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Successful People Aren’t Luckier Than Everybody Else, They Just Know How to Make Good Decisions

Successful People Aren’t Luckier Than Everybody Else, They Just Know How to Make Good Decisions

What contributes to the difference between the decisions successful people make and all other decisions made around the world on a hourly, daily and even weekly basis. Why do some people consistently make right decisions over and over with little room for failure?

How do we, become better at making decisions in our own work and personal lives to emulate this level of success?

Successful people always identify the problem first

It starts with identifying the problem in front of you. Do you need the new sports car or do you need a new mode of transportation to get to work? Both are completely different problem sets.

The former has an assumptive solution built into it that you need a new car and that this car MUST be a sports car while the latter asks the question how you can get to and from work – which can include a variety of potential solutions – car, train, bus, bike, walk, skip, etc. With any decision it’s important to first frame the problem within the context of the actual problem itself and not within the frame of the solution we are trying to get to.

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When compared to successful innovators, this thinking enables them to go out of the box in their thinking without feeling pushed into a corner before they have started.

They narrow the focus and limit their options

I want to help kids learn versus I want to help kids learn how to be better programmers are two very different focus sets. Both are aimed at helping kids grow, but the latter statement puts the decision making firmly into the decision makers hands – “this is what I am going to focus on, this is where I will be successful” – whereas the former statement leans toward bringing in external consultation as to what the focus should be and takes the decision making process out of our own hands.

Many people become concerned when they narrow their focus for fear that they are minimizing their chances of success by limiting their options to what they could achieve. When in fact, when we narrow our focus, we are actually increasing our chances of success by ensuring that each available option in the decision is one within our proven niche where we have already been successful.

They look at the long-term play instead of the short-term success

Successful decision makers are always looking at the long-term play. Short-term success is fleeting, here today, gone tomorrow but long-term success is everlasting. When we evaluate our decisions for the long-term we look at criteria that are not available today but might be factors for tomorrow that would change the decision we make.

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Buying the sports car today, during the summer, when the weather is hot outside is a great decision for today and the next few months, but come winter it’s value will sharply decrease as other factors will come into play, relegating it to storage over the winter months when it is probably needed the most.

They digest the useful information and ignore the chatter

We live in an information rich society where we are constantly bombarded with information. Look at how best to build something as simple as a wooden box to store firewood and you’ll find hundreds of pictures, articles and possibly even some blogs that are dedicated to their existence, all espousing their incredible features and one upmanship.

How does one decide in the face of so much information?

Ignore it, put it aside, take what you need and move on. At the end of the day, the decision is yours to make and not the world’s. Successful decisions are based on ignoring the chatter and the backroom banter which are aimed at closing ours minds to the potential successful of new ideas. Many innovations that have come before us are based on people consuming what they needed to know, ignoring the chatter and making successful decisions for the simple reason that they ignored this chatter.

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They separate the good from the bad and needs from wants

We’ve alluded to this already but it is worth mentioning on it’s own to drive the point home. Successful decision makers are able to separate the good from the bad, the right from the wrong and the needs from the wants when evaluating their decisions.

A successful decision maker separates their personal ambitions and desires from the decision and looks at the criteria in front of them that will shape the decision and demonstrate what is needed for it to be successful.

In some cases, this involves a complete separation of the decision maker from the decision for a period of time by taking a break and coming back to it to look at the decision with fresh eyes and a different approach to ensure the decision is not being skewed.

When employed correctly, this removes the potential for rash, impulse decisions that can have potentially negative, long-term effects.

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They reflect and evaluate every decision they made

When was the last time you looked at a decision you made and reflected on it? Really reflected on it, not simply – “I should have done this” – but looked at the process for how you came to the decision, the information you gathered, where your focus was, who you listened to, etc, etc?

Very few of us actually do this to the point of critiquing our approach in how we arrived at our decision and what we should do better next time. Perhaps because we have such a strong emotional tie to the decision or because there is no one else to “blame” but ourselves or perhaps because we are still living the impact of that decision.

Whatever the reason, to make successful decisions on a continual basis requires the awareness and afterthought to evaluate what we did wrong, where we went wrong and what checks and balances we must put in place today to make sure that it does not happen tomorrow. Of all the aforementioned steps, evaluating where our decisions went wrong is the best way to ensuring we are successful in our next ones.

Are you making bad decisions today? Or perhaps ones that you wish could be more successful? If so, start with a sampling of what you did, what would you do differently if you had the chance to do it again – how would you better identify the problem or narrow the focus to ensure you are making the right decision against the problem. Are your decisions focused more on short-term gain fueled by chatter and likes or are you too close to it to make a rational decision?

Successful people make great decisions because they apply the criteria in front of them differently when identifying a their options which in turn increases the probability of their success. But there is no reason why we cannot apply that same criteria to making our own successful decisions.

More by this author

Greg Thomas

Software Architect

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How to Fight Information Overload

How to Fight Information Overload

Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

What you need to do is focus on these 4 steps:

  1. Set your goals.
  2. Decide whether you really need the information.
  3. Consume only the minimal effective dose.
  4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming too much information.

But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

The Nature of the Problem

The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem. This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

When we see some half-baked blog post we don’t even consider reading it, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it. We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

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No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on. The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control. Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it. But first…

Why information overload is bad

It stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here. When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work, or enjoy your passion.

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So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with your goals.

1. Set your goals

If you don’t have your goals put in place you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

2. What to do when facing new information

Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans then skip it. You don’t need it.

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If it does then it’s time for another question. Will you be able to put this information into action immediately? Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks? Or is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away? If the information is not actionable in a day or two (!) then skip it. (You’ll forget about it anyway.)

And that’s basically it. Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant. Self-control comes handy too … it’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future then SKIP IT.

3. Minimal Effective Dose

There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour Body,Tim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs. Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life. Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming more information

Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

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Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

In Closing

As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance. I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over. I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

Feel free to shoot me a comment below and share your own story of fighting information overload. What are you doing to keep it from sabotaging your life?

(Photo credit: Businessman with a Lot of Discarded Paper via Shutterstock)

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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