When you hear that it is time to fish or cut bait, it is time to make a decision. Of this, I am certain. What I am not certain of is exactly what is being decided. I think the choice is whether to act or take more time before you act.
Clearly, the fact that this cliché involves decision making has caught my attention. There are a couple of problems, however, with the fishing simile. If fishing were a legitimate option, wouldn’t you have already cut bait? Also, aren’t there other options to consider?
Your decision-making process should be a purposeful, deliberate, and personal exercise that you have developed and fine tuned while making different types of decisions preferably over a prolonged period of time. Yes, you will often face a deadline when you are deciding, but if you are the one who is going to make the call, you should also have a say in when that call is made.
If I am asked to make a decision that in anyway feels like an ultimatum or that is being unnecessarily rushed, one of my personal rules is to always say no. My experience has taught me that rushed decisions are almost always the wrong decisions. This does not mean that I am a slow decision maker. I tend to make decisions pretty quickly, all things considered, but I can do so because I am following my own process that I have worked on and honed for years.
Sticking with the simile, if someone were to tell me that it was time to fish or cut bait, the latter would have already been completed and the choice wouldn’t be applicable. I would be thinking about whether I was going to fish or do something else. Fish or swim? Maybe, fish or go to the grocery store, since the purpose of my fishing trip would likely be to catch dinner.
Talking about fish and decisions reminds me of a favorite saying of one of my favorite people, “You never saw a fish on the wall with his mouth shut.” This is a great lesson and a reminder that a key to good decision making is to be a good listener. I have always learned more when my mouth has been shut and, strangely, I never know as much as I think I know when my mouth is open. On that note, I think I’ll stop talking. It’s time to go fishing!
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.