How fast should you make a business decision? Should you spend weeks or months getting every fact to make sure you don’t screw over your company? It turns out that you want to decide fast.
Napoleon Hill spent his life studying 500+ of the richest people in the world in person thanks to his access with Andrew Carnegie. He wrote books telling us how they did it and how you can do the same.
One of the things that he said was that he and Carnegie found that if you are unable to make a quick decision even when you have enough information you need, you will not follow through on your goals or be successful.
Now, this is important for two reasons:
First, note that he says you need enough resources. This means that making decisions without enough information is foolish and it doesn’t matter how slow or fast you make them.
Second, once you have the necessary info, you have to make your decision quickly. Hill went on to say that successful people make decisions quickly and are slow to change. Unsuccessful people make their decisions slowly and are quick to change.
Examples from History
Henry Ford was so stubborn with his decision about the Model T car even when every one of his colleagues told him to give up.
Yet he eventually succeeded.
I’ve put this concept on the side for a while. I was a partial skeptic because I wanted to make sure if this is really an end-all be-all rule. What if you make too quick a decision and make the wrong decision? What if that screw up hurts you badly and you could’ve have succeeded by just taking more time to think it over?
It makes sense, right? Some decisions become very clear which one is better if you are given a lot more time to do the research. Common examples are mathematical, logical games like chess or poker.
Perhaps what Napoleon means is that life is not like chess. There are too many unknowns, and you’re playing with incomplete data.
Perhaps Napoleon means that most of us fail because we spend way too much time delaying action by analysis paralysis. We could spend months or even years delaying a decision and gaining marginal or no benefit from doing so.
Maybe that’s what we should truly avoid.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com
Warren Buffett has named Jeff Bezos the greatest CEO of our era. That’s saying a lot considering Buffett’s track record in business and all the thousands of companies he’s seen and can choose from.
So what does Bezos have to say about the speed with which you make decisions?
In his 2016 shareholder letter, he emphasizes the dramatic speed that he makes decisions. He says that many small decisions are reversible so don’t stress if you’re wrong. He says if you’re waiting to get all the information, you’ve already waited way too long.
“First, never use a one-size-fits-all decision-making process. Many decisions are reversible, two-way doors. Those decisions can use a light-weight process. For those, so what if you’re wrong? I wrote about this in more detail in last year’s letter.
Second, most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably being slow. Plus, either way, you need to be good at quickly recognizing and correcting bad decisions. If you’re good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure.”
Kevin Plank, founder of Under Armour
What I do know is that recently I watched a speech by billionaire Kevin Plank of Under Armour. His speech, similar to billionaire John Paul DeJoria’s who came from homelessness, really pushed out any type of excuses or limiting beliefs I had about my situation, education, geographic location, or anything else.
“Get off the fence. Commit. Pick your poison. If you’re in it, get in it. If you’re at Company A, don’t spend all your time thinking about whether or not you should be here or not. Pour everything you have into it. If you make a different decision, make it full speed and move on. And never look back.”
His message is simple. Commit and put 150% into it.
He’s a guy who is very quick to commit and go full speed at something.
With this additional evidence, I think it’s clear for me that the best move for me or you at this moment is to just go full force 3000% at something. Decide quickly and move. If you make a mistake, at least you learn something and can pivot.
You can’t sit in a cave or isolate yourself with books and expect to be able to prepare everything perfectly in life ahead of time. Just go for it.
Kevin says that he meets a lot of young people who can’t decide between 2 companies. He tells them to quickly make a decision and put your heart and soul into it. He’s definitely not one to spend hours a day living in regret at the wrong decision he made or mulling over if he made a mistake.
Perhaps you shouldn’t either.
Maybe there is some benefit from talking to others in a field beforehand. You can definitely get valuable information from other people, alumni, friends, LinkedIn, or your network over coffee meetings or interviews. And that can save you a few weeks or few months of heartache from finding out a job or industry is not what you imagined it to be.
But there is a threshold of marginal returns from overanalyzing and overthinking.
Commit. Decide what you want to do. Get specific. Do it.
If you decide you want to get a job in fitness, for example, commit. Get a job in that field immediately. Try it out. Put your heart into it. What you don’t want to do is absolutely nothing from analysis paralysis.
Don’t just belief me. Belief the billionaires I’ve mentioned.
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