Why We Only Ever Make Wrong Or Wrong Decisions

There are two types of decisions in the world, the wrong one, or the slightly less wrong one. Accepting this is a powerful productivity tool.

I remember one of our very first Friday ICE talks — a lunchtime session once a week from an ICE member sharing something they really care about. It was from the wonderful Alex Kavel, and the topic was PPP.

This phenomenon is especially prominent in entrepreneurs who are responsible for every decision, don’t have a team around them to get new perspectives and discuss challenges with, and as a result feel all of the burden when it comes to getting things right.

One thing I learned quite early on is that you very rarely have to make right or wrong decisions, but instead it’s wrong or slightly less wrong. This constant pursuit to “get things right” is knackering, but more importantly it’s futile.

PPP stands for procrastination, perfection and paralysis. It is the belief that everything you do has to be permanently world-class, and leads to you assessing every step against that metric, inevitably failing and turning to procrastination or paralysis.

It’s why phrases like the below have moved from incredibly inspirational to treacherously dispiriting.

This toxic positivity can mask how hard it is to stay productive when there are genuine barriers to success.

When leading a business or project I think there are two better priorities to stick to:

Moving Forward & Owning the Outcome

Moving Forward

Paralysis is most obvious when it slows down your momentum.

I remember vividly the day when I realised the three things that made me feel like I was having a good day (it was Thursday 22nd October 2015):

  • Feeling in control of that forward motion
  • Liking where the forward motion leads to

Sometimes we don’t know where that leads to, and that’s ok.

As part of the UnLtd Future Pioneers programme, I attended a really impactful workshop on Systems Change by Lucho Osorio-Cortes.

Lucho taught me that you don’t need to travel to the North Pole (or North Star if that’s your bag) specifically, just keep heading North.

You learn more about the destination as you travel, and as every post-apocalyptic movie has taught us: it’s always best to just keep moving.

Don’t worry about the destination, just keep moving forward.

Momentum is one of those horrible invisible fuels when you’re growing a business, amazing when you have it but elusive when you don’t.

Owning the Outcome

When I listen to albums like Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not — the debut album from the Arctic Monkeys — it makes me think about the ignorance of expertise and curse of knowledge. If you listen to artists’ back catalogues, they’re filled with records, films, pieces that wouldn’t pass their filters anymore to getting released. But by doing that, the world would be deprived of a piece of art which has resonated thanks to its imperfection.

The Reid Hoffman quote, “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late,” and I think this applies to all ideas, whether in art or business.

This exercise is an important reminder to focus on owning the outcome, embarrassment does not mean shame or disappointment, it means that you know that it is more important to learn, build feedback loops and see if your idea lives or dies in the market.

We have always used second hand or reclaimed furniture in all of our spaces (furniture is the largest single source of carbon emissions in the lifetime of a commercial building, reusing old stock can reduce this significantly).

In the early days, this was obvious (luckily we’ve found better suppliers over the years) but what was interesting is that people noticed it the first time they visited, but then quickly ignored it.

What was more important was everything else going on.

By proving the wider offer was of value, the fact that our desks had cost us £20 each, were brought in the boot of my beat up old car and put together by me on the weekend wasn’t as important as any of the flash offices with multi-million pound fit-outs.

Agonising over the right decision can lead to you making no decision, which has consequences. Sometimes that works out ok, but more often it’s the wrong part of your brain influencing your decision making.

Choose the outcome which you think is least wrong, accept you’re saying no to something, and focus on moving forward and keeping momentum.

Are you sitting on something you need to get out into the world? Have you ever waited until something was perfect before getting it out there? Did that work out or not?

I love getting feedback in, it’s leading to great reading list suggestions and perspectives.

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Gareth I. Jones

Founder of TownSq, focused on building communities of entrepreneurs, supporting startups and B Corps - businesses that are better for the planet.