Monday, February 28, 2011

Improving Your Decision Making Skills

I am forever trying to figure out how to perfect the skill of making a decision.  Years ago, I leaned almost exclusively towards the rational, methodical way of making up my mind.  With much experience under my belt, I have become much more fond of following my gut instincts.  I know now that listening to my body is the best guide I have.  When I feel tense or stressed, it’s time to change direction or rethink my decision.  When I am going in the “right” direction, I actually feel very calm.
I like the article below because it’s helpful as a guide when you are caught in a moment of indecision and it helps you become a better decision maker overall.


We live in an age of choices, when something as simple as picking toothpaste— do you want to fight cavities or tartar? whiten your teeth? freshen your breath?— is complicated enough to send us to the candy aisle for comfort. So if you occasionally suffer from indecision, rest assured you are not alone. In fact, your confusion might be a sign of an extraordinarily rich mind: Buridanitis, the term for the mental gridlock we all experience now and then, afflicted great thinkers like Socrates and Saint Augustine, whose imaginations saw endless options and opportunities.

Contemporary philosophers have developed a science to overcome indecision, the principles of which are used by major corporations and government agencies to decide anything from hiring employees to allocating money. The good news is you can apply those same methods to resolve everyday situations.
"People are afraid of making decisions because they're trying to find the perfect answer, and there is no perfect answer," says Gary Klein, whose company, Klein Associates, Inc., trains high-powered executives to make choices. He is also the author of Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions, for which he interviewed firemen, nurses, and others who are paid to make up their minds in just seconds.
People usually make decisions in one of two ways: They analyze the pros and cons, or they go with their gut instincts. In psychology and business journals, writers who you'd think have better things to do use up gallons of ink arguing about which approach is better. Klein recommends a combination of these methods, in this order:
Get in touch with your gut first. Once you start listing pros and cons, your rational mind will drown out your intuition. Klein defines intuition as the accumulation of experience converted to flash-fast thinking. "As you ponder that new job, you might think about the way you were treated at the interview and that may color your reaction," he says. "Even a bit of body language could instill some discomfort that could be warning you off." To uncover your intuitive point of view, you can even flip a coin—not to make the decision for you, but so you can register your gut reaction to the result. How do you feel when one option drops out? If you're disappointed, ask yourself why.

Open up the options and visualize each one. Doing research is obviously valuable, but sometimes the fear of making a mistake can keep you researching beyond the point of productivity. On the flip side, the hunger for the relief of making a decision, any decision, can keep you from doing enough legwork. Without overdoing it, brainstorm a lot of options. Think creatively about combining the best pieces of each one by compromising or going whole hog: You could buy both the red and the black sweater.

Banish vague fears, such as "It may be a mistake," and instead try to see yourself in a specific scenario. Ask yourself concrete questions about the possible outcome: What's the worst that could happen? What would I do then? Could I live with that? "It's more important to visualize how each option would turn out," says Klein. "If you can, actually walk through them or do something on a trial basis. It's hard to evaluate things you haven't really savored."

Let go of the idea of the perfect answer. You cannot possibly get all the info, nor can you foretell the future and calculate all the risks. Chill out. "The harder a decision is to make, the closer the outcomes are to each other, and the less it matters," says Klein. "If you are agonizing over different resorts in Hawaii, you're just beating yourself up. There is never a guarantee that you're making the right decision. Just accept that."

Trust yourself. Improve your intuition by examining your decisions after you've made them. Look at whether you would do it the same way again.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Relationships That Last

For the seventh time in 30 years, I am putting on a reunion for my college freshman dorm.  Stanford has class reunions every five years, but even though I only live 30 minutes away, the “whole class” reunion is really not why I attend. We had 1,500 students in our class.
Though I met wonderful people in college, it was my freshman dorm that was my family.  There were 70 of us from all over the country.  At that time, they didn’t put roommates or dorms together based on what you had in common.  They just threw us together.
I have never felt more at home than I did in my freshman year.  All of us, girls and boys kept an eye out for each other.  I loved having lots of brothers and sisters.
As I begin tracking everyone down and getting us together again, I am overwhelmed by how almost 75% of this dorm comes back together every five years.  Even though it’s been a number of years since the last reunion, the emails pour in,  “I’ll be there.  Thanks for doing this”.
I think what makes this group tight even without seeing each other for long stretches is what we shared together.  We had absolutely no idea what we were doing.  It was new, not just to one of us, but to all of us.  
There is something about sharing absolute vulnerability that breeds a very deep bond.
To this day, one of these “old” friends could say something to me and I would smile knowing exactly who they are at their core.  It is doubtful they would ever try to “impress” me with anything but sincerity because they know I would see right through it.
I think that is the essence of true friendships that last.  When you know someone in their least secure times, you know who they really are.  
I am blessed to have many friends who fall into this category, as I know you do.

But, what makes this slightly different is the size of the group and that all of us lived in the same boat for a whole year.
As I get older, I realize that it’s these relationships that bring me the greatest joy because knowing someone without any layers of pretense is a very special gift and I do not take it lightly.


Wednesday, February 09, 2011


I feel like I have been booking a lot of flights lately for myself and my sons.  I typically use, but I just found another site that makes it a little easier.  It's called Hipmunk (like many other flight sites, it does not include Southwest). 
I like the design and layout of the site.  It's much more clear than many other sites.
Give it a try and let me know what you think.