In this episode my guest is Michelle Florendo, a decision engineer and a coach. She works with high achieving professionals to show them how decision engineering can help them succeed in work and life.
In our conversation we talked about the challenges around decision making in career where Michelle shared her knowledge in decision engineering, her very personal experience and her professional experience working with clients making these challenging decisions
I loved our conversation so much, I hope you will too.
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"I think the difficulty that people have when it comes to decision making is understanding that saying yes, to what matters to us, also means saying no, to what doesn't matter." - Michelle Florendo
"Over the course of our careers, the things that we are able to do, and the things that we are passionate about, they're almost like ingredients in our pantry. And yes, we can have very large pantries and have the ingredients to be able to make like, chicken parmesan, or kung pao chicken. I mean, there's still chicken over here, chicken over there, but very different dishes. And I think that's been a useful image for some of my clients to think about. Just because you know, whatever current step you may be focusing on a certain dish doesn't negate the fact that you still have all of these things in your pantry. And it doesn't mean that you can't also use those other ingredients in other ways in other parts of your life. " -Michelle Florendo
Our careers can be like seasons.
"...there will be a season where I may focus on this particular dish, and these particular ingredients in my pantry. And then there may come another season where I'm focusing on different things. And I still might be using other ingredients in this dessert dish or like this entree or appetizer, but that it's not going to be static all the time. And this one decision that I make right now, or at this next point in time is not going to decide the rest of my life."
"If people are in a career situation that is just not working for them, I actually think that the riskiest assumption is if they assume that there are no other choices that exist and that they have to stay." - Michelle Florendo
"I'm a big fan of the concept of career pivots coming from a dance background, a pivot is when you turn, but you still keep one foot on the ground. You keep one foot in the same place, but you're moving the other one. And I think that's a great analogy for thinking about career moves, because also for any of the people who are also risk averse out there, it's a way of de-risking or at least shrinking the risk of the next move because you're keeping something consistent." - Michelle Florendo
"The quality of a decision is not actually the same as the quality of an outcome." - Michelle Florendo
"Make the best decision you can given the information you have at that point in time" - Michelle Florendo
"1.Have you identified what your objectives are? 2.Have you explored options beyond the obvious? 3.Have you gathered enough information to have a sense of how the options may deliver against the objectives?" -Michelle Florendo
Books/ People/ Platform Michelle mentioned
Martin Seligman, Flourish (where he writes about the PERMA model)
Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice
Seth Godin (he talks about tension)
Akimbo community (participants and graduates of Akimbo workshops of Seth Godin)
Questions to ask yourself
What is in your pantry? Which meals are you cooking? What else is calling you to make out of all the ingredients in your pantry?
When you look at your life and career, can you recognize the seasons? Which season are you in? How do you know?
If you want to make a career change, what can be your pivot? What can you keep constant, while exploring? What can you explore?
What are you taking away from this conversation?
Isil: I think you explained it in multiple platforms. But I'm really curious about the engineering part of it. So what makes decision engineering, an engineering?
Michelle: So the way I like to explain it is, if you think about engineering, as a whole, like a term, a discipline, like chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, it's usually the discipline of being able to build solutions based on structure, logic, calculations, that type of thing, in order to solve problems in that realm. So similarly, decision engineering is the discipline of being able to build solutions or build solutions to decision problems according to framework structures and calculations in a way. And so traditionally, the discipline of decision engineering had been used to help organizations or businesses or institutions be able to make high stakes decisions in the face of uncertainty. And so I remember the Dean of my department used to contract with NASA, or companies that ran nuclear reactors. They are very big, hyper decisions, and she would use decision engineering to help them make the best decision based on the various models and frameworks, etc. I will say that the type of decision engineering that I do now, I consider an evolution from what I had studied in university, in that I am much more fascinated by the realm of decisions where we're not just trying to optimize one outcome, like profit, where the objectives that we have may be multifaceted as we might have in life decisions, and also with outcomes are not easily measurable. Or the probabilities are not easily quantified, because I find these are very interesting, complex problems. Yet, there are ways that I can still use some of those principles from decision engineering to make those types of messy, complex human decisions easier, or at least easier to tackle and clear to see.
Isil: That was a kind reformulation from easier to "easier to tackle".
Michelle: I think the difficulty that people have when it comes to decision making is understanding that saying yes, to what matters to us, also means saying no, to what doesn't matter. And I think people get stuck on the no part. Like there's a certain level of like fear of missing out, FOMO. And sometimes people will get stuck on that. Or humans are also wired to be uncomfortable with uncertainty. So there's also that going on. And so that's why I think I modified by language. I like helping people feel more equipped to tackle big messy decisions.
Isil: Maybe we can talk about the places where people get stuck, especially I think, what I was intending with this podcast, and now we can maybe connect it to your story, because I'm also curious, how did you decide to study this? I've personally never known that was an option.
Michelle: I didn't know either when I entered the school.
Isil: So I would love to also learn about that. But coming from my own personal story, I felt stuck at some point in my career, because it was very clear I didn't want to do this. But I had no idea what else. And then the decision felt like I'm jumping off the cliff into not knowing. Very little information on what can work but super clear about what is not working in my case. And I think there are other people who experience life like this or career like this. How would decision engineering approach or how would you equip me in this situation?
Michelle: Well, I have to say that your story really resonates with me because I found myself at the same crossroads. I remember growing up the way that my dad raised me . My mom is a little bit more supportive of following my passions, but for some reason, I think culturally, my dad's voice echoed that of many others in my community. He said, the path to success is to study hard, go to university, graduate and get a good job, then you're set. And I thought, okay, I can do well with instructions and steps. Let me do all these things. So I studied hard, I went to university, I graduated, and I got a good job. For everyone on the podcast, I'm putting good job in finger quotes. So I started my career in management consulting. And if I had to do it all over again, I probably would have started there too. But maybe just would have done a little bit more of the work that would have made transition easier. But about after a year, I realized, I think, similar to you that this is, this is not what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. And I felt super lost. Because I followed the steps, I thought that, you know, if I do ABCD, I would get this wonderful life, and I would be set. And then I didn't have to do anything anymore, except show up to work and do a good job. And I think like you said, the prospect of thinking about doing something else, or turning away from that job felt so ambiguous, like you said something, it's like leaping out into the darkness, because I didn't know what was out there. And I think layering on top of this feeling of a feeling lost, also a bit of guilt. Like, it was a quote unquote, good job. It paid well, from the outside, it looked really great. I was able to rent an apartment in San Francisco, you know, I had all these things a very prestigious job. And then, I felt guilty. Oh, wow, I have this job that other people would love to have, but I'm not happy. What's wrong with me? And then there's also a layer of I'd say, maybe, shame around. Wow, did I make the wrong decision? Oh, my gosh, how could I not know that this was going to be a bad match for me, I should have known, I should have done something else. And what does that say about me that I've made this mistake. And what I find interesting is that those three feelings, feeling lost, feeling guilt, feeling ashamed, kept me unhappy for a bit because I didn't want to talk to anyone about it. I didn't want to admit that I was unhappy, and that I didn't know what to do next. And that kept me from seeking out help for months, until I was telling my mentor about this. And he said, So wait, you studied decision engineering. And you currently use that skill set to help companies make the best decisions for them? Why not use that to make the best decision for you? Why didn't I think of that? But again, sometimes we just need people on the outside, right to tell us the things that are under our nose.
To your question about "Okay, how can decision engineering better equip people to flush out what might be next?" - There's a very basic principle from decision engineering that talks about how every single decision has three components. If one of the components is missing, it's not really a decision. So the first component is: what are your objectives? In other words, what is it that you want in the outcome? The second component is: what are your options? Or what are the things you have to choose among? And then the third component is: what information do you have on how each of these options that deliver against the objectives you had? And so once I applied that framework, objectives, options, information to this decision of what to do next, one of the things that I realized was, I didn't actually ever spend time thinking about what were my objectives. I think I had adopted a lot of what my parents said would be good or society said I should want. But obviously, taking those objectives and making decisions based on that led me to this place that wasn't working for me. And sometimes we know what's not working. And we can use that to help us also understand well, what is it that we would want instead, that's the first step: being able to understand what is it that others have told me that I wanted, and as I peel back the layers of the onion at the core, based on my experiences so far, what is my sense of what I actually wan in my next step?
Isil: While listening to you, I was tracing back to my own experience. And I think probably, it was relatively easier to find out what (it wasn't easy but easier) what I wanted. But again, going back to what you said it wasn't so measurable. What I wanted was fulfillment, that I made a difference, and that I worked with people. So there were these things, but about the options... So what possible ways I could get that, I think I was missing that. And because I wasn't seeing that, I couldn't really tell how that related to the outcome, this information part I think you were referring to. And then that makes my situation not a decision. It feels like from what you say the decision cannot be given in that situation, if I understand it correctly, is that so?
Michelle: Or at least, there's a decision to be made. But it seems like there was more definition that needs to happen in each of those areas. What you're sharing is something that I see very common among my clients where they want fulfilment, or they want growth, they want financial sustainability. And so part of what I do when I work with clients is to dig and to ask questions about what does that actually look like? You know, for people who are longing for fulfillment - it's actually interesting I have a diagram on the wall behind me that I use when when I talk to clients- well, what does that actually mean? There's a book. It's by Dr. Seligman. He does a lot of research on positive psychology and happiness. And he talks about how happiness is derived from five areas. Let's see, it's called the PERMA model. And so I might use that model to explore with a client: Well, okay, give me examples of what types of relationships have driven your happiness or fulfillment, or you know, the engagement, what are those types of things that you're doing when you lose track of time, in a good way? Pleasure is one of the areas that that's not usually one that we attach to at least career choices, like I derive a lot of pleasure from dancing, but I'm not about to become a professional dancer. But, I may want a option where, at least like the work schedule allows me time outside of work to pursue these things that give me pleasure. And so I think there are frameworks out there to equip people to do more of that inquiry, right? And then, another next step is, being able to engage with other people, you can crowdsource what some of those options may be. And so once you're equipped with understanding what type of work and I want to decouple the idea of what type of work would you be interested in from what job title you would want? I think a lot of people get stuck on "Well, I don't know what job title I want. And thus, I don't know what to search for in the databases online.". Let's step back and talk about what what are the elements of the type of work you imagine doing every day? Like do you imagine being in conversation with people for a large proportion of the time or would you rather be at a desk analyzing numbers or maybe you like coding and programming and that type of thing. What are the building blocks? Because that equips you with better language to have conversations. And then, you might be able to triangulate back to what are possible job titles.
Isil: I was also thinking about a couple of people I have been working with. There are people who are multi passionate.
Michelle: Yes. I count myself as one of them.
Isil: They can do any of these things, and they list lots of different alternatives. And when you feel kind of warm to all of these options, and you still feel you need to make one choice, because limited resources in terms of time and finances, and you can only have -if it's a job- one job, and that the other ones will be a hobby. In this case, how does the framework help us to make the decision?
Michelle: I'll bring in an image that I find really useful. It came from Pamela Slim's book "Body of Work". And she talks about how you know, over the course of our careers, the things that we are able to do, and the things that we are passionate about, they're almost like ingredients in our pantry. And yes, we can have very large pantries and have the ingredients to be able to make like, chicken parmesan, or kung pao chicken. I mean, there's still chicken over here, chicken over there, but very different dishes. And I think that's been a useful image for some of my clients to think about. Just because you know, whatever current step you may be focusing on a certain dish doesn't negate the fact that you still have all of these things in your pantry. And it doesn't mean that you can't also use those other ingredients in other ways in other parts of your life. So I think the biggest mistake that I see people make is thinking that they need to optimize on everything, all at once, all in one jump. Again, I would like to think we are holistic humans who also have lives outside of work. And you know, the world is so dynamic, at least in the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has released some statistics about how the average tenure at a job is shrinking, we're no longer living in an age where people stay at the same company and role for the entire vertical role for the entire length of their career. Some people even have multiple careers over the length of their lives. And so I think another thing that comes to mind, image wise, is the idea of seasons. I think I've adopted this, especially as a mother of small children, where there will be a season where I may focus on this particular dish, and these particular ingredients in my pantry. And then there may come another season where I'm focusing on different things. And I still might be using other ingredients in this dessert dish or like this entree or appetizer, but that it's not going to be static all the time. And this one decision that I make right now, or at this next point in time is not going to decide the rest of my life.
Isil: It feels you're speaking about the fear of missing out. Again, it's like, we would have this fear if we think that we will not be able to do that again, or use that again, or touch that part of our lives again, but I'm hearing you're saying that different ways of using these parts of yourself. And it can be also that there are periods of your life that you're focusing on different things. Some people are coming to mind that I have worked with and one thing that is challenging people usually is the question of security. They know they want something, they clarified it, and it's all there somewhere. But they need to keep making connections, keep building themselves up, keep developing, and maybe it will take some time. And it's not known. So there is an ambiguity around when that can happen because they are just starting out where on the other side, there is something that is more familiar, more connected to their past. It's not super interesting, but it is easier to just just get to that next place then keep searching for this and I have experienced people choosing this path rather than going there even though they knew exactly they should go there. But it's as if there's something in them that takes over. What can we learn or practice in ourselves that we strengthened our...maybe... do we need patience for this? What would be a helpful way to approach this side of us if we have this tendency to go toward the easier, but not necessarily the best choice for ourselves?
Michelle: What comes to mind is the concept of risk. And this is where my decision engineer comes out in full force. And it's funny because I identify as someone who is quite risk averse, meaning that I, if given the choice between, flip a coin, and if it's heads, I get $1, and if it's tails, I get $3, and then the other choice is just to get $2, no matter what, I will always take the $2. I'm risk averse, even though mathematically, the choices are equal if you calculate the expected value. So that's just what risk aversion means. What I find interesting about risk is, what is it that we are risking? Because I think sometimes when we think about risk, we think about risk in terms of what, again, like society defines as risky, which may be, you know, giving up a sure stable, well known job for something that may be a bit ambiguous, I think collectively, there are many cultures that would consider that risky. But that's risk as defined by the external world, I would also ask "Well, what is at risk, given what someone's objectives are?" And so I can think back to -it must have been- seven or eight years ago, when I was in a stable job. And I also realized that I, when I had children, would want to be able to have the flexibility to spend time with my children, when they were ages zero to five. And being in a very fast paced organization, with a lot of people who came from corporate backgrounds. What I saw was that when my peers had children, they had this existential crisis of "Oh, my goodness. I want to spend time with my kid. But I also want to stay in my career, I feel like I have to give up one or the other.". And I realized, oh, if I did nothing, and just allowed myself to choose from the choices that I had, at the moment, what I was risking was this thing that I wanted: a different type of situation where I could be able to still pursue my career, but also have the flexibility of spending time with my children. And so at that point in time, I realized it was more risky to given my objective of wanting to have that type of life, to not try to find a new option, or generate a new option than to do nothing. So I think it's useful to really asked like, what is at risk? It didn't stop there. I did decide, okay, let me see if I can generate options, but I didn't just jump out into the ether. Again, I am still a risk averse person. And I will take risks if they are calculated. So again, recognizing that it's not just about one big decision, and then you just kind of go, I asked what is a series of decision points that I can set up so that at each point I would take an action? I thought, Okay, let me see. What would it look like to establish my own brand? And get my first paying client? Could I do that? So I dedicated effort into doing that while still at my full time job, and then was able to gather information. Because again, I think the lack of information piece sometimes makes people nervous. So how is it that we can tighten the decision cadence instead of one big decision? Okay, small decisions. This draws on the work of Eric Reese and The Lean Startup, another great book, and it talks about how when entrepreneurs think about decision making, again, it's not as if the best way to make decisions is "Oh, I'm going to create this product and let me go hide in a hole for six months, make this product and then here I am". Well, let's see if there's demand first, like what are the riskiest assumptions? Oh, that someone will want to buy this. So let's put up a landing page: "Hey, we're gonna create this great thing. Do you want to be on the beta list sign up?" If so, they didn't have to build the product but they can still test their demand. And so it's useful to think about, what are the riskiest assumptions and how could I possibly gather bits of the information I need before I invest more in going further down this path?
Isil: I heard you saying riskiest assumptions. That's a super piece of information because you are saying actually the assumptions create the ambiguity, or that might maybe come up as a surprise and later you might regret the decision. It makes the strength of the decision to verify their assumptions and collect data moving forward. So what you did - and this is what I'm taking away - the more you can put places to test your assumption or see where you're assuming things and gather data, the stronger, they'll be your maybe decisiveness for the next step. And then you'll gather more data so it's not like a final decision given from the beginning that says what's going to happen but till the next milestone you're giving a decision and then checkpoint and then we'll forward from there,
Michelle: It's interesting that you've honed in on that term riskiest assumption. If people are in a career situation that is just not working for them, I actually think that the riskiest assumption is if they assume that there's no other choices that exist and that they have to stay. Because again, what's at risk is their happiness, and their fulfillment and I fully believe that when people can align the work that they do or at least pieces of the work that they do with what lights them up and energizes them. That enables them to maximize the impact that they have on the world. And at the end of the day -I don't know if you've heard of Strengths Finder - So Maximizer is definitely one of the strengths on my list, and I find that's a part of the work that I do and I guess the mission that I'm on helping people maximize the impact that they want to have by making decisions that are aligned with what they want.
Isil: I think you're saying that opportunity cost is a huge risk. The opportunity cost you are just wasting away by staying somewhere you know that's not working because the alternative is not known. I think one other riskiest assumption I see is that I know what is not working so the next thing is for me what is not working taken out of the picture. And that should work-
Michelle:Yes that is also a risky subject. I actually had a client, like that, she ended up being stuck in what she had called the churn, because she had made a few career moves and very similar to what you were describing. She thought that, Oh, well, this job is not working, if I just get away from this boss, this organization, this work. Everything will be fine. But she found that it was new and exciting for a while and then things devolved into a situation that, again, she felt she was back at square one, back in the same place feeling the same things. And what we identified was that she was making decisions, in a way, again one she thought that if I just got rid of this thing that was happening right now everything would be fine. But because she was making decisions based on running away from something instead of being clear about what she wanted to move toward, she was getting stuck in this loop.
Isil: So it's about bringing pieces together and creating something new, rather than decreasing from known reality to come to a core.
Michelle: Yeah, and the other thing that I want to put out there is that you don't have to know all of the pieces, perfectly right. I'm a big fan of the concept of career pivots coming from a dance background, a pivot is when you turn, but you still keep one foot on the ground. You keep one foot in the same place, but you're moving the other one. And I think that's a great analogy for thinking about career moves, because also for any of the people who are also risk averse out there, it's a way of de-risking or at least shrinking the risk of the next move because you're keeping something consistent. And so for example if you're in a certain situation, and you're using a certain set of skills in a certain environment (and I'll call environment like a team or a division, or a certain company or industry), if you're looking to change something another way of thinking about what options exist in the next step is not to think, what is a completely different skill set that I can use in a completely different environment, but what happens when you change one of those things. So is there a way that I can use similar skills to what I'm using now, but in a different environment in a different company, in a different industry, in a different division? Or maybe it's the other way around, maybe I have relationships in this environment that I'm in, maybe I stay in the same environment but use these relationships to move into a different role so I'm using different skill sets are slightly different skill sets. And then once you do that. then you can again like pivot and through these moves you may end up somewhere very different that could have been a leap, but in a way that's not as risky or so far off as, so you might go from A to B to C to D instead of A to D h which seems like a really big leap, but a to be a little more doable.
Isil: You gave me lots of bits where you said dance background. Question mark. I have to ask what is it with the dance background? Then in beginning we talked about "Okay I also didn't know I would study that". So I want to hear also that part. Plus, I also wanted to ask you, but let's park it for later, about this "decision making" big word. Some of us fear so much about decision making and can we strengthen this muscle somehow. Let's start first with your decisions that brought you from here to there (Listeners, I am showing one hand down and one hand up). And where was the dancing between?
Michelle: One of the things that you mentioned wanting me to talk about was how did I even end up in decision engineering. Oh yeah. And it's funny because currently I work as a coach. And at the beginning of my career I had zero idea that was even a possibility. And so I do think that it's fascinating that I ended up here, but let me go back to the decision engineering bit Oh, actually this actually all ties together. When I grew up, when I was a little kid, all I wanted to be was a teacher. When I was in the first grade I wanted to be a first grade teacher, when I was in the second grade I wanted to be a second grade teacher, and so on, until I had a teacher who was phenomenal. She was possibly the best teacher I had ever had. And I told her "I want to be a teacher, just like you, Miss Smith". And she said "Don't do that. That would be a waste of your brain". I remember going home and crying that day, because this was someone who I wanted to be like and she was telling me not to do it. And now I understand where some of that sentiment comes from. In the United States, we do not treat our teachers very well we do not compensate them nearly enough for the incredible value that they provide and as a young teacher, she was probably feeling some of that. But it completely changed my thinking about what I wanted to do. And I thought, well, if I'm not going to be a teacher, what am I going to do, I'm good at math and science so I guess I'll be an engineer. This is totally also because again, my dad was very much "You should be a doctor or a lawyer" and it's like I don't want to do either of those things "Okay engineer seems fine". When I went into university I figured, okay, I want to be an engineer, what type of engineer do I want to be. And I remember talking to various people and then there was someone who I met who was an industrial engineer, and I had never heard of that before, and I asked him what's industrial engineering, and he told me "It's the engineering of efficiency of creating things better or doing things stronger, making things faster, with lower costs" and I thought that was fascinating and so I went into university and said, I'm going to be an industrial engineer. And then my university changed the major, they reconfigured the departments and they turned it into something called Management Science and Engineering. One of the things that I discovered, because you had to choose a path within the department, was that there was a path for finance and decision engineering. I don't care about finance at all. I mean, like, it's interesting, I really recognised it's useful but I never wanted to work on Wall Street. But the decision engineering piece... That was another layer of fascination because again, inside of being attracted to the engineering of efficiency, now I could learn how to make optimal decisions. What?! I never knew this existed! Why don't they teach us in school? This is amazing, we make decisions every day! So that's how I landed in decision engineering. And dance is something that I've done my entire life. Dance is something that I had done my entire life, except for the six years between, not six years maybe four years between when I graduated from university and when I graduated from business school. Because when I graduated from university I went and got one of those good jobs: management consulting. I worked 60 to 80 hour weeks, I didn't feel like I had time to do this thing that I loved: dance. And then I went to business school. Business school in the US is like half academic half party, like it's very social, lots of dancing, shows and pageantry, it's kind of weird. But I rediscovered my love for dance and I thought, you know what, I missed this, why did I not make space for this before. And again, I think that's also around the time when I realized, wait a minute, in my life I don't want to be a 100% just all about work. Again I'm a whole person, I want to bring all parts of me to life, and there was this piece of me that was kind of like in a coma for four years, this dance part of me, and so I resolved to go back to dancing. And after business school I ended up joining a competitive hip hop dance team with a bunch of people who are 10 years younger than me and it was the most alive I felt in my life, like I kept dancing literally until I was pregnant with my first child and the very last performance that I did on stage was when I was seven months pregnant with him. And it was at the 15 year anniversary of the hip hop dance group that I had started when I was in university. And now my daughter, who's 18 months old, loves dancing and so we do dance parties.
Isil: Coming back to the question about strengthening our decision making muscles, how can we train ourselves for this?
Michelle: So I think one thing that I haven't talked about yet is the reason why I think decision making causes some tension and anxiety in a lot of people. And it's the fear of making a wrong decision. When I asked people to think about a big decision they have on the horizon and then consider what are the feelings that come up in their bodies and I've done this exercise in a presentation before, I had everyone write it down, what came up was a lot of fear, anxiety, unsure, overwhelm, and a lot of it revolved around being afraid of making the wrong decision. But when people talk about that, what I realize is that they have adopted this misconception around what actually makes for a good decision or a bad decision. A lot of people think that the quality of the decision is the same as the quality of the outcome, meaning they think that "Oh, if the outcome is good. I must have made a good decision, but if the outcome is bad, I must have made a bad decision". And that can be terrifying for people, especially when there's uncertainty that exists. But that's the thing. The quality of a decision is not actually the same as the quality of an outcome. Because there is this other thing that's involved. There are things that are outside of our control that may factor into the outcome. And so sometimes this fear arises because we are taking responsibility for things that are outside of our control. So for example, there's three women in my city who had created this company, a coworking space focused on women, very mother friendly, beautiful space, focusing on bringing together people from diverse backgrounds, it was amazing. They founded this company last year. And then they had to shut it down this year. Because there's a pandemic. Bad outcome, but was that necessarily a bad decision? I would say that they made the best decision they could given the information they had. No one knew that we were going to have this pandemic. And so, when people think about where's that anxiety coming from, I'd like people to know the best that you can do when it comes to decisions, is make the best decision you can given the information you have at that point in time. And if there's a hurricane or a wildfire, we can't beat ourselves up for these things that we cannot control. And so I hope that that piece at least lifts some of the burden.
Isil: I'm hearing you're saying, focus on the part that you can control and make the decision based on the information that you have, and just let the rest take care of itself and be fine with your decision. Just let it be.
Michelle: And again, if something outside of your control comes to bear, then you have the power to identify where can you make the next decision. Again, just like you said, decisions are about what we can control, they're not actually about what we can't control. I can't decide for it to rain tomorrow. But I can decide where I'm going to go, if I'm going to bring an umbrella, if I'm going to dress appropriately.
Isil: And it feels like by taking a decision I'm also influencing the experience I can have given the alternatives that can happen tomorrow. If I go out, I can have rain or sun. And if I decide to dress in a certain way or take an umbrella with me then I'm already influencing probably a nice dry state,
Michelle: And then also if it does rain, you can then decide do I want to stay out here, or do I want to go back home.
Isil: Then it is also connected to my perception of "If that happens, can I deal with that in that moment?" So it's like should I control as much as I can right now, like force myself to control everything, which I don't know if would possible but I think most of us also have that.
Michelle: What I hear you talking about is also, how do we build our resilience in the face of the things that we cannot control, and our tolerance for uncertainty. A couple months ago I was having a conversation with Barry Schwartz, who wrote the book Paradox of Choice. And he was talking about how modern society and technology has actually decreased our tolerance for uncertainty and tolerance for sitting in the tension because you know everything is so on demand. And we haven't built this muscle of just needing to sit and wait. Like we can get on Netflix and watch an entire season of episodes without having to wait every single week "Oh what happens next". But what he points out is that it is a muscle that we can build, I think something that is commonly talked about in the akimbo community, or like Seth Godin talks about a lot, is the ability to sit with tension. And it's practice, and a muscle and a useful one to have.
Isil: Thank you for bringing back our favorite word. Fantastic. So, we approach to the end of our conversation and I would love to hear from you. How would you like to end this conversation which I enjoyed a lot.
Michelle: I guess I'd wrap up with a few key things that I want people to remember again. One, the quality of decision is not the same as the quality of an outcome. You can do your best to make the best decision with the information you have. And then keep going and keep deciding, keep identifying where you have the power to choose. Because that's the muscle that will help you continue to carve out the life that you want. I do say make the best decision you can with the information you have and so what does that actually mean, and that's where I bring things back to: Okay, well, just look at those three different components of the decision that you have. Have you identified what your objectives are? Have you explored options beyond the obvious? Who knows, there might be some creative other options out there. And have you gathered - I'm gonna say - enough information, not all the information, at least to have a sense of how certain options may deliver against certain objectives? But also in the information piece, how can you develop that muscle of being able to still decide when you don't have all the information? Decision making is not about clairvoyance, it's not about seeing the future with perfect clarity, we're not fortune tellers or psychics, I don't know anyone who can predict the future with 100% certainty. And so, the information pieces are just building that comfort. And knowing that at some point in the future, if something changes, your objectives change, your options change, the information you have changes, you have an opportunity to make a new decision.
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