How to Not Make Such Terrible Decisions

Photo by Lubo Minar on Unsplash

Would You Become a Vampire?

“The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation.” — Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

“The trouble is, in this situation, how could you possibly make an informed choice? For, after all, you cannot know what it is like to be a vampire until you are one. And if you can’t know what it’s like to be a vampire without becoming one, you can’t compare the character of the lived experience of what it is like to be you, right now, a mere human, to the character of the lived experience of what it would be like to be a vampire. This means that, if you want to make this choice by considering what you want your lived experience to be like in the future, you can’t do it rationally. At least, you can’t do it by weighing the competing options concerning what it would be like and choosing on this basis. And it seems awfully suspect to rely solely on the testimony of your vampire friends to make your choice, because, after all, they aren’t human any more, so their preferences are the ones vampires have, not the ones humans have.”

“Many of these big decisions involve choices to have experiences that teach us things we cannot know about from any other source but the experience itself.”

Fox or Hedgehog?

“How you think matters more than what you think.” — Phil Tetlock

“One group tended to organize their thinking around Big Ideas, although they didn’t agree on which Big Ideas were true or false…They sought to squeeze complex problems into the preferred cause-effect templates and treated what did not fit as an irrelevant distractions…As a result, they were unusually confident and likelier to declare things ‘impossible’ or ‘certain.’”

“The other group consisted of more pragmatic experts who drew on many analytical tools, with the choice of tool hinging on the particular problem they faced. These experts gathered as much information from as many sources as they could….They talked about possibilities and probabilities, not certainties. And while no one likes to say ‘I was wrong,’ these experts more readily admitted it and changed their minds.”

“The intellectually aggressive hedgehogs knew one big thing and sought, under the banner of parsimony, to expand the explanatory power of that big thing to ‘cover’ new cases; the more eclectic foxes knew many little things and were content to improvise ad-hoc solutions to keep pace with a rapidly changing world.”

The Fallacy of Extrapolation

“What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.” — Warren Buffet

The Wonders of Scenario Planning

“Our ability to cope with uncertainty is one of the most important requirements for success in life, yet also one of the most neglected. We may not appreciate just how often we’re required to exercise it, and how much impact our ability to do so can have on our lives, and even on the whole of society.” — Dylan Evans, Risk Intelligence

“A sustained scenario practice can make leaders comfortable with the ambiguity of an open future. It can counter hubris, expose assumptions that would otherwise remain implicit, contribute to shared and systemic sense-making, and foster quick adaptation in times of crisis.”

From Scenarios to Decisions

“The problem with the future is that it is different. If you are unable to think differently, the future will always arrive as a surprise.” — Gary Hamel




I don’t know where I’m going. But at least I know how to get there.

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Jake Wilder

Jake Wilder

I don’t know where I’m going. But at least I know how to get there.

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