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Reframing Every Decision As A Tradeoff

Published 8/29/2022

Every decision is a tradeoff. If you are looking for the "right" decision, you can reframe this to the "optimal decision based on my desired outcome." This could have the effect of aligning your biases to work in your favor.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
One of the most tempting things that we have in front of us is a decision, some kind of decision, where we are trying to find the right solution. These decisions present themselves all the time in our work. We're going to talk about why this is a false dichotomy in today's episode. My name is Jon. I think the trail you're listening to, Developer Tea. And this desire to find the right solution is overwhelming. If you've listened to this show for very long, this is one of the things that we talk about very often, decision making and specifically avoiding binary decision making, avoiding this idea that a decision is right or wrong. And best, one decision may be optimal in comparison to another given your desired outcomes. This is as close to right or wrong as you can actually get. I'd like to encourage you to think instead through a new model. And this is such a simple model. Today's episode is going to be very short, but that doesn't make it any easier. The model is everything that you choose, every opportunity that you take or don't take, every language that you learn, every degree that you turn down or pursue, every job that you take, every interview that you take, every project you work on, or don't all of these are simply trade-offs. And the truth is, most of the time, the trade-off is not easily calculated. You don't really know exactly what you're trading. Yes, you may know that you're saying no to one thing, but you may not necessarily be saying yes to another specific thing. In other words, you may know that you don't want to pursue that degree program. And instead, you're saying yes to something else. You may not know what it is yet. It's to an opportunity that may use your time that you otherwise would have been in class four. By framing everything through this trade-off lens, we can start to approach a better decision-making schema. This is something that's not dogmatic. It doesn't require you to hold opinions for a long period of time. Instead, it responds. It responds to your intended outcomes. If you find out that a particular direction is not going to take you to that intended outcome, it's just as easy to drop it as it was to pick it up. Choosing your trade-offs towards an outcome rather than choosing what you believe to be the right option also helps you avoid more of that confirmation bias. Instead of putting your rightness, your correctness on what the thing is that you choose, you can instead take advantage of these biases by applying the correctness value that way that you judge yourself to the process, to the trade-off decision-making process. Choosing the process properly. Choosing the decision-making criteria correctly, if you can double down on a good process, then the outcomes are going to be what drive the decisions themselves. What you actually choose is completely dependent on your situation. It's completely dependent on your context. You're trying to judge the choice itself, especially in absence of any outcome measurement. Trying to judge the decision in an absence of an outcome measurement is essentially erroneous. There's nothing really to judge from. The next time you try to make the right decision, if you catch yourself using a language of what is the right choice, the right decision in this situation, which would take a step back and say, okay, the decisions are all trade-offs. What am I trading off for? What is the right process? What is the right outcome to choose? Then we can decide how do we optimize our decision-making process on an iterative basis instead. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. I hope you will start to think about your decisions as trade-offs more often as a result of this episode. If you enjoyed this discussion, you want to continue discussing things like this. Please join the Developer Tea Discord community. It's as active as ever, probably the most active that it's ever been right now. So you can come in, you can ask questions, you can answer questions, you can learn more about other people's experience in this community. If you are looking to grow as an engineer, this is one of the most critical ways you can do that, and that's by looking at how other people are approaching this career. Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, enjoy your tea.