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Making a T and Checking it Twice

August 27, 2020 By The Disrupter Leave a comment

For most of us, making major decisions is difficult.  It’s supposed to be that way, otherwise we’d all be running around recklessly, and the world would be an even crazier place!  It does appear that for some making big changes is an easier, more comfortable, confident and success-inducing process.  So, what’s our secret?  Is it possible to improve our abilities despite the uniqueness and infrequency of major life changes?  I think so.  While I cannot offer a magic bullet, I am happy to share some simple strategies I’ve collected and implemented through my experiences. 

Since I’ve just made a significant decision, a career change, the process is still top of mind.  To further state my qualifications, my wife and I have bought and sold 4 homes in the last 10 years, had 2 children, 4 career changes, and everything else that life’s thrown at us, and made steady progress through it all.  Through experience the big decisions become easier to make, but I believe the simple process we use is what’s allowed us to thrive amidst change. 

So, life places an opportunity or crossroads in your path…what do you do?  We make T’s!  Not tied-dye T-shirts, but T charts on paper.  T-Charts are a type of hart or graphic organizer in which a person lists and examines two facets of a topic, like the pros and cons associated with it, its advantages and disadvantages, best case and worst case scenarios, etc.

Applied to major decision making, a T-chart can be used to help graphically organize thoughts about:

  • Comparing resulting advantages and disadvantages
  • Evaluating the pros and cons of a topic
  • Enumerating the problems and solutions associated with an action
  • Explaining the strengths and weaknesses of an opportunity

Creating T charts to help make a decision is not an exact science.  Many can be quickly done using a single T, even in one’s head.  You probably already go through a thought process like this but somewhat unconsciously and without structure for the smaller decisions you make regularly.  For bigger decisions, and ones for which a clear decision doesn’t surface quickly, many T charts may be necessary and you may need to work on them for a while before reaching a final decision.  I find the process of actually writing them out helpful.  Writing is slower than thinking and inherently evokes more reflection and thoughtfulness, plus its easier to review with clarity.  The process also helps put you in tune with and clarify your goals, risk tolerance, opportunity costs, and timing relative to whatever change you’re considering.  To expand on this:

  • Goals. Consider how the proposed change moves you toward or away from your relevant life goals.  Is retirement by 55 a key life goal?  Is spending time with your family the top priority? 
  • Risk Tolerance. This one is where a lot of anxiety can surface.  Many major decisions and changes carry risk.  My current career change for example takes me from a salaried compensation to a full commission with no guaranteed income.  To assess my risk tolerance, I created a 6-month financial plan and played worst case scenario to see how much risk I could afford to take without putting my family’s well-being in jeopardy.
  • Opportunity Costs. This is the potential cost of picking one path over another.  Opportunity cost can be tricky to assess, because it’s forward looking, a projection.  If I stay the course, where will it lead me?  This is where I lean on the Best Case/Worst Case Scenario T charts.  Compare these for each option and you should be able to see what you’re potentially giving up by making one choice or another.
  • Timing. Timing can be everything, it’s extremely significant for big decisions.  Will this opportunity ever present itself again or is it a once in a lifetime situation?  That question alone has a major impact on opportunity cost and risk. 

Ok, some other advice.  Don’t rush it; the bigger the impact of the decision the more time you should spend making it.  Include others affected by the choice in the process.  Get feedback from your advisors and mentors, or a trusted friend or family member.  Practice does lead to improvement, try to use this process for some small and medium sized decisions so you’re better prepared to use it for the next big one.  I hope you’ll find it useful.  Thoughtful and logical decisions will give you greater confidence and conviction in your decisions, limit second guessing and reduce stress.

Here’s hoping we all make as many of the right decisions as possible (however you personally choose to define them) and make steady progress towards our goals.  Thanks for reading over the last 6 years, you’ve helped and supported me more than you know.  In my experience, the teacher nearly always learns more than the student. 

Live well, prosper, and get better every day! 

Love the Sales Cyclist, Support Soigneur, Disrupter, and Man Behind the Curtain.          


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