5 Cents

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. – Mark Twain

Nobody can be right all the time but the best leaders are indeed right far more often than not. They are right more often than not because they best leaders have good judgment. The simple definition of judgment is: an opinion or decision that is based on careful thought or the act or process of forming an opinion or making a decision after careful thought.

Both of those definitions have the term “careful thought” in common. A decision based on careless thought is rarely a good decision and never as good of a decision as it could have been. 

A ball and a bat together cost $1.10. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? 

Research says that 79% of the people who just answered that question instinctively, without careful thought answered that question wrong. 

Great leaders think and they think carefully before making a decision. They consider the consequences of their decision and the consequences of those consequences. Like a chess master they think several steps ahead of most people.

Great leaders think bigger.

Most importantly they know what they don’t know. They don’t assume much if anything. They verify their facts, they have people who they can bounce ideas off of, they count on those people to tell them the truth, not just what they want to hear.

The best leaders know that they can find out about the things they don’t know. They also know that their real problems come from “knowing” things that just aren’t true.

I think most people actually have the potential to have good judgment, they appear to lack good judgment because their decisions are instinctive rather than informed. They sometimes seem to think that a quick decision is better than a delayed decision. Great leaders know that a delayed right decision will beat a quick wrong decision every single time. Every single time.

I know I’m likely to get hundreds of tweets and responses saying I should go back to school and study math because they believe the answer to my earlier question is indeed 10 cents. 

I thought about telling you why 10 cents is wrong but I’m not going to. Instead I’ll tell you this, if you’re willing to pay attention, really pay attention, then all the information you need to make good decisions and show good judgment is readily available to you. 

You only need to pay real attention, you must linger on the words on the person you’re speaking with until you truly understand what they mean. You must read every word in a sentence because words matter, if you don’t your brain will play tricks on you and make you think that $1.05 is really $1.00. 

Your judgment improves when you think bigger, listen intently and observe with both your eyes and your mind wide open. You have good judgement, the question is will you develop the skills you need to make use of it. 

When you do, you’ll know without a doubt that the ball costs a mere 5 cents.

7 thoughts on “5 Cents

  1. Steve, as you know, Daniel Kahneman used that illustration in his brilliant book, Thinking Fast and Slow to point out, among other things, how our brain is naturally “lazy” (his term) and looks to take shortcuts to a quick conclusion… unless we force it to slow down and think it through.

    As you rightly point out, leaders slow down long enough to see a problem from many sides… then decide the wisest course.

    I think this is increasingly difficult even for thoughtful leaders because of the speed of business and the vast amounts of information these days. We are often forced to be “decisive” and make quick decisions, go with our gut, etc.and just keep cranking out decisions.

    I agree that we must force ourselves to slow down or at least pause, even for a moment, to evaluate a problem or situation before pulling the trigger and moving on to the next waiting decision.

    Another great post Steve!

    1. Thanks Pat, I agree completely. The speed at which we’re forced to make decisions seems to increase every year. It is simply bound to cause mistakes. I once heard a futurist say that our biggest problem in 2010 would be what to do with all the free time that technology had provided us. I guess he missed on that one. 😀

  2. Another very thoughtful and well-crafted post , Steve . Yes , the nuance and implications of key words matter , and small differences in understanding produce large differences of outcome . It feels harder day to day when your ‘working group ‘ includes individuals who frequently disagree ; yet, I’ve come to trust the process of hearing out each person with an attitude of wanting to understand their unique perspective on the issue . They often offer some insight I’ve overlooked or a detail only they can explain . The conversation slows the process of deciding , and can’t be allowed to bog down . But it helps insure more thoughtful decisions .

    Your futurist wasn’t necessarily wrong ; but didn’t forsee social media and our culture of continual distraction ! Any ‘free time ‘ immediately gets devoured by the interactions our technology facilitates , if we let it 😊

      1. You, and a growing number of individuals carving out more personal space and uninterrupted time for themselves ☺I still use a basic old phone without the latest technology and apps. Calls and texts prove disruptive enough without email alerts , too ! Focus remains the key to real accomplishments. Thank you again for your thoughtful posts , Steve .

  3. I enjoyed reading this post. It made me think of a couple key points. 1. Listen well. 2. Make informed decisions with the best info available. 3. In order to avoid overthinking something, due to say a time crunch, form a team of individuals around you that are aligned around the goal. In this way, options are vetted out and good choices can be made much more effectively. We are currently using this model in our organization and find it really refreshing. The best leaders don’t make all the decisions as you mention, the best leaders form great teams and let the ideas overflow.

    1. Indeed, if only one person is thinking then it’s likely no one is really thinking. The best decisions come from group input, no one person doing all the thinking.

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