From The Serial Decision Maker On Finance:
Stress comes from the unknown and you feel better when you manage your own life in a way that minimizes what you don’t know.
Decision Points are part of Scott Arney's Serial Decision Maker educational series.
A New Use for an Old Cliché: You Can't Have Your Cake and Eat it Too
This is another cliché that is routinely misunderstood. The use of the word “have” implies that you are going to consume it so, of course, you can’t eat the same thing twice.
The literal meaning of have in this instance is to keep or save. You can’t save your cake and eat that same cake.
If the underlying message here is that you can’t have it both ways, my answer is that it depends on what itis. If the cake is your paycheck, for instance, then you can certainly save some of it and consume the rest. If the cake is your leisure time, you are not going to be able to preserve it without making a few sacrifices if you want to get or stay fit.
Can you live an enjoyable life in the present and save for retirement? Absolutely. Can you sit on the couch and exercise at the same time? Probably not. The value of the message is reliant on the intent of the recipient.
If you spend all your money every time you get paid then, of course, you will have nothing left when it is time for you to retire. If, however, your version of having your cake and eating it too is finding the balance between enjoying your everyday life comfortably and being ready for the future as well, then that is a perfectly achievable goal.
If you believe that you can get fit by laying around, you are eventually going to have to make a change in your thought process. You either must be content being idle and sacrifice your fitness or you will have to get off the couch and start exercising to stay or get into shape.
Your options and the decisions you make regarding them are an integral part of your life. The choices you make say a lot about who you are and what you value, and it is always in your best interest to create and preserve as many options for you to choose among as possible.
Conversely, a limited number of options limits your decision-making power, so it is important not to let yourself fall into the either/or trap hinted at by this cliché. If you find that you are facing what feels like an ultimatum, that is a great time to pause and really think through the choice in front of you.
You will be in situations that involve an all or nothing, this or that option, but most of the time you will avoid unnecessary limitations in your decision making simply by taking a little bit of time to consider other options and alternatives that will lead to a better solution for you and possibly everyone impacted by your decision. Maybe you can think about that while you have a piece of cake!
By Scott Arney, Chief Executive Officer, Chicago Patrolmen’s Federal Credit Union.
This article is part of Arney's new series, entitled A New Use for an Old Cliché.
This installment is part of Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.
The Opposite is Also True
Equally important to making good decisions on a consistent basis is your ability to relate to others.
It is a well-established fact that if you flip a coin 100 times, the coin will land heads up around 50 times.
If rain is a possibility in a weather forecast, the prediction will usually be based on a percentage chance of that rain, such as “there is a 40% chance of rain tomorrow.”
A law of physics is that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Why am I telling you these things? Because, the opposite is also true.
If a coin lands heads up 50 times out of a hundred, it will also land tails up 50 times.
If there is a 40% chance of rain, it also means that there is a 60% chance it won’t rain.
When you take action, you should expect that there is going to be a direct and proportionately related consequence for the action that you have taken.
While these are objective, mathematical and scientific truths, I am more interested in their relationship between your focus and the one that represents the opposite side of the consideration at hand. For example, you may focus on the fact that there is a 40% chance of rain and I may be more apt to concentrate on the 60% likelihood that it won’t rain. Either way, we’re both justified in our view and our focus is valid.
The relationship between your focus and mine is also important from a subjective standpoint.
When you have a belief, or you have developed an opinion on a particular subject, how much of your belief or opinion is solely focused on your point of view? Might your opinion be altered if you considered the alternate point of view? In my opinion, the answer to that question is a resounding yes!
If your aim is to be a consistently good decision-maker, your ability to gather and understand all pertinent information prior to making decisions is going to be at the center of your ability, and to make a habit of doing so will help you maintain the consistency that you will need to do to make good decisions on a regular basis.
Equally important to making good decisions on a consistent basis is your ability to relate to others. If your decisions are going to be impactful and understood, you will need to demonstrate that you can relate to those around you by taking note of their views and opinions even if they contrast with yours, because the opposite view is just as true to them as your views are to you.
Setting out to always agree with others will set you up to fail miserably. If your goal is to be understood and to understand what others think and why, you will be much more likely to achieve that objective.
Understanding alternate points of view and unique takes on a situation will help you to make better decisions for yourself and put you in a better position to relate to and potentially be in position to have a positive influence on those around you, especially those you care about.
If you first take the time to understand someone else and their viewpoint, you will have an easier time expressing your view and where it diverges. Furthermore, you will have a strategic advantage if you are engaged in a debate and the party on the other side of the debate hasn’t taken any time to understand you and your opinions.
Think about it. If you understand your opponents view and your own, and your opponent only understands their own opinion, who will be more likely to win that debate?
For the last several years, much has been said about how polarized our society has become. For what it is worth, I think one of the main reasons for this is that many people just don’t take the time to understand alternative thoughts or ideas. Some don’t even take the time to thoroughly think through their own thoughts or ideas, but those who do are often so focused on being right that they ignore the fact that the opposite is also true.
There are definitely things that can be clearly categorized as right or wrong with no gray area, although those things don’t tend to be at issue. Many more topics, and many of them that are debated on a regular basis, are not nearly as clear cut. For those topics, there are often merits to be found in each opposing view. Those merits are often missed or ignored, however, and the result is a false prioritization for either side to win the argument, not for there to be a workable solution.
When you don’t at least consider other views, you lose the opportunity to establish common ground and, when that occurs, extremism takes over. I think this is exactly what we are experiencing in our society today. To me, it feels like our future is a lot less about moving forward together and a lot more about which extreme viewpoint will win out without any room for those who think otherwise.
Whatever our collective future holds and however the national issues are debated and ultimately decided, you can put yourself in the best possible position to make good decisions by at least attempting to understand other points of view and alternative focal points.
This is another example of concentrating on what you can do and can control and the good that can come out of that type of mindset. By the way, the opposite is also true.
This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.
Medium: The song “Try Whistling This” performed by Neil Finn
Line(s): And if I can't be with you I would rather have a different face
And if I can't be near you I would rather be adrift in space
And if the gods desert us I would burn this chapel into flames
And if someone tries to hurt you I would put myself in your place
An infinitely listenable disk of the same name!
You The Conqueror
(This is the last chapter of Scott Arney's Super Hero Series, which starts with Fear is Our Enemy)
Many years ago, my wife and I lived in England. One of our favorite places to visit, while we lived there, was the Tower of London. It is full of 1,000 years of history and every time we went, I learned something new.
One of focal points, at the Tower, is the story of William the Conqueror, a key figure in the rich history of England. His is a story of victory, courage, and success as an early leader of the country, which is all great, but I have always been more fascinated with his name.
Was he known as William the Conqueror while he was alive or is that a moniker subsequently invented by biographers and historians? I don’t know, but can you imagine the advantage you would have in your career today if you were known as You the Conqueror?
I would be willing to bet that every one of your calls would be returned promptly. Everyone would undoubtedly pay attention at every one of your meetings. You’d probably be able to get a reservation at any of the best restaurants. Your resume would be at the top of every potential employer’s pile were you to ever be looking for a job.
You get the picture.
While I was writing this super hero series, I realized that if you incorporated all of the processes and suggestions that each of our five super heroes have outlined, you would become You the Conqueror in your own personal way.
I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that you begin to openly refer to yourself as such, but you would surely gain the inner strength that you would need to feel like a conqueror. After all, what else could possibly stand in your way?
The only other obstacle that I can think of that we have yet to discuss is the fear of success. Were you to achieve success, particularly of the consistent and prolonged type, you most certainly would also incur increased responsibilities and additional expectations. A brighter spot light will almost always increase the amount of scrutiny you face. The more success you have and the more attention you receive for that success, the more people will be inclined to criticize you. The more relevant you become, the more opinions people will develop and those opinions will vary greatly.
Everything that you achieve extracts a price from you. You could be forgiven if you were hesitant to run toward success if these consequences would be the price that you would pay for it.
At this point, however, there is no logical reason for you to feel overwhelmed or that you are not up to any of the challenges that your success might bring your way. Besides, you aren’t just you anymore, you are You the Conqueror!
What you can and should do is figure out the exact price that you are willing to pay for success and then set your aspirations accordingly.
As an example, you may decide that you are unwilling to travel extensively for your career even if it might mean that you will make more money. You may determine that you would like to spend more time with your family in exchange for a lighter travel schedule and less money.
You may decide that you are best suited to work at a smaller company because you value the relationships with your co-workers and you believe that it would be more difficult to achieve those quality relationships at a larger organization.
Perhaps you place loyalty at the top of your list of redeeming qualities and you decide that you will continue to reciprocate the loyalty you have been shown by staying with your current company rather than looking for potentially greener grass elsewhere.
The great thing about your goals and how you define success, is that they are uniquely yours to create and subscribe to. The balance and harmony that you seek in your life are yours to develop and you are the only one who gets to determine when you get there and what you will do once you are there.
You have the tools to make your decisions in a guilt free environment, without self-imposed limitations. You are free to pursue your own personal perfection while embracing all of your imperfections. You have strengthened your resolve so you can proceed forward without worrying about being knocked off your path. If someone or something tries to get in your way, you know exactly what your options are.
You have so much momentum and so many things going for you, success should be the last thing that you worry about. The only thing left for you to do is to go out and achieve your potential.
You are You the Conqueror!
This is the last chapter of Scott Arney's Super Hero Series.
Be sure to check Scott's Spot on Patrolmen's Dispatch for each chapter of his Super Hero Series, which starts with Fear is Our Enemy; and his ongoing Serial Decision Maker series.
Perfectionists Kill Progress
I have a huge admiration for self-disciplined, switched on people who put forth a strong effort every day. I very much appreciate people who hold themselves and the work they produce to a high standard, especially when that standard exceeds any reasonable expectations that others could place on that person.
I applaud all students who study with a goal of getting an A+ on everything they do. I am impressed by competitors who compete to win every race every time.
Committing yourself to a pursuit of excellence will serve you well no matter the cause.
A pursuit of perfection may be a different story and, if you consider yourself a perfectionist, I am going to ask you to reconsider whether or not you want to own that title. First, however, I would like to illustrate what I believe is the difference between a person in pursuit of excellence and a person who is pursuing perfection.
I believe that a pursuit of excellence equals achievement, progress, and leadership. Conversely, a pursuit of perfection equals delays, hindrance, and stagnation.
There are a few reasons for these contrasts, but let’s start with the concept of each. Excellence and the perception of it is an inclusive, broadly defined term that most people can easily identify with. Perfection, however, is a highly subjective, exclusive term that to most people represents an unattainable standard. In fact, the old adage of “I’m only human” is simply another way of saying that no one is perfect.
Some of the basic fundamentals of goal setting mandate that worthwhile goals must be measurable, attainable, and realistic. While you may have a slightly different idea of excellence than I do, it will be infinitely easier for us to find common ground in that definition and how we will achieve it than it will be for us to agree on what perfection means and how, if ever, we will achieve it.
It has been my experience that perfectionists use the fact that perfection is out of reach more as an excuse than as a way of defining progress. Perfectionists tend to miss deadlines because the product of their work isn’t “perfect” at the time the result is needed. Perfectionists tend to tinker with and often amend the nature of a project or its scope because they cannot achieve a perfect outcome. Additionally, perfectionists tend to be poor delegators because they believe that no one will do the work as well as they do nor will anyone else be as focused on perfection as they are.
The by-product of a perfectionist, especially when there are multiple perfectionists in an organizational setting, is that progress is slow at best because the focus is on an unrealistic standard for achievement instead of the effort needed to achieve.
Delays and an unwillingness to delegate ultimately will bring progress to a screeching halt. Not only are things not getting done, no one is learning anything because the perfectionists are too sidetracked chasing a mythical objective.
No matter what your standard is or how you define progress, there are things that you can control and things that you cannot control. Any coach or manager that is tasked with running any team or business predicated on multiple people subscribing to the same vision and core objectives will tell you that they are much more concerned with the effort than the result. Why? Because the players on the team and the employees of the business control the effort while the result is at least partly reliant on others, whether they are a rival team or a clientele.
The pursuit of excellence focuses on the effort and the journey you take to achieve your goals. The pursuit of perfection focuses on the end result and intrinsically creates obstacles that block your path to get there.
The pro-perfectionists out there will also tell you things like mistakes are unacceptable and that they will not accept anything less than 100% satisfaction from the people they serve. I respectfully disagree with this as well. Whether you accept mistakes or not, they are going to happen. I suggest that you categorize those mistakes in order to better understand them.
For example, if the mistake in question is a simple error in execution, while not desired, it should be easier to understand than, say, a mistake involving a lapse in judgment.
If a teller mistakenly gives you $20 less than you asked for because some new bills stuck together in her drawer, it is a mistake that must be corrected, but it is also easy to understand how it happened.
If, on the other hand, that same teller takes your withdrawal amount from your checking account instead of your savings account as requested and hopes that you won’t notice because there are 10 other people waiting in line and looking impatient, the mistake is unnecessary because it could have been completely avoided had the teller exercised common judgment and basic decision making skills.
As far as the client satisfaction is concerned, well that is about as subjective as the concept of perfection. If you ask ten people what satisfactory customer service means to them, you are likely to get ten different answers. Satisfaction, just like perfection, is a moving target and representative of a result that is likely never to be achieved despite the best intentions and highest quality effort.
As a business leader and a sports coach, I can speak from a first-hand perspective on both fronts. Given the choice between an employee or a player who labels themselves a perfectionist and an employee or player who will maximize their effort every day in an attempt to continue to progress and improve, I will take the person who is committed to the pursuit of excellence every single time.
Besides, nobody is perfect.
This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.
From The Serial Decision Maker On Goals:
Results are great, but the majority of your learning and the experiences that you gain in your lifetime actually take place along the path that you travel as you move toward those results. In fact, most of your life is spent in the pursuit stage of your goals and dreams, not in the actual end result of those pursuits.
Decision Points are part of Scott Arney's online educational series, The Serial Decision Maker.
That’s not fair.
Life isn’t fair.
How many times have you heard these statements uttered? I was thinking that instead of trying to define an intangible, highly subjective concept such as fairness by what it is not, it might be worthwhile to take a crack at what it is.
Let’s start with the cliché of a level playing field often used to symbolize an equal starting point for anyone involved in a competition. When I used to coach soccer, our games would always take place on fields that were part of a larger park. The league would do its best to identify the best area of the park to stripe and mark off the field.
Early on, I realized that there was almost always a slope to the field. Sometimes it was a gradual, barely discernible slope and sometimes it was more like a small hill. Either way, the playing field was literally not level or even. So, I decided that we would use that to our advantage and each week I would make it a point to be the first coach to arrive for the game.
Upon arrival, I would stake out our practice area at the goal that was at the higher end of the field and that is the goal that we would be driving toward when the game started. Because teams switch sides at halftime, it also meant that we would drive toward the goal at the lower end of the field in the second half.
The first couple times I did this, I let the team know that they would be running uphill in the first half and I emphasized that if they could grab the lead or at least keep the game close in the first half, then the second half would most certainly be ours to take full advantage of because it was easier to run downhill. They soon grasped the concept and we all adapted that way of thinking without having to talk about it before each game.
I have no idea whether that strategy made a difference physically, but I know with absolute certainty that it made a difference mentally. The whole team bought into the idea that it mattered and that is what counted. Invariably, if we had a strong first half, we stomped the other team in the second half. If we had a tough first half, the team was visibly energized by the thought that the tough part was over.
Of course, we did not always win. We did, however, always create at least a slight mental advantage that put us in the best position to win. We simply took a situation that could have been construed as unfair and used it to our benefit.
So, here’s the point. There is nothing in life that equates everything for everybody other than living life itself. You are not promised a rosy future when you are born. There are no rules anywhere that mandate that you will earn the same living as the person standing next to you. You are not assured that your circumstances will be easy or that you will be surrounded by love and friendship. In fact, the second that you begin living, the exact opposite is true.
You will absolutely experience adversity. You will experience hurt and loss and frustration. At some point you will be in pain. You will be fearful. Is it fair? I don’t know, but it’s life and, in life, everyone has things to deal with that they would rather not, and everyone deals with events they would rather not experience.
What is fair is that even though you will rarely, if ever, play on a level field, you have the power to determine how you are going to play the game.
You have the ability to reason, assess, and to exercise your own logic. You have the greatest power of all, the power of choice.
You have a chance to do well, to succeed, to find your unique talent and excel regardless of how the game is being played or what the other person or team is doing.
If you have that chance, that sounds fair to me.
This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.
Medium: The movie “Unbroken”
Line: Pete: Louis, a moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory.
Great perspective even though his brother ends up enduring much more than a moment of pain.
Published articles, original content, opinions and commentary by Scott Arney, CEO, Chicago Patrolmen's Federal Credit Union.