5 Ways to Make Hard Decisions A Little Easier
Two days ago Missy woke up with her stomach in knots because she had to call our maid, M., to fire her. M. had been cleaning our house for the last few years but she’s been getting progressively worse. She went on vacation for 2 weeks and we started using Missy’s sister’s maid and they’ve been way more thorough. So now it was time to let M. go but Missy had been procrastinating about it.
She’s been putting this off for nearly 2 weeks now and it got me thinking about our ‘tough’ decisions. Like most everyone else I too have struggled with making the kind of decisions that leave us feeling uncomfortable.
It’s easier to keep putting them off but that doesn’t do any good.
I know any time I’ve had a decision weighing on me it’s something that keeps nagging at me and leaves me feeling uneasy. But when I finally make the hard call or have the difficult it’s never really as bad as I had worked it up to be. In fact, I’ve found the longer you ruminate on it the worse it gets.
Thinking back here are a few vivid examples that spring to mind…
Buying Our First Place…
When Missy and I were engaged we lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Bethesda, MD. It’s a great place because you can walk everywhere and there are towns of restaurants and quaint shops. (In fact, I tell visitors that Bethesda has the most restaurants per square foot of any city. I’m not 100% sure that’s an accurate fact but I think it’s true and it sounds good.)
Anyway, the two of us really loved it there but wanted some place bigger. Plus, this was the time when my online business first started taking off. So we went searching for a place in Bethesda – but everything was pretty over-priced (or we thought it was anyway). But we found a nice 2-bedroom apartment in our building but it faced the opposite side from where we lived at the time. It overlooked NIH (National Institute of Health) and the view was nothing special. What’s more, the sun hit that side in the morning instead of the afternoon like our other place we were currently renting.
Regardless, we wanted to buy our own place and decided within a few days to buy the place. Then it started…
We both should have been really excited but we weren’t. Come to think of it we were sort of depressed the next day. What had we done?
Missy ended up calling up one of her sorority friends, Gina, who was an attorney to see what we could do to get out of the contract. I can’t remember the exact specifics on number of days but it was something like 3 days you could rescind the contract with a written notification. We had a letter drafted and delivered it our real estate agent (who also lived in our building) at the 11th hour. But it was done and we didn’t have to go through with buying the apartment. Ahhhh…..Joy & relief took hold again.
The big lesson for me here was we didn’t listen to our gut feeling about it not feeling right. I know that sounds wishy-washy and woo-woo – but I don’t think enough people (especially men) pay attention to their gut. 2 interesting follow-ups on this:
1) My best friend, John, did buy an apartment in our building too. His faced the side of the street we liked and he ended up making a tidy profit when he sold a few years later.
2) When we bought our first house – the gut feeling was right and Missy instantly knew she was in the right spot. (Same with our current place.)
Breaking Away from My Dad’s Business…
Definitely one of the biggest decisions gnawing at me for awhile was whether or not to leave my Father’s medical equipment sales & service business. Originally when I started working with him (since I was 14 selling latex gloves) and thought that I would work in it to really grow it. But I started getting the ‘itch’ to go on my own in 1998.
That’s when I started experimenting with the information marketing business selling to doctors resources and tools on how to get more cosmetic patients. I remember the very first ad I ran – it was a little classified ad in Dermatologic Surgery Journal. I ended up getting exactly 10 leads. Now I didn’t have my course ready but I had a 30-page sales letter to mail out. I sent it to all 10 leads and waited…and waited…and waited.
Every time the fax machine rang at my Dad’s office I’d go up there to see if it was an order. (I was using his fax # on my order page to save money.) It was like some sort of Pavlovian conditioning where I’d hear the dial tones and start running – but to no avail.
I sent out a 2nd notice and still nothing. Finally, I mailed out a 3rd notice highlighting the approaching deadline for all the bonuses (I had yet to create). On the final day of the deadline – I went up to the fax machine to watch it slooooooooowly print out my very first order for $900! It was awesome! I can still remember that feeling. After I peeled myself off the ceiling – I realized I had to create the product and bonuses that were only an outline. I wrote a letter back to my first customer telling him the material was going to be republished and would be available in 30 days – and that we would not charge his card until then.
And that was the start of my little info marketing empire.
My Dad was pretty flexible and let me continue using his office as my home base. I would seriously answer my cell phone under my desk when it rang with customers to talk to them or take orders. It got to the point where I was literally counting the minutes until 5pm so I could work on my own stuff. And then my Dad let me start taking Fridays off so I could work on my own projects.
The idea that I was somehow ‘betraying’ him and the family business was eating me up. I knew my heart wasn’t into his business anymore and I finally decided I had to break away. My Dad wanted me to grow his business and work with him side-by-side. I decided I couldn’t continue living my life under the expectations of someone else. I had to do what was right for me. And it was actually nearly 9 years ago to the day that I left the company – July 1, 1999.
It was bittersweet as they had a small going away party for me but I knew it was the right decision. Looking back, it’s was by far the best decision I ever made for my financial future. My Dad was worried that I might fail – but that’s okay too. Part of independence is getting your nose bloodied a little in the real-world.
Attending My First Seminar…
While studying and applying the direct marketing methods I began learning – I got sent an invitation to attend a high-priced copywriting seminar put on by Dan Kennedy. This was back in October 1998 I almost passed up an opportunity that I would later realize was the turning point in my business (and bank account).
My fledging information marketing business to doctors might have been pulling in maybe $2,000 or $3000/mo – so no great shakes. I was really hesitant and unsure about spending several thousand dollars and missing several days of work (both of which I couldn’t really afford) to head out to Phoenix to attend this seminar.
I asked my Dad about it and he was making fun of me and telling me I shouldn’t go. He would chide me (in his thick Russian accent) “Mr. Yanik, why do you want to throw away your money. If you have so much of it I can help you get rid of it. Don’t you already have enough of these books and tapes?”
But I bit the bullet and decided to go.
Frankly, if I had listened to him I know I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today. I can directly attribute that single event to the moment when several things all ‘clicked’ for me and I “got it”. I discovered the power of how to use words and turn them into cash windfalls. Of course nobody ever looks back on an opportunity they DIDN’T take and remembers that as the turning point in their lives. [Side note: Speaking of seminars and missing out on opportunities – there is a limited window to pick-up the Underground® 4 DVD & CD recordings. They go back into the vault on July 1, 2008.]
Personally, I’ve found that people regret the things you don’t do much more than you things they do. And that’s exactly how I want to live my life – not thinking of ‘shoulda’, ‘coulda’ or ‘woulda’s.
In fact, I believe most of what we consider tough decisions are really illusions that we’ve built up in our own heads. (btw – if you haven’t read the book Illusions by Richard Bach – get it!) Most of the really tough decisions are a whole lot easier once we reach that decision – it’s simply the wavering, the gestating, the thinking, the unease that comes from being in limbo that really hurts. But once the decision is done – there this wave of calm and tranquility that sweeps over me.
With that in mind – here are 5 things you can try when you are faced with a tough decision:
1) Think about what’s the worst case scenario – What is the worst possible thing that can happen if I make the wrong decision? With going off on my own – I had those wild thoughts of my Father disowning me. He might have been disappointed but he didn’t flip out.
2) Listen to your gut – this is huge! Don’t try to rationalize your way out of decision making – you’ve got incredible wisdom stored inside you that is willing to help if you allow it.
3) Create a deadline for a decision – if you give yourself an indefinite amount of time to decide on a course of action you’ll drive yourself crazy. Think of yourself as a high powered CEO of your own life who MUST make decisions quickly. Even if they are wrong 49% of the time – you’ll be ok more often than not.
4) Visualize your ideal outcome – anytime I have a real nagging dilemma or something I’m worried about I use my friend, John Harricharan’s, “Power Pause” exercise. You take 3 minutes (1 minute for each part) to think about #1 – What you want to happen. #2 – How you feel when this happens. #3 – What you are grateful for in your life.
5) Band-aid solution– you know how it sucks to pull off band aids (especially for us hairier people)? Well the secret is just pull it off quickly! Nothing is worse than paralysis by analysis. You’ll never have ALL the information you need. Get what you can – and do the best you can. Then move on.
And bonus decision making tip – flip a coin. That’s how I decided to propose to Missy. Seriously (shhh….don’t tell her)
Actually getting back to Missy. She couldn’t get a hold of M. so she came to clean our house as usual on Tuesday. Missy told her in-person that we weren’t going to use her anymore and M. seemed relieved. It seems that there were some other clients she wanted to work for but couldn’t because she was at our house on Tuesdays. There you go – all that angst and gut-wrenching turmoil could have been avoided.
Do you have a decision making technique you use that helps?
Or how have you made it through tough decisions in your life? If you’re comfortable leaving a comment on that – it’d be great to hear that…