The Subtle Art of Making Tough Decisions
When a runner jumps their first hurdle, they know they've just started. It doesn't matter if they do
Some decisions in business are tougher than others: it comes with the terrain. Some parts of the world are covered in the desert while other parts are covered in beaches with coconut trees. And in the same way, some decisions in business feel like paradise, and others feel like a sweltering desert.
However, just because it's a tough choice doesn't mean it needs to be difficult. Some entrepreneurs can make the toughest choices with a smile on their faces. The secret to the skill is all about identifying the attitude that's needed to jump hurdles and push through old barriers.
Without the right attitude towards making a tough decision, it'll become another obstacle along the way, instead of another hurdle along the path that needs to be overcome.
With that said, let's take a look at the common reasons that people have such a difficult time with tough decisions, the knowledge needed to cut through the unnecessary emotions that come with this line of thinking, and the resolution needed to overcome the next hurdle
What Makes A Decision Tough?
The only thing that makes a choice “tough” is our attitude. That's it. Children make terrible decisions frequently, and so do some adults, but then others still have an easy time choosing a better path.
To fully understand what this means, it might take months or even years, but coming to terms with the power of attitude in decision-making is something every entrepreneur must consider at some point in their journey.
A piece of meat or leather is considered tough when it's hard to get through, and that's exactly the problem with a tough decision: it's hard to get through. But the result of the decision is always the same: choose the best path.
And so, the secret here is that the best path is difficult to see. Maybe the choices might all lead to pain, or maybe making the wrong choice will lead to failure, or maybe it's a combination of both. In any case, a decision needs to be made, and sitting idle will only burn through precious time that could have been used to unravel the mystery of what must be done.
The biggest threat in making a tough decision is a failure and the fear of failure is a powerful motivator. Unfortunately, this scares some out of making a choice whatsoever. There's a term called “Kotov Syndrome,” a term by the Russian Grandmaster describing a situation when a player thinks very hard for a long time in a complicated position but does not find a clear path, then running low on time quickly makes a poor move, often a blunder.
Kotov Syndrome is meant to describe what happens when someone needs to make a critical decision, but instead of doing what must be done, they waste the precious time they needed to make their decision.
The result of Kotov Syndrome is that, ironically, a person worried about the difficulty of a decision has far less time to think, and then when their time is running low, they make a poor choice because they spent more time worrying about the problem than solving it.
There's only one cure for Kotov Syndrome: Act fast, recognize the problem, and think as clearly as possible about risks, rewards, and the unknown. This leads to the next hurdle and it's an invisible demon that everyone goes through, the demon of unhealthy emotion.
Dealing with Dangerous Emotion
Emotion lives within us. There's no faking a true emotion: it's just there. We must act with the emotion present, and it's a form of energy that changes the way we feel. The most common unhealthy emotion is fear and that's usually buried beneath a blanket of thought and it's often never recognized. Fear is the secret root of Kotov Syndrome, and it's usually the secret root of what makes a decision tough.
Think about it. A wise, no-nonsense entrepreneur walks into their operations to see employees causing problems. This entrepreneur speaks quickly, decisively, and it's always to the point. On the other hand, an unwise entrepreneur in the exact same situation might be passive-aggressive and flake away from taking responsibility.
Maybe this unwise entrepreneur is skilled and experienced, but the truth is that it doesn't matter: he’s just letting the problems grow. The wise entrepreneur is nipping the issue in the bud and the growth stops.
With the same two entrepreneurs, which one is more likely to fire an employee that could simply be replaced by someone that will do a better job? Which entrepreneur is more likely to be convinced by a problematic worker to give them a fourth, fifth, or sixth chance? These are generalizations, but they help to get to the point.
The bottom line of business is all about the value of what's happening and decision-making is about doing what we value most. The truth is that passive-aggressive entrepreneur values passive-aggressiveness more than they value directness.
This all leads to the root of emotion. What do the unwise entrepreneurs feel right before they make a tough decision? They feel resistance. Their entire web of inner energy tells them not to take the action that's most valuable and it becomes like a web that holds them in place.
In the meanwhile, wise entrepreneurs are liberated by their ability to cut through the nonsense and ground their emotions in what is truly and sincerely effective. However, entrepreneurs are often considered cruel or uncaring, but the reality is that they are doing the best they know how to do by making the most critically significant decisions as quickly as possible.
And this is precisely the path to make easy decisions: make them quickly, confidently, and towards the virtue of value. That's what we all have to do, or we'll be left in the hands of Kotov Syndrome.
When a runner jumps their first hurdle, they know they've just started. It doesn't matter if they don't like it: the whole point of the path is to leap over hurdles. The same is true with decision-making.
Business is like the track and decisions are like hurdles. The path is still clearly laid out: be profitable, be wise, and be free of hurdles. A great hurdler makes it to the end of the track without ever letting the hurdles clip them. Much in the same way, the greatest of professionals never feel the pain of colliding with a hurdle. They've probably lived through enough collisions as it is and if we're going to be leaping hurdles for a living, it's best not to let them hurt us.
The lessons and wisdom contained here are timeless. This is just the way that business is. It doesn't have to be cold or cruel, but sometimes it might feel that way. It doesn't have to be stressful or tedious, but sometimes it will be.
And even if a hurdler collides with a hurdle, there's still a path of hurdles ahead of them before they reach the end of the race. The alternative to getting back up from a disaster is walking off the path, quitting, and abandoning the race. That's one way to be done with the hurdles, but it comes at the price of losing the path.
There are so many entrepreneurs that have given up and so many others that have kept going. The secret is deceptively simple: keep going, and get better at making decisions. Remember, emotions are designed to create resistance and that's their job. But they aren't stronger than you, they're just another part of who we are. There will be another hurdle to jump soon enough.
The success of an entrepreneur is neatly hidden behind the hurdles. Once you overcome them, you will be remembered as an achiever.
My passion for startups can be traced back to my college days. Whether as a member of an event organizing committee or as an intern of an NGO, I have been on a path of entrepreneurship right from the start. I like going through hurdles and discovering a new path time and again. As a 21-year-old university student, I founded my first fintech startup back in 2012. As a bootstrapped startup, we'd grown from a startup with 7 full-time employees to partnerships with Qiwi, Goa government, India Post, and co-founded ShopTap and Nytro. Building a brand from the outside may seem effortless, but starting a business at 21 with no resources or funding soon made me realize that early-stage entrepreneurship is anything but transparent. I have been sharing my entrepreneurial experiences to help more young people start, launch, and scale their own businesses with all the knowledge I gained over the years.