It’s all about choices

Here's another entry from Jordan Belfort's blog. This one is about choices and how important it is to simplify your life by reducing the number of options you take into consideration. It's a short, but great read. Enjoy!

Computer choices

The jet fighter first appeared as a small blip on the radar screen. Within seconds its speed, altitude and direction had been calculated and programmed into the ground defense computer. A missile was locked onto the target and the order to “fire” was given.

With the missile making a beeline toward the plane at three times the speed of sound it would all be over in about 15 seconds. But not today.

The pilot of the approaching aircraft fired a projectile of his own, releasing into the air millions of tiny glass fibers covered in aluminum. Instantly the radar screen lit up with a literal cloud of targets for the missile to home in on.

The missile was instantly defeated, not by shooting it out of the sky, but simply by confusing it. The missile’s targeting computer was overwhelmed by the choices it had to make and in the end made no choice at all.

Have you had days like that? So many little tasks to perform, so many decisions to make, that your ability to get things done just shuts down leaving your head in the clouds?

CEO choices

Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs had an iconic wardrobe – black turtleneck shirts and blue Levi’s 501 jeans. It became his signature style and a part of his public persona. But by limiting his choices, Jobs also simplified his life. Any one shirt and any one pair of pants and he was off to work to make more important decisions.

Former Google employee David Shin recounts on a Q&A session with founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The Google founders were asked how they handled the daily barrage of emails. One of them answered that he starts at the top and works his way down, and goes only as far as he feels like going. Anything he doesn’t get to will never be read.

Some people end up amazed that they get an email response from a founder of Google in just 5 minutes. Others simply get what they expected – no reply at all. And the Google founder always gets what he wants – simplicity. This allows him to save decision making for when it’s most important.

Limiting choices

Studies show that limiting the choices we make every day can increase self-control, patience, willpower, even creativity. Defining a daily routine and then sticking to it can minimize distractions and maximize our ability to make good decisions.

If you’re a marketer you know that offering fewer choices to customers increases the likelihood of a sale. Like the missile at the beginning of this blog, we all want to zero in on a target, a goal, a solution and the fewer choices we have to make the quicker we can get to what we want.

If you’re a parent you know how important it is to establish daily routines for your children so they have a sense of structure in their lives. But when we hit adulthood, it’s not difficult to abandon structure for all those newfound freedoms. And with freedom comes choice and with choice comes consequences. Here are three …

The more choices we have the more time it takes to make a decision.

A restaurant menu is a perfect example. As we weigh our options it’s easy to get lost in the details. Sometimes the decision takes forever. There are so many choices that we simply put off making any decision at all.

The more choices we have the more effort it takes to make a decision.

Every effort is taxing to a degree on a mental, emotional, even physiological basis. So if you task yourself with making dozens of little choices during the day you run the risk of depleting yourself by the time you need to make the really important big choices. That’s why the founders of Google and Apple made such an effort to limit their available choices.

The more choices we have the more chance we’ll regret a decision.

Few decisions we make are ever perfect. We weigh the pros and cons. We compromise. We give it our best shot. If we have a choice between two options, we’ve got a 1 in 2 chance of making the right decision. With 10 choices, we now have 1 in 10 chance of getting it right. It then becomes easier to open ourselves up to self-doubt, even if we do make the right decision!

Don’t sweat the small stuff!

In an upcoming blog post I’ll show you how to start eliminating the less important choices in your life so you’ll be able to concentrate on the most important ones. In the mean time keep a list of all the choices you make during the day so you’ll be more aware of them when we revisit this subject.

All the best,