- Four Decision-Making Rules By a Former Spy Admired in Wall Street and Silicon Valley
#3 Read the book, not the tweet
Shane Parrish — Background by Johannes Plenio from Pexels
The most important skill in business is to make good decisions. What feature should I add? Which stock should I buy? What topic should I write about? Every good decision puts you one step further down the road to success.
The catch? No one taught us how to make good decisions. I never had a Decision-Making class at school, and I doubt you did. But we’re both lucky; we have the internet. Over the years, I’ve chosen many mentors who’ve taught me how to make better decisions through their content. Shane Parrish has recently become one of them.
Here’s an extract from his bio.
I’m Shane Parrish.
I spent ██ years working for a three-letter-intelligence agency, starting as a ██████ and ending in charge of ████████████████.
Unfortunately, I can’t talk about anything interesting without going to jail.
The last sentence is rubbish though. Shane runs a website with over 325,000 subscribers and a podcast that has millions of downloads. Not to mention his appearance in the New York Times and his best-selling books. The guy surely has a ton of interesting stuff to tell, all without breaking the law.
Since the start, Shane’s content has appealed to high profiles — 80% of his early audience came from Wall Street. “People just found us,” Shane said. “We became a thing on Wall Street.” Soon, people from Silicon Valley and professional athletes joined the party, all seeking the same thing: how to make better decisions.
See why I steal decision-making tips from him? Here are my top four.
Your mind has a limited capacity when it comes to making decisions. It’s called Decision Fatigue, and it means that the more decisions you make, the worse your decision-making becomes. Let’s illustrate.
Imagine you make 100 decisions a day. Decision Fatigue means that your 100th decision is less rational than the 10th. This explains why it’s harder to resist pizza and ice cream at dinner than at lunch. Or why at the end of a workday, you lay on the couch in front of Netflix instead of going for a walk. After several hours of decisions, your brain is worn out, which makes it irrational — “irrational” as in “stupid.”
It’s no surprise that Shane’s first rule is:
“Never make important decisions when you’re tired, emotional, distracted, or in a rush.”
Easier said than done, right? Here are three ideas that can inspire you and how I implemented them.
- Reduce the number of decisions you make every day by setting a clear work routine.
Grab some fruit or a cereal bar before a meeting or call.
Take at least one full day off every week.
My schedule is often the same: write in the morning, hang out on Linkedin and Twitter in the afternoon, and read in the evening. The routine relieves me from thinking about what I should do and when. Steal the pattern.
When it comes to meetings, remember that they often involve decisions big enough to impact your business. You can negotiate a price, split tasks with your co-founder, or discuss a freelance gig. In each case, help your brain be up to the task with a healthy snack.
Your brain is lazy. When facing a complex question, it replaces it with a simpler one, and of course, you never notice when that happens. Here’s an example.
A ball and baseball bat cost $110. The bat costs $100 more than the ball.
How much does the ball cost?
A flash with $10 as the answer just crossed your mind. Even though you know there is a catch, $10 still seems like the right answer. Except, it’s not.
If you slow down, you’ll figure out that the ball costs $5 and the bat $105.
So why did you think $10? What happened there?
Substitution Bias happened. Your brain replaced the complex question that is “How much does the ball cost?” with a simpler one that is “How much is $110 minus $100?”
The same applies to almost any complex problem. Even worse, when you discuss a problem with other people, they often add to the confusion because they have the same biases as you. That’s why Shane’s second rule is about reducing confusion from the crowd.
“Never let anyone define the problem for you.”
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t discuss your problem with other people. No. Shane’s second rule means that you have to be precise about your problem before discussing it with your peers. Here are a few tips that can help you accurately define your problem.
- Write down your problems in simple and precise words. Come up with different versions and pick the most accurate one.
Generate different solutions and back each one with concrete arguments.
Weight the alternatives and rank them.
This analysis will allow you to stay with the problem long enough to be able to articulate it with razor-sharp precision. For instance, “My income is low” can evolve into “I have a marketing problem.”
You’ll also think of solutions like “take a marketing course,” “replicate the strategy of my competitors,” or “hire someone.” From there, you can discuss your choices with friends and colleagues.
When information travels, it evolves, often not in the right direction.
In this article, you’re reading Shane’s insights through me, or so you’d think. Sure, I studied Shane’s ideas, but I also confronted them with my knowledge and did separate research. Only then, I put together these four rules. For instance, I added the cognitive bias stuff and examples from my journey as an entrepreneur.
Shane did the same to build his blog. He studied people like Charlie Munger — Warren Buffett’s longtime investment partner and Daniel Kahneman — a world-class psychologist.
Shane and I built upon the knowledge we absorbed from other people before relaying it to our readers. Unfortunately, this isn’t the norm.
Many writers are happy to copy-paste insights without adding a personal contribution. They don’t bother with explanations nor evidence. They cherry-pick shiny facts to attract eyeballs, which makes their content somewhat like a cheesecake. It feels good going down, but you know it’s empty calories. If you want to be intellectually fit, stay away from snack-like content. Go for big healthy content meals.
In Shane’s words:
“Seek out information from someone as close to the source as possible, because they’ve earned their knowledge and have an understanding that you don’t”
So whenever you google business advice or read productivity hacks, keep in mind that what you’ll get are shallow takes. Dig deeper than that. Here’s how.
- Use short blog posts as introductions to topics or quick takeaways, not as a place to learn.
Consume long-form content like detailed blog posts, books, and podcasts.
Confront the ideas you learn with your own thoughts.
In short, dig deeper than the surface.
“You know the person that sits beside you at work that has 20 years of experience but keeps making the same mistakes over and over,” Shane wrote. “They don’t have 20 years of experience, but one year repeated 20 times. If you can’t learn, you can’t get better.”
It’s easy for entrepreneurs to get absorbed by work. But if we don’t step back every once in a while, we won’t be able to evaluate our decisions. In the best-case scenario, every single decision we make works out well, and we don’t need to question ourselves. In real-life scenarios, however, we end up running in circles for months and sometimes years, making the same mistakes.
The antidote? Make room for observation.
“Be less busy. Keep a learning journal. Reflect every day.”
To apply Shane’s fourth rule, add work routines that force you to evaluate your decisions. For instance, every evening, I put my headphones on and walk around the block, reflecting on my workday. It sounds stupid, and it is, but it allows me to spot flaws and address them.
I also review my content once a month to know which pieces stood out and which flopped. I adjust my choice of topic and angles accordingly. Sure, I still make mistakes, but learning isn’t about being perfect. It’s about being less wrong. I encourage you to do the same.
Here are three tips that can help you enhance your learning.
- Set a regular timeslot to review your work and decisions. Daily and monthly.
Measure your performance.
Define improvement points and act on them.
And then repeat the process for the rest of your life.
Making good decisions is the most important skill in business. And as with any important skill, there’s no secret formula; there are only good habits.
The four rules I stole from Shane will help you think straight and reduce external noise. Add them to your work routine, and you’ll improve your decision-making process.
Here’s a recap you can screenshot for later usage.
- Be in good shape when you’re about to make a decision. Get some rest, eat, and hug a friend if you need to. Both your brain and career will thank you for it.
Make sure you are solving the right problem. It’s easy to derail from the original problem and substitute it with a simpler one. Always be looking to answer the right questions.
Seek information from its source. The more information travels, the more distorted it becomes. Sometimes this comes with positive effects, but most of the time, it’s negative. Read the book, not the tweet.
Learn how to learn. The idea is to take a step back and observe your work and decisions. From there, you can spot improvement points and adjust. Take a walk and think every day. Review your performance every month.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Shane.
“You can’t improve if you don’t know what you’re doing wrong.”
Actually, I’m not gone yet. Here’s how to learn anything in less than 20 hours and how a bored developer turned a tweet into a six-figure business.
Forget the 10,000-Hour Rule — You Only Need 20 to Learn a New Skill
Become good enough to reap benefits and even show off a bit
How a Bored Developer Turned a Tweet Into a 6-Figure Business
You don’t have to build rockets to be a successful entrepreneur
- Date of publication:
- Mon, 05/03/2021 - 07:42
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