You are not the sum of your decisions. Making better decisions often relies on having a long list of mistakes to learn from.
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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
The language is important. It's very important. In fact, that's why we have a podcast. There's 100% language here. So much of what we talk about on this show is framing things based on the language you use. And today's episode is no different than that. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, you're listening to Develop Routine. And in today's episode, I want to help you demystify and hopefully help you gain a better grasp, a better handle on decisions. I want you to think about this word, decide. Try to assign some kind of feeling to this word. For some people, decide brings up an image of a boss, a business person that they consider to be more decisive than they are. For some people, decide will make you feel anxious because you may have a decision that you are trying to make. And on this show, even, we have talked over and over about making good decisions. It is indeed a critical skill for anyone, not just software engineers, for anyone. Making good decisions makes a big difference in your career. It makes a big difference in your life. But if we turn making decisions into some kind of mystical art, then we've missed the point. To decide is simply to choose between options. Here's what happens though, in our brains, when we make a decision. We attach ourselves to that decision. We do this both to ourselves and we imagine that others do that to us as well. In other words, people will attach the value, for example, that we bring to the group, to our social group, to our friend groups, to our working group, to our company. They attach, we imagine that they attach the value that we bring to the decisions that we make. And the reason for this is because making good decisions ultimately is a survival skill. They're going to have an advantage. If somebody makes good decisions, then socially speaking, they are considered more worthy of being a leader. And for a lot of human history, we attach decisions to outcomes. We've talked about this on the show quite a bit as well. So making a good decision, the only way to judge that for most of human history, did you make a good decision? Well let's look at what happened after you did that thing. It's a simple association. You do something and something occurs. We may, whether in error or not, tie those things together. And of course, this is only a correlation. Hopefully, if you're making good enough decisions, you have high positive correlation between good decisions and good outcomes. So this hasn't bitten you too badly. But it's very possible that you've had low correlation between a specific decision and a specific outcome. Sometimes you may have experienced some fallout from this. And so it's very easy going back to this core concept that we should demystify decisions. It's very easy to attach our worth or our ego to attach our sense of intelligence, sense of value to the decisions we make. When you make a choice, you're attaching your value to not only that choice, but also that outcome that occurs as a result of that. You think about this and how you think about your work. You think about how you imagine that the decisions that you've made are ultimately going to be the kind of touchstone milestones in your career. You're going to look back and think about those specific points along the path. And maybe you have one of those in front of you right now. But making good decisions is not about attaching the outcome to your identity, to your value, to your worth. Instead, making good decisions is about choosing an option, choosing an option amongst many options through a reasonable process. That's it. You're looking to reduce risk between your options. Okay. You can use information to do that. You're looking to choose the option that's going to deliver fastest. Well, you may not know exactly which option is going to deliver fastest. But I'll ask you this question. Is there anyone in the world who does know the future? Is there anyone in the world who can look at the options that you have in front of you? And somehow have more insight than you do. There may be some variation, maybe somebody who has experienced a very similar problem to this, and you haven't before. They may have some insight to share. This is why we should talk about our problems and collaborate with other people. Maybe they do actually help us make slightly better decisions. But given an equal amount of uncertainty between two people, the decision might as well be the role of a dice. And so choosing an option in that situation has nothing to do with, do you have good intuition? There's nothing to have intuition about. Instead if you're using principles to make decisions to inform you what the characteristics are of those options, then you are being decisive, definitively. One other thing to unravel about decisions is that we very often imagine that decisions are like a permanent mark on our record. But somehow we're going to be graded and all decisions will be weighed equally. This is a silly notion, and we need to get rid of it. Because when we make a decision that turns out was not a good decision, it's critically important that we recognize that the next decision is more important. And this isn't just lip service, this is how we learn. If you make a decision and the outcome isn't what you preferred, what do you do next? No one is counting the number of decisions people make in order to become successful. No one is counting the number of failures that people have before they have a massive success. The only people that tend to count those are the people themselves. It's easy to be highly aware of the bad decision that you made yesterday, but it's also far too easy to allow that to inhibit you from making decisions today, whether that's because of confidence or because of focus. Deciding is simply picking an option, and when you pick an option that isn't ideal, put it back. Choose another option. Figure out if maybe there are more options that you haven't seen yet. This is how you continue to make better decisions and how you use your bad decisions to your own advantage. Successful people are typically not the ones who just have a higher than one ratio of good decisions to bad decisions. They're usually the ones that make a lot of decisions. They continue trying. The more exposure you get to decision making. The more exposure you get to various options, the more background you have whenever you see those options again. You can see patterns much better than you can see the future. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode. If you enjoyed this discussion or if you have disagreements with it, I'd love to hear them. There's a bunch of ways you can do that. You can leave a review in iTunes. This is a great way to help other engineers find the show and decide if they want to listen to it as well. You can also join the Developer Teap Discord community and come and talk to me directly. DeveloperTeap.com slash Discord. It's not just me in there. There's a ton of other engineers who are looking to grow in their careers. They have different perspectives. Certainly far more perspectives than just mine in that group. Go and check that out developerTeap.com slash Discord. Thanks so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.