thought I concluded that the lessons I learned by saying "no" recently could benefit all my readers.

Last week, I turned down an all-expenses-paid trip to India. To speak. With entrepreneurs. Thousands of them.

I know what it looks like. I still can't help but cringe a bit as I type. I said "no" to a free trip to India to do what I love.

When the offer appeared in my inbox and I followed up (which was then followed by a bit of online research and poking around in my network), I was excited. But then the details began to shake out.

The event was at a time when I really need to be home with family. The travel - while paid for - would be long and not so glamorous. The time I'd actually have in India would be very limited. I wouldn't be compensated for speaking. The media opportunities promised might not work out in the best way. All in all, to have said yes would have been a significant cost in terms of money, time, and relationships.

After digging, it became easy to politely say "no" to this opportunity.

As soon as I hit send on the email declining the host organization's offer, I waited for the onslaught of regret to wash over me. But it never came. I thought I'd soon kick myself for wasting a chance to speak in India, but I never felt it.

I didn't feel regret because saying "no" was the right decision. My mind and body and heart and soul were at peace. I said "no" and moved on.

And here's the power of saying "no" to the opportunities that don't fit. There is no regret when you make the right decision. If the opportunity doesn't fit, doesn't help you, doesn't play to a strength of yours, or isn't all it seems to be, then declining it is okay. In fact, saying "yes" to it could be detrimental to your career, your sanity, or your family.

Best of all, saying "no" reinforces your values, both to others and yourself. When you say "no" to something, you're making a claim about what's important. In my case, saying "no" reinforced my commitment to my family and the time I'm spending to grow my speaking career. Many times, saying "no" conveys what we believe as much as saying "yes" does.

The main trick when we say "no", however, is to move on. Not all decisions will be as easy as mine. Some decisions will be much tougher and we could feel some pangs of remorse after turning someone or something down. In order to fight through that, we have to put the instance out of our minds. We said "no" and the case is closed. We can't look back and wonder.

If we do, we might inadvertently ignore that perfect "yes" that's coming our way.

When have you said "no"? Any stories about saying no and it being the perfectly right decision?

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If You're a Manager, Then You're a Teacher, Too

Are you in charge of something? Do you manage other people? Then regardless of what your Myers-Briggs results say, you also have the duty to teach. Remember: classrooms are usually the last place we learn something. My daughter (who's two) is really into puzzles. She's beginning to graduate from the puzzles with set shapes (where only one piece goes in a certain section) to those puzzles with real pieces, like you and I do. And as she does the puzzles, I watch.

She's starting to learn where certain pieces go and when to tell that a piece doesn't fit. Sometimes, she struggles to try and fit a piece exactly. And as she struggles, I watch.

It's important for her to learn to keep trying. While I want to step in and right a piece a few degrees so it fits more quickly, I understand that as a parent, I have to wait patiently and watch her struggle. It is in the struggle that the learning happens because real knowledge comes when we try things, even if we fail at them. My daughter would gain nothing from me making the puzzle easier.

It's the same with those of us who manage people. Especially when we have a young, first-timer on board, we can want to step in and showcase our experience or expertise. We can want to show them how it's done to save time and money. We can want to feel important.

But we need to let them struggle. They need to jump into the deep end to see if their arms and legs and lungs can work together to make them swim. They need to try. And to fail. They need a chance to succeed.

If you're a manager, you're a teacher, too. Consider part of your role to instruct and to create learning opportunities. You'll be around, of course, with a watchful eye and a life preserver in case of emergency. But my guess is that you'll be happily surprised at just what your team can do when you let them get wet.

The best thing your employee could say about you is, "She taught me so much..." instead of "She always just did it for us."

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Finishing Well [Video post]

Starting things can be an exciting process; the newness, the frenzy, and the unpredictably is often intoxicating. But, finishing things is just as important. I think our legacy depends on it.

In the clip below, I share a story of why we need to finish well. The things you're working on right now matter more than you may realize.

Can't see the video? Click here.

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Three Articles That Will Make You a Better Parent

Parenting is a weird task that gets easier and harder at the same time. Just when you've figured something out about taking care of your child, a new challenge crops up to remind you that you kind of suck at this. Ultimately, the best you can hope for is to parent in a way that leaves your child emotionally connected to you, feeling safe and secure, and tattoo-free until she's 18. Bedtimes, TV patterns, and toy accumulation can be flexible to keep you sane. Just make sure she doesn't get tattooed before she can vote. I've found the following three articles very helpful over the last few months as my daughter is fully two years old. She's starting to not just have opinions (mainly about how much time she'd like to spend at the park or eating ice cream) but also to forthrightly articulate them to her mother and I. I know that these momentary struggles will pass and we'll be on to other issues like potty-training, homework, driving, and tattoo prevention. So, as she grows, I'll keep the core ideas of these articles close at hand.

1) How to Parent Like the French

This article got some online traction last month in advance of a book about the same topic being released (kudos to Kottke.org for the link). The main point is that the French way of parenting (and living, I'd say) produces children that seem to better understand boundaries and behavior. French children (in comparison to American kids) seem to throw tempter tantrums less and obey parents more. The reason has to do with the boundaries and processes put in place by parents very early on so that children respect the requests made by their moms and dads. From the article:

The French, I found, seem to have a whole different framework for raising kids. When I asked French parents how they disciplined their children, it took them a few beats just to understand what I meant. "Ah, you mean how do we educate them?" they asked. "Discipline," I soon realized, is a narrow, seldom-used notion that deals with punishment. Whereas "educating" (which has nothing to do with school) is something they imagined themselves to be doing all the time.

One of the keys to this education is the simple act of learning how to wait. It is why the French babies I meet mostly sleep through the night from two or three months old. Their parents don't pick them up the second they start crying, allowing the babies to learn how to fall back asleep. It is also why French toddlers will sit happily at a restaurant. Rather than snacking all day like American children, they mostly have to wait until mealtime to eat. (French kids consistently have three meals a day and one snack around 4 p.m.)

The rest of the article focuses on the need to teach delayed gratification - that kids can't have what they want when they want it all the time. It seems as if that lesson can be learned, children can grow up balanced and grounded.

2) You're Responsible for Yourself - Make Good Decisions

My friend and colleague Anderson Williams penned this piece. About to be a new dad, he reflects back on how his parents raised him and what that means for the way we collectively raise and teach youth today.

While growing up, Anderson heard constant reminders from his parents that he was to make good decisions and was ultimately responsible for those decisions he made. He remembers:

Although as a teen I may have rolled my eyes hearing these words over and over again, I knew what Mom meant, and I knew that she was reminding me of a social contract we had. I got freedom and opportunity as long as I showed that I was responsible enough to handle it.

And, I knew I would be held accountable if and when my responsibility lapsed. I also knew why. There was no question and no fight. I knew what was expected of me and I knew when I had failed those expectations. Candidly, with a teenage son, my Mom knew I would screw up. The question was how badly and how would I respond.

While teaching responsibility isn't like teaching addition, it is possible to teach it in the context of relationships. Then, the idea of accountability is introduced, which leads to any of us understanding how to make better decisions.

3) 9 Essential Skills Kids Should Learn

Leo Babauta has another insightful post. As a minimalist and a father who understands the world is rapidly changing, he is working hard to homeschool - and unschool - his children. From that, he offers up nine skills that children should be learning. If a young person has these skills, she'll be able to adapt and grow in an ever-changing world. He writes:

9. Dealing with change. I believe this will be one of the most essential skills as our kids grow up, as the world is always changing and being able to accept the change, to deal with the change, to navigate the flow of change, will be a competitive advantage. This is a skill I’m still learning myself, but I find that it helps me tremendously, especially compared to those who resist and fear change, who set goals and plans and try to rigidly adhere to them as I adapt to the changing landscape. Rigidity is less helpful in a changing environment than flexibility, fluidity, flow. Again, modeling this skill for your child at every opportunity is important, and showing them that changes are OK, that you can adapt, that you can embrace new opportunities that weren’t there before, should be a priority. Life is an adventure, and things will go wrong, turn out differently than you expected, and break whatever plans you made — and that’s part of the excitement of it all.

We can’t give our children a set of data to learn, a career to prepare for, when we don’t know what the future will bring. But we can prepare them to adapt to anything, to learn anything, to solve anything, and in about 20 years, to thank us for it.

Go read his other eight suggestions. I feel better about the unpredictable future for my daughter now that I have a list of things I'd like her to learn, other that data or facts that may not be applicable in a few years' time.

4) Okay, one more good one

I was also reminded of this article I read last year, when my daughter had just turned one. In response to another online post about what a four-year-old should know, the author makes a compelling case that being able to name all the planets or having legible penmanship isn't what a four-year-old should be concentrated on knowing. Rather, a child should know that she's loved, safe, and how to imagine. Go read the rest of the recommendations.

Parenting is hard. We need ideas, resources, wisdom, and humor to do it well. Share articles you've found helpful in the comments and let's tackle this great adventure together.

Why You Should Say "No" More

Saying no is tough (it's so hard that I've provided a template before on how you should do it). Saying yes gives us an adrenaline rush, as Tony Schwartz points out in this article. Saying yes is easy, convenient, and makes us feel good. But, it's time we stopped saying yes so much. Each time we overuse it, the value of our yes decreases. We need to say no more - for the sake of our companies, our progress, and our sanity.

Before you go declining every opportunity that comes your way, here are three scenarios in which you should say no:

If the opportunity does not play to a strength of yours, say no.

If someone wanted me to sing at an event, while I may enjoy being on stage, the act of singing (when I do it) has been known to clear a room.

If the opportunity does not align with your company’s strategic goals, say no.

Nothing will get your business off track faster than doing work that is not helping it grow or succeed.

If the opportunity is not mutually beneficial, then say no.

Many times, you’ll get requests to work together or to form an alliance only because the person asking is looking for a free ride. If you get this feeling say no until the other party is willing to put in equal effort to bring about success.

Better yet, before you say yes or no to an opportunity, first pause to ask "Why?" The answer to that question should shape your yes or no more than the request itself.

What tips do you have for saying "No?"

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Get off the Carrousel

Many of us, in work and in life, are stuck on a carrousel. Sure - it can be fun at times. But, the constant going around in circles is getting to us. Another day, another revolution, and we're right back where we started.

The constant motion and the ups and downs make it feel like we're going somewhere, but by being honest with ourselves, we realize that we haven't made any progress at all.

We've lulled ourselves into a false sense of achievement. We've distracted ourselves enough to think that the ride is worth it.

It's time to get off.

Worst of all, from our carrousel, we can see the people who aren't on one. The people making real progress, moving forward, off to somewhere else. They're going places. We're stuck.

The only difference between them and us is that they had the courage to step off and back away.

This weekend, resolve to stop riding and start moving.

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How to Decide

One of the biggest goals I have as a parent is to teach my daughter how to make decisions. Helping her understand right from wrong, good choices from bad ones, and learning about tradeoffs and opportunities, will enable her to know what to do when faced with peer pressure, opportunities to grow, and what to do when there's a fork in the road. Seth Godin, in his signature succinct style, sums it up nicely by saying:

The art of good decision making is looking forward to and celebrating the tradeoffs, not pretending they don't exist.

Hindsight is perfect especially if we all knew then what we know now, but this is not how life is lived. Making decisions can be hard for any of us. Is now the time to start our business? Should I ask her out? Will a cold call work if I want to land that client? Should I go to the doctor to have that checked out? Is that the right vacation for us?

Questions plague our lives, but as long as they remain questions, we remain motionless. The goal of decision making isn't 100% certainty. The goal of decision making is forward motion. 

Peter Block says this in his book (one of my favorites), The Answer to How is Yes. As the title suggests, too much time spent wondering how you're going to pull something off may delay you from actually getting to work. And it's not until you move that you'll see how successful something can be (or not).

I don't make lists of pros and cons. Life isn't symmetrical like that. Instead of weighing my options and tradeoffs - which are too present focused - I look at the best case and worst case scenarios. This keeps me focused on the big picture instead of keeping me distracted with the temporary details that can derail any project and keep any idea motionless.

What's the best possible outcome of doing this? Will I be rich and famous? Happy? Meet my soul mate? Have a fun time? Learn something new? Find the best result from this decision as it appears years down the road.

What's the worst thing that could happen? Could I die? Be embarrassed and humiliated? Lose all my friends? Get sick? Get lost? If things were to go horribly wrong and you failed, what would that look like?

Then, you can begin to plot and act. Understanding that ultimate best and worst case scenarios rarely happen, you can start to move forward with an idea of all that's possible balanced with a healthy understanding of the risks involved. This, then, can shape how you react to temporary obstacles and opportunities, whether or not they are assets or liabilities towards getting you to that final ideal destination.

How do you decide? When faced with a tough decisions, how to you pick what's best and move forward? Share your ideas below.

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