How to Make Better Decisions

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WW2 Poster Reminding Soldiers of Informed Self Interest

We live in a world where we often make decisions quickly and we expect to see quick results.

This works on Amazon, I order a new belt and it shows up in two days… like magic.

I start to expect everything to work like that…

Whenever I go to the gym (which isn’t very often) I get frustrated by how long it can take to see results. If I eat one nasty salad, I expect to see my spare tire melt away in an afternoon.

On one hand I know eating right and getting exercise is good for me… on the other hand, it’s annoying and it takes too long so I stop and eat at Sonny’s BBQ.

We can all look around our trade and see TERRIBLE decisions made every day. Bad workmanship, unsafe practices, emotionally driven reactions, unprofessional customer service and the list goes on and on…

I’ve talked before about how Dan Holohan talks about search VS. research in learning. Search being simply looking for a quick answer and research being the study of a topic or practice of a discipline until you really understand it.

The first mindsets is about convenience and expedience and the other is about the long haul, the future benefit.

Deep in each of us is a desire to act according to what is best for ourselves, our families and our careers.

Some would call this “self-interest” a problem. I think it’s actually the key to good decision making.

People acting in their own self-interest is the fuel for all the discovery, innovation, and prosperity that powers the world.

John Stossel

The world needs people who see an opportunity to better themselves, rise to a challenge, make a difference and reap the reward.

This isn’t “selfish” or “entitled” in the negative sense because the things that make us truly happy are good things.

I don’t know about you but I feel best when I treat people well, get a good night sleep and find a way to make the world a better place in one way or another.

The barrier to making “good” decisions isn’t self-interest vs. altruism it’s more about making long-term decisions instead of short-term. It’s about making choices based on informed self-interest rather than on basic emotional reactions or the “tyranny of the urgent”.

Emotional Decision Making

I know this may come as a shock but I’ve lost my cool quite a few times over my career. Thankfully, none of these instances led to any major consequences (that I’m aware of).

On the other hand, I don’t look back at any of those emotional reactions and think “gosh I’m glad that’s how I behaved”.

Informed self-interest teaches you that reacting out of emotion isn’t good for you over the long haul.

I’ve learned that I usually respond with negative emotions when I feel attacked or disrespected. When that happens it’s best for me to back off, give it some time and then come back and address it with a solution in mind rather than emotion.

The Tyranny of the Urgent

My business (Kalos Services) is an HVAC/R, Electrical and General Contracting business. My father is a GC & EC and we started the business together in 2005 with all three disciplines under one roof.

I joke around with my Dad about how demanding construction managers and superintendents can be on subcontractors.

In construction emergencies take precedent over planning and quality work… and EVERYTHING is an emergency

Of course, that’s an exaggeration…. but not by much.

We call this pressure to drop everything and take care of the “emergency” the tyranny of the urgent. Sometimes those emergencies are real and sometimes they are imagined. Either way, when they are forced in our laps we have a decision to make.

In our trade there is a constant tension between production, execution and timelines and quality, safety and general mental health.

Sometimes you do need to “get after it” to get a job done but it can’t be every day and it shouldn’t be at the expense of your long-term health or safety.

A tradesman working with informed self-interest will work hard and efficiently but won’t take foolish risks or give in to the pressure to perform poor quality work.

Often it is this push to get work done in the Summer that leads to service techs who cut corners, end up with a trashed van and paperwork improperly done.

It’s a slippery slope and every company and tech needs to do a reset every now and then and think.

Are you really making the best choices for your business, techs, and customers or are you giving in to a constant emergency mindset.

Short-Term Urges

I have 9 kids with #10 arriving in a few weeks. I love kids, they are great, but they are driven by short-term, uninformed desires. Hunger, anger, fear etc…

These are instincts or urges. We are all born with them and one of the defining characteristics of being an adult is curbing them so that we can make progress in our lives.

As adults, these are everything from addictions, temper, overeating, laziness, and hypochondria.

Usually, we find ways to excuse our behavior to ourselves while everyone around us knows that we are bound by them.

In other words… in order to act in your own real self-interest, in the long run, you need to be able to control what “feels” right in the short term.

The Most Important Choices

I don’t know about you but I really enjoy this trade. I don’t always enjoy the business model or the hours but the work is really interesting.

However…

The most important decisions we can make in our own best interest have to do with things other than air conditioning, these are things like.

  • Calling your parents and siblings
  • Writing a nice email to an old friend, teacher or mentor encouraging them
  • Going on more dates and vacations with your spouse
  • Eating right
  • Saving a percentage of every paycheck
  • Giving a percentage of your income to help others
  • Playing in the yard with your kids
  • Getting out and playing your favorite sport
  • Learning something new
  • Working safely and taking care of your back

So on and so forth…

All of these things are pretty obvious, and All pretty hard to do in our business, especially in the busy season.

They are still all according to the philosophy of informed self-interest. They are all choices you will look back on and feel good about.

You probably won’t feel the same about

  • Telling that customer or guy on Facebook where to shove it
  • Drinking another beer
  • Working more overtime (even when the job supervisor says it’s an emergency)
  • Watching more Netflix

I’m NOT saying there is anything wrong with an occasional 70hr work week or some informed risk-taking now and again. The American flag is on the moon because many smart people worked hard and took a TON of well-educated but very real risks.

Thoughtful risk-taking and sacrifice is fine and good… it’s what this country was built on but you need to look back at choices with the eyes of the future and consider if the risk and reward is worth it.

SOMETIMES WE NEED TO PAUSE AND TAKE STOCK

I know it probably sounds like I’m preaching, truth be told, I’m struggling with all these same things right now. This is written to me as much as anyone.

Have a great informed self-interested week.

— Bryan

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