More Notes on Decision Making

I feel the hardest things we can do in our lives is to make and follow through with big decisions. Big decisions are those that will impact 5+ years of life.

I talked about using a weighted average to determine strong choices against weak choices in a previous post.

I left out a few notes to consider when discovering choices.

Mastering Complexity

Fight or flight, fight or flight. The problem with only saying fight or flight is there are more options (bifurcation). You do not stand your ground and fight when something gets hard or complex. You freeze first.

Your brain freezes when I present a complex problem like 268 x 27.

This is why it’s ill-advised to do complex problems while driving or any other task that takes a large portion of brain power.

Only after we freeze and determine it isn’t the best option to stay frozen do we finally move on to the modes of fight or flight.

There are some people who have natural fight-or-flight instincts. They’re hilarious to watch on YouTube, especially Halloween jokes gone bad.

Overall, complexity slows us down and makes us freeze.

Stay Away From Trivial Things

Parkinson’s law of triviality is about wasting our time on easy-to-grasp concepts when big and truly important things are in front of us.

Accomplishing complex tasks feel more rewarding but have many side roads and temptations to follow.


The reason CEOs of big companies get paid the big bucks is because they are able, or are perceived to be able, to take in loads of pieces of information (complexity) and make difficult decisions at a critical times.

All decisions you make take resources. You save your energy for the impactful decisions by deciding early and no sweating the small stuff.

People like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg even go so far as to not worry about what to wear the next day to reduce trivial matters.

Break it down atomically

Complex problems can be distilled down into its smallest parts. This is how we get a grasp on how to perform or do things more easily.

There’s a great book about how to do things well in 20 hours or less. I find the most valuable resource inside is to break the work down into bite-sized chunks.

268 x 27 gets a whole lot easier when we write down the process. Each step is simple:

  • Stack the numbers on top of each other, lining up the digits
  • Start with the lower digit’s ones place and multiply by the top digit’s ones place
  • If number is bigger than 10, perform a carry-over
  • etc.

There are numerous possibilities of how to break things down. Take the math problem again. You could round first and then subtract or add the extraneous values. You could determine an exact answer does not need to be met. Or you could get a range which is good enough for the problem at hand.

The problem is not that your project tasks are complex, the problem is that it’s hard to conceive of everything at the same time.

Grade Each Part and Sum Up

Having broken up your complex endeavor into small parts, you can see the investment you would need to make to accomplish each small part. Add up all the parts and the investments with them.

You will estimate better if you divide, grade, and sum up each part. This is protecting yourself (hedging) by leaning on crowd wisdom. In this case, the crowd is yourself.

You’ve now estimated the total cost and values of a complex project.

Back to project management, double your estimates.

You are not 100% focused on your work. If you are, great! I should be learning from you.

Value is Not Dependent on Time Spent

Time is not a factor in how happy we are while doing things. Some of the simplest moments in life have the greatest impact, the best decisions, or are the most memorable.

Sometimes, I can’t imagine the decisions made from the early beginnings of big companies. Imagine yourself jumping in at one of the thousands of opportunities.

Would you want to have invested $100 into Google on the ground-floor? How about Apple? or McDonalds? Your investment may have only taken two hours. That $100 investment satisfied you for the rest of your life.

A project can take very little time, but have huge influence over millions of lives. I think of those people in the big cities, New York, Miami, Houston, etc. who put on the T-shirt saying, “Free Hugs” and go about their day. These people are stopped randomly to receive or give a free hug.

Small moments, without a long-term commitment, may determine long-term happiness.

Self Satisfaction

… If you don’t like your job, quit…

Holstee Manifesto

Are you personally invested into what you want to do? If not, think of something else.

When we take on another’s agenda, we lose drive to accomplish the endeavor and happiness suffers.

Simple concept you should value in your weighted average.

Conclusion: tl;dr

Everything you can do in this life is not worth doing. You have far too little time to waste.

Planning your time, your resources, and your investments will save you hours of headache, despair, and emotional drainage.

Only by walking through exactly what you want to do will you gain an understanding of how much you appreciate it, or not.