Plus: Fire in the Rock
In this issue: Decision-Making from a Anchored Set of Core Values, Fiery Rock
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Let’s Get the Formalities Out of the Way…
Why you’re getting this: I'm Yuri Kruman and this is my “Commander-In-Chief” Newsletter, based on my book, “Be Your Own Commander-in-Chief.” I send this to people in my LinkedIN and FB networks, people I’ve met recently, and friends I want to keep in touch with. You can unsubscribe (SEE THE VERY BOTTOM OF THE EMAIL) and I won’t be offended.
Here’s a picture I took last week, while sitting in traffic. Had to share :)
The setting sun is shining through a hole in the rock, which makes it look like a fiery eye in the rock…
From Chapter 16 of “Be Your Own Commander-in-Chief”
2. Making Decisions
How we make decisions is one of the most obviously important aspects of simply living a functional life in an increasingly complex and fast-moving world, to say nothing of fulfilling one’s life mission.
The factors that bear on our decision-making are as widely varied as our social obligations, avoiding embarrassment, what we ate for breakfast, how well or poorly we slept the night before, the time of day, our biases and notions (Chapter 13), what our wife or husband thinks, our age, how much money we have in the bank, among a myriad others.
Making decisions properly hasn’t always been a hallmark of my existence to date, at least until the last few years. I’ve made some truly awful decisions in life, especially around finances (more on this in Chapter 17), but just as bad have been decisions around employers, whom to trust, and how and with whom to spend my time.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always had a pretty good eye and ear for assholes and fraudsters, but unfortunately too often, only after I got the job, paid the fee, got screwed over by them, etc. It’s just that I wasn’t strong enough to stand on my principles when faced with opportunities to make a quick buck by dealing with people I knew would be risky to deal with.
Hard lessons, needless to say, make for great teachers. Decision-making isn’t taught widely in universities or high schools, if at all, in most countries. But the ramifications of being unable to make decisions are grave. Throw in the complexity of the modern world, the uncertainty of living through a recession, the insane and accelerating speed of change and you have a perfect storm.
Decision-making is a muscle that must be exercised regularly and constantly improved and pruned, because it’s so pervasive and because our brains are constantly bombarded with decisions as small as which clothes to wear today and as big as whom to marry and how to best raise our kids.
While I’ve certainly gotten better and better at using this muscle properly and training it to the best of my ability over the years, it’s been tested at the highest level with increasing regularity as (during this writing) we’ve had a third child, lived through the COVID-19 crisis, tried to make sense of the new world order, plus done our best to plan for the future.
One notable and illustrative example of decision-making done right at the highest of levels actually happened during the writing of this book, in May 2020. I received an email from a “Takizaki Charitable Foundation” in Japan, inviting me to speak at their first annual gala in Tokyo in January 2021, with a sky-high appearance fee of $100K. I may be good at what I do, but not “$100K per appearance” good, at least not yet. Naturally skeptical about some sort of scam, I asked for more details.
I’d be staying at the Ritz Carlton in Tokyo for a week beforehand, with a budget for formal clothing and spending money (sure, why not?). It would only require showing up at the gala on Friday night to present a donation (?!) and then during the day on Saturday (I’d have to walk for 40 minutes from the hotel and back, due to the Jewish Sabbath — doable).
So far, so good. The only caveat was that . . . I would have to donate $100K to the foundation from funds deposited in my account by Mr. Takizaki, a top Japanese billionaire. Certainly fishy-sounding, but not unheard-of, given the Genesis Prize every year in Israel, among others.
I do my due diligence, check their website. All in English, no Japanese version. Suspicious. The address is not specific enough to be more than a neighborhood in Tokyo. Hm, ok. I email the contact with my detailed questions. He says they’re appealing to internationals, not Japanese donors. I check the website registration . . . it’s in Florida, a month before.
Red flag. This is almost 100% a scam. But ok, let’s see how far these shmucks actually take this. They send a formal contract, which is done with perfect legalese — I’m a lawyer by training, even if not practicing), which I go over with a fine-toothed comb. I reach out to the head of my speaker bureau, who encourages me to remain skeptical and dig further.
I ask friends in Tokyo about the address and if they’ve heard of the foundation. Nobody’s heard of it. Long story, short. I get an envelope — FedEx Express Overnight — with a check, which appears drawn on an account in some tiny Midwestern bank. The contact is breathing down my neck by email to send the finds to their offshore account in . . . China (red flag covers the eyes).
I go to the bank to check if the check is legit. The banker more or less laughs at me once I explain the entire story to him. He says the check is fake garbage, despite the watermarks. I reach out to the billionaire’s company to report the scam and get an appreciative email a few days later from the legal counsel, saying they will refer to the FBI for prosecution.
Moral of the story? Some scam artists are extremely sophisticated, even if they didn’t count on someone like me having a legal degree, a speaker bureau chief and Tokyo friends to help me pin down the weaknesses in their narrative. Recessions trigger a lot of these.
Apparently, a lot of speaker friends have been through the same thing. My wife and I had a laugh, wistful but glad that we avoided falling for this. But the more important takeaway was that my decision-making was sound and brought the right result, in the end. With that, here’s my “algorithm” for decision-making in the best possible way:
1. When making a decision, always start with first principles.
a. Is the proposed experience, purchase or deal legitimate? Is the promise more than likely to be fulfilled?
i. Do you have the requisite expertise to determine this fully?
1. If not, can you consult experts who know better than you? Do you have a solid second or third opinion you can solicit readily? Perhaps someone in your Brain Trust (see Chapter 20)? If it’s not legitimate, stay the hell away, full stop.
2. Does doing this experience, buying this product, going for this deal give me a “Full Body Yes” (listen to this Tim Ferriss podcast with Ken Burns on the subject)?
a. If no, stay the hell away. A middling intellectual (not a bodily) commitment to something will lead to mediocre results and usually much worse, if it doesn’t throw you for a loop and set you back in your career and/or personal life.
b. Beware making decisions purely based on personal pleasure, social obligation, avoiding pain and seeking companionship/sex. These are often fraught with high risk that you’re likely not calculating correctly, due to decision-making driven by hormones, pain avoidance, fear of embarrassment or visceral attraction (all driven by the “lizard brain,” which is a bad place to be when making any decisions).
3. Do the rewards outweigh the risks and investment of time, money and resources involved?
a. If not, strongly consider not doing it.
b. If the decision will hurt you and/or your family financially, health-wise or relationship-wise, think twice and three times before doing it. It’s a fine line between following your heart and being headstrong and screwing up your family finances, your marriage and/or your health.
i. Beware of your ego’s role in wanting to go or not for something very strongly. Consult your wife, husband or someone else likely to balance out your ego-driven enthusiasm or hesitation.
1. Regarding your wife, her judgment is usually better than yours. She’s usually right about most things, but your ego gets in the way of your understanding why. You chose her as your mate (and she is you and you are her), so trust her judgment, even if you often can’t understand how she can possibly be right. ii. If there is significant risk, how easy would it be to de-risk the decision?
1. If there is a way to de-risk easily, don’t let the risk dissuade you. iii. Is the decision easily reversible?
1. If yes, this may lower the risk of going for it, provided the reversal process isn’t going to take a lot of time or resources.
2. Will the obligation created by the decision be feasible in terms of scheduling and actual daily practice?
3. If it’s not clear up front, try shifting around your schedule and creating room for daily practice, before deciding.
c. Am I making this decision of my own free will or under duress of familiar or social or professional pressure or flattery?
i. If the latter, postpone the decision, if possible, until and unless you’re able to make the decision of your own free will and with objective factors.
ii. Don’t fall for false (or automated) flattery. Have the sense to stick to your tastes, criteria and decision-making process without resorting to biases.
iii. Don’t go opinion-shopping. Pick someone (or a Brain Trust — see Chapter 20) whom you trust and look up to and ask for their advice. Follow said advice, even if you don’t like it.
d. Am I empowered with sufficient information through research and due diligence to make the best possible decision?
i. If not, it’s much preferable to dig deeper into the people and experiences and things involved in the proposed decision.
1. Ask, am I managing expectations of timeline, risk, quality/reliability, work and commitment involved, expected performance, kinetics, people and incentives involved, and any other important factors to empower my decision-making?
e. Am I in a high-enough cognitive state to make the decision as objectively as possible right now?
i. If not, strongly consider making the decision when you’re in a better state (with adequate sleep, having had your coffee, in an earlier part of the day when you have more energy and focus and time to process objectively).
f. Does choosing this direction, product or experience align with my values (religious, ethical, moral and personal), tastes and worldview? Does going for this, buying or doing it give me lasting value? Does it align with my personal and professional goals?
g. If the answer is no, then avoid making the decision in a way that goes against your grain or at least be crystal clear on what the decision means for your values (trampling them or upholding them).
h. If there’s a way to align the decision with your own value through negotiation, then certainly try it.
i. If that fails, stay away. It’s never worth breaking your values to go for a short-term gain that destroys your sense of self.
i. Does doing this align with my incentives?
i. If not, consider alternate choices or decisions that do align with your incentives. Habits 301
ii. Beware people in your life (recruiters, investors, vendors, employees, partners) that have somewhat or even wildly different incentives from you. Keep them at arm’s length or risk doing their bidding for them, at the expense of your own interests. Don’t sacrifice your own interests reflexively and try to harmonize incentives before saying yes or no, conclusively.
j. Is this within my means and available time commitment?
i. If not, is there a way to participate part-time or with a smaller investment?
ii. When making purchasing decisions, cool off after the initial excitement; walk away, come back and see if this aligns with all of the above.
iii. If this will cause you to over-commit, think carefully on how to either expand your capacity to meet it, cut something else or otherwise avoid deciding in favor of new commitments.
k. Once the decision is made, will there be:
i. Accountability to you or another trustworthy person by the party responsible?
ii. How easily can you monitor progress against goals and objectives?
iii. How does the result align with your 3–5-year vision?
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