Monday, December 03, 2007

Tough decisions

I used to tell my first year university students that writing would always be hard. They would get better. They would get faster. Their standards would rise. They would seek more effectiveness. They would become more precise. Writing would not get easier. Writing would always be hard.

Decision making is like writing. It is always hard. We learn competence only to find our edge, again and again. We get better at some decisions. These become the easy decisions. The tough decisions do not become easy. The better we get at making decisions, the tougher the decisions we are called to make.

There are two kinds of tough decisions. In one, you know the right thing to decide and you know that someone will pay a price for your decision. This kind is tough because it is hard to pay the price - or hard to ask the price of someone else. The more you know about consequences, the more likely you are to find these kinds of decisions tough. Some people can only make tough decisions by refusing to count the cost. Some can only make tough decisions by pushing themselves to count the costs more accurately.

In the other kind of tough decision, you are presented with choices without knowing how to distinguish among them. You are compelled to make a decision knowing that you do not know. If you have experience, you know that sometimes you will be wrong in making these decisions. If you have experience, you will quite often be right about the decision, sometimes for the wrong reasons. This will be of little comfort in your next tough decision. You will know that you do not know.

The only thing worse than making tough decisions is refusing to make them.

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