This is a question I’ve asked myself many times in both professional and personal matters. In countless instances, I’ve searched in vain for a one-size-fits-all answer that promises happiness and positivity for the foreseeable future. Many times, my labored decision making left me at a standstill, resulting in lost time and wasted energy. Time I could have spent moving forward and making progress.
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” -Theodore Roosevelt
These wise words from Theodore Roosevelt have inspired me lately. I suppose with age and experience comes wisdom, so in many ways decision making has become less challenging for me as I’ve become more self-aware. In essence, the more opportunities I’ve had to make tough decisions, the more comfortable I’ve become with the feelings (and, sometimes, anxiety) that go along with making them. But as young entrepreneurs, there are a myriad of decisions you’re faced with on a regular basis that can affect the trajectory of your venture, employees and clients, as well as your personal life. So how do you know if you’re making the right one?
Take a breath…but know when to exhale.
Don’t be reactive and force yourself into making a decision too quickly. It’s okay to take a moment to gather your thoughts, review the facts and consider your feelings before you act. Earlier in my career, I was an admissions counselor for a college. The expectation for counselors was that we would respond to all student and parent inquiries within 24 hours. These were typically general questions so it was fairly easy to accomplish. However, as I advanced in my career, I started receiving more complicated requests from students and parents, as well as faculty. I remember one day I was itching to respond to a faculty request but wasn’t quite sure of the answer. My boss at the time told me to wait, that in this case, I needed to take some time to be proactive with my response rather than reactive. This resulted in a more thoughtful response from me a few days later and a much better outcome.
Seek counsel…but trust your gut.
When it comes to receiving advice, I suggest quality over quantity. New perspectives are good too. When I was thinking about moving on from admissions into a marketing role, I had coffee with someone that had been recommended to me but I had never met. As I talked about my experience and career goals, he asked if I’d considered looking for a marketing position in higher education. His advice clicked for me, and I immediately knew that was the right decision for me. I could’ve talked with a million other people, but why? It felt right in my gut, so I pressed forward and landed this great job in the Entrepreneurship Initiative!
Reflect quietly…but communicate openly.
Decisions have a ripple effect. They not only affect you, but also others around you. It can be a gray area, so it’s important to consider all of the scenarios before speaking, so when you do, you do so authentically, truthfully and openly. This is especially important for the entrepreneur, who is leading a team of employees, working with investors and/or providing services to your customers. In my world, the Entrepreneurship Initiative is embarking upon a new strategic plan, a common thing for most companies. But new goals and milestones come with uncertainty sometimes. As a team, we work together to navigate that uncertainty by setting short-term milestones to achieve that will ultimately impact our long-term goals. It gives us an opportunity to reflect on what worked, as well as what didn’t, individually then discuss as a team, tweaking accordingly as we move along.
So, my friends, don’t spend too much time worrying over the right decision, instead start by taking action. And always remember what our buddy Teddy Roosevelt had to say about the haters:
“It is not the critic who counts…The credit belongs to the man [or woman!] who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly..who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”