Playing Favorites By Marshall Goldsmith There’s a reason I devote...
When the noes outnumber the yeses, it’s time to rethink the risk you’re about to take. (In my case, I would have concluded that my only immediate need for taking on the big wave was to impress my buddies.) At the very least, you’ll be surprised at how often you fall back on raw emotion and thoughtless impulse to take a risk.
The bigger takeaway from this split-second Triple A’s checklist is obvious in hindsight: When we overfocus on Action at the expense of our Aspiration and Ambition, we tend to make very poor opportunity-versus-risk decisions. This is the classic conflict. Our anticipation of a short-term benefit is engaged in a tug-of-war with our long-term welfare, and short-term is winning! And it leads to foolish risks and often to hard, unacceptable consequences.
Our other classic risk assessment error is the flip side of the same coin — it occurs when our fear of the short-term cost (the risk) stops us from seizing the opportunity to achieve a long- term gain that would materially further our Aspiration.
This is where Richard went wrong in failing to show up for that first date. I’ve discussed it with him since he first shared the story (the young woman’s name was Cathy), and we agree that the raw in-the-moment emotion governing his regrettable choice was a potent cocktail of fears, each one a variation of short-term fears.
When you start experiencing fear in pursuing any opportunity, ask yourself why. What are you afraid of, exactly? If it’s the possibility that you’ll experience a short-term setback, such as being rejected or looking stupid, change your time horizon.
Try to view the experience as if you were years older. Will your rejection scar you for life, or just produce the momentary discomfort of a nick of the skin that heals quickly? Then consider the opportunity from the same vantage point. What’s the best-case scenario if you seize the opportunity? What does your resulting life look like? And how do you feel about it?
The Triple A’s checklist is a simple tool that improves our opportunity to get risk right.
But don’t let its simplicity lure you into underestimating its importance in resolving seemingly insignificant decisions. After all, when we’re making decisions that affect our ambitions and aspirations, we are dealing with some of our most major issues.
The truth is, we are not very good at sifting the insignificant choices in our lives from the significant. In the moment of decision, we grossly overestimate the impact of some choices that end up being meaningless and grossly underestimate others that turn out to be life-altering.
I casually decided to paddle farther from shore to catch a bigger wave — and nearly destroyed my life. In the same way that we are very bad at predicting what will make us happy, we are also bad at foreseeing the consequences of what we assume are minor decisions.
When Ambition and Aspiration are in the mix, there are no minor decisions.
Employing the Triple A’s checklist may not make us perfect decision-makers — but it will eliminate some of the surprise we feel when the seemingly inconsequential decisions turn out to be very consequential.