Start-ups – Techniques to help you make hard decisions

Six science-backed techniques to help you make hard decisions

Originally published on JOTFORM.COM

The typical adult makes 35,000 decisions each day.

If you do the math (and account for seven hours of sleep), that’s about 2,000 decisions every hour — or one choice every two seconds.

Most decisions are actually micro-choices, like clicking a link or taking a sip of coffee. But some choices feel momentous.

An internal tug-of-war indicates that something big is at stake. You sense that the choice could significantly affect your happiness, freedom, pride, or personal fulfillment.

If you’re running a business, there are even more decisions to make — and many are critical to the health of your company.

The good news? Science is continually discovering new and better ways to make tough decisions.

As Lea Heinrich writes in the New York Times, “over the past few decades, a growing multidisciplinary field of research — spanning areas as diverse as cognitive science, management theory and literary studies — have given us a set of tools that we can use to make better choices.”

Unfortunately, none of these tools can actually make the decision for you.

“They are prompts, hacks, nudges,” says Heinrich.

“They’re intended to help you see the current situation from new perspectives, to imagine new possibilities, to weigh your options with more sophistication.

There is no foolproof algorithm for life’s difficult choices. But the research shows that you can get better at making them.”

In the 12 years since I started JotForm, my team and I have faced a lot of tricky choices, and I’ve tried many different decision-making techniques.

Here are six methods that I rely on when I’m losing sleep over a challenging decision.

1. Make a “value-based” pros & cons list

Imagine that you’re considering a move. Will you relocate to another city? Pull out a piece of paper and write a classic pros and cons list for the move.

Now, here’s where science has added a helpful twist.

Assign every list entry a number from 0 to 1, based on your personal values. For example, if being closer to your family is a “pro” that’s extremely high on your list, you might score it at 0.9 or 0.95.

If you listed “near the mountains” as another pro, but you’re more of a culture hound than an alpine hiker, then it might only rate 0.2 or 0.3.

Do the same for the “con” side. Leaving a job you love could score 0.8, for example, if your career is an essential part of your life.

Add up each side, multiply by 100, and see whether the pro or con side wins out. You can also make a separate pro and con list for staying where you are. Compare the final values and see how you feel about the outcome.

Often, confronting a “logical” number (which was actually weighted with emotions) can illuminate subconscious feelings.

If you see the numbers but still feel pulled in the opposite direction, it’s worth doing some deeper exploration.

You can also use this technique for smaller, less personal decisions, like which project or feature to tackle next.

2. Explore future scenarios

Considering the best- and worst-case scenarios is a common way to make tough choices.

What’s the very best future you can imagine? The worst? And how would you feel if that disastrous scenario became reality?

To expand on this technique, psychologist Gary Klein has studied a twist he calls the “premortem.” In a classic Harvard Business Review story, Klein explains why a premortem is the hypothetical opposite of a postmortem.

“A postmortem in a medical setting allows health professionals and the family to learn what caused a patient’s death. Everyone benefits except, of course, the patient. A premortem in a business setting comes at the beginning of a project rather than the end, so that the project can be improved rather than autopsied.”

Imagine that your decision was terrible. The project you chose to tackle was a crash-and-burn disaster. Now, explore every possible reason for the failure.

Once you address this worst-case scenario, you can take steps to prevent it — and make a better decision in the first place.

In fact, research shows that premortems (which are also called prospective hindsight) can increase our ability to identify future outcome causes by 30%.

On the flip side, try to visualize that epic, best-case future scenario and gauge how you feel. If you’re not happy or excited, it’s worth considering why.

Amazon uses a variation of both these techniques. Company developers must draft a hypothetical press release and FAQ announcement before they even write any code.

By working backwards, the team tackles the most difficult decisions upfront and clarifies the product’s value proposition. As reporter Jillian D’Onfro explains, “if the team can’t come up with a compelling press release, the product probably isn’t worth making.”

3. Avoid binary choices

We often get stuck choosing between this or that. Should I go back to school or start a business? Should I move to San Francisco or stay in Houston?

It’s easy to see the world in black-and-white, but there’s typically a grey option in the middle — or several shades of grey.

Maybe you could spend summers in San Francisco (as long as you can embrace Karl the Fog) and winters in Houston. Or, you could live in Houston for another couple years and move to the Bay Area later.

Sometimes the right choice is not one of two opposites. It’s a more creative, nuanced, or flexible solution.

4. Consult with others

Sharing your dilemma with others can justify or reinforce a choice, but more importantly, it’s a valuable way to gather valuable information.

If you can’t decide whether to move, for example, don’t just survey your friends and family (who will also have skin in your game); talk to someone who made the same move. Ask how they feel now about their decision.

For professional or business decisions, try hiring a consultant. Find people who have deep, niche expertise and learn as much from them as you can.

The extra information you gather will almost inevitably help you make better choices in the future.

5. Give yourself enough time

I still remember the day I quit my job. As I climbed the two flights of stairs to my boss’s office, my heart was thumping in my chest. My legs were shaking and my mouth was parched.

I knew it was the right choice, but my mind raced: “Am I making a mistake? Should I turn around? Maybe I should stay another year.”

But, I made it to his office and had the conversation I was dreading.

I had been thinking about this leap for at least two years, and my side products were easily paying the bills. Taking time to choose empowered me to make one of the best decisions of my life.

6. Avoid hidden decisions

For nearly 6,000 years, North America’s First Nations hunted the plains buffalo by chasing them over cliffs and finishing the kill below.

This method enabled tribes to gather and store large quantities of meat, hide and fat for the long winter ahead.

I always wondered why so many bison would just run over the cliff. They were usually pursued by hunters on horseback, for one, but it’s also an example of herd behavior. All the animals are just following the group, letting the flow take them where it will.

Buffalo jumps are a good metaphor for hidden decisions or non-decisions, which we’ve all experienced at times. When you procrastinate or delay an important choice, you’re still making a decision — and it’s rarely a good one.

For example, maybe you need to part ways with an employee, but you put it off to avoid a potential confrontation.

If the employee is negative, unpleasant, or ill-suited to their role, the choice to wait and delay can poison the whole team. Non-decision is a choice with real consequences.

Those 35,000 daily choices can be daunting, but quick action is the enemy of decision fatigue. Choose fast and whenever possible, tackle your choices head-on.

Use as many methods as you need to pick the best solution. Just don’t follow the herd. Choose what’s best for you — and then stand firm in your decisions.

One final note: if you’ve started a business or launched a product and you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the decisions, please know that it does get easier. Once your business is stable, many of the big, foundational choices are done and you will reach equilibrium.

Then it’s time to focus on the constraints. Determine where you can make the most important, impactful decisions, and use them to grow or refine your business.

Remember: decision-making gets easier with practice, and a new choice is always just seconds away.

Start-ups – Real Entrepreneur

Man in Brown Long-sleeved Button-up Shirt Standing While Using Gray Laptop Computer on Brown Wooden Table Beside Woman in Gray Long-sleeved Shirt Sitting

12 Ways To Know If You Have What It Takes To Be A Real Entrepreneur

Successful entrepreneurship often involves certain personality traits. While some of these entrepreneurial traits can be learned, or at least improved upon, the most successful entrepreneurs tend to be those who are born with these traits.

Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

Go ahead, ask yourself if you have the following traits.

1. You Have A Never Ending Passion

Man In White Dress Shirt And Maroon Neck Tie Shaking Hands With Girl In White Dress

Successful entrepreneurs almost always have a visceral passion about what they are doing. In fact, it often consumes them to the point they are thinking about it all the time and working on it even when they sleep.

Moreover, it’s almost never just about making money.

 

2. You Serve As a Fountain Of Ideas

Free stock photo of man, holiday, vacation, hands

The best entrepreneurs are those that continuously spawn great ideas. This is because relatively few ideas, even great ones, actually pan out to be great money makers.

Does anyone remember the Lisa computer? This was a complete flop by none other than the great Steve Jobs! While this genius’s hardware and software failures are rarely mentioned, there were many of them. The point is, your creations aren’t always going to be perfect but if you are able to weave a lot of ideas, some are bound to be a success.

 

3. You Aren’t Afraid To Work Hard — Really Hard

Group Hand Fist Bump

Having great ideas is not enough. It takes an enormous amount of work to turn a great idea into a profitable endeavor. Appropriately, Thomas Edison, one of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time, is famous for saying,

“Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

 

4. You Never Like To Give Up

Free stock photo of landscape, nature, people, water

Successful entrepreneurs tend to be people who easily recover from failure and just keep on persevering until they ultimately succeed! There are almost always significant snags and hurdles in any project. Most people get so discouraged by these, they end up discontinuing the project before they finish it.

Entrepreneurs are so motivated they find a way to solve these no matter how difficult.

 

5. You Have a Willingness and Ability To Learn From Everyone

Girls on Desk Looking at Notebook

Entrepreneurs tend to be people who are good active listeners. They are open to ideas from anyone regardless of their background or training. They don’t tend to be people who think you have to have a college degreeor special training to figure something out. Some of the best ideas for equipment used in water have come from fishermen, not engineers.

 

6. You Are Often a Calculated Risk Taker

Free stock photo of snow, man, people, mountain

Entrepreneurs understand that no idea is a “sure thing” and taking a calculated risk, whether that be an investment of money or time, or both, is almost always necessary to carry forward great ideas. When Jeff Bezos quit his cushy high paying job on Wall Street and made his famous 3000 mile car trip from New York to Seattle to found Amazon, he took a calculated risk… and we all know how well that one turned out!

 

7. You Are Able To See the Big Picture

Free stock photo of landscape, nature, person, woman

Henry Ford represents this trait well. While the car and the assembly line had already been invented, Henry Ford was able to see the big picture and knew that the real profit would come from using an assembly to mass produce cars so they would be affordable to a much wider demographic.

In other words, under his guidance, the car went from a tiny niche market to one of great mass appeal.

 

8. You Can Keep Up With The Times

Assorted Silver-colored Pocket Watch Lot Selective Focus Photo

Entrepreneurs are always on the look out for the next big trend so they can meet the needs of that growing market.

While Apple did not develop the first mp3 player, it was the first company to fully realize the marketability of it and understand the features users would most want.

 

9. You Are Intelligent

 

WhPerson's Playing Chessile you don’t need an IQ to match Albert Einsteinthe most successful entrepreneurs tend to be people with well above average intelligence. This doesn’t mean you can’t be “ordinary” in other ways and it doesn’t mean you need a college degree.

In fact, some of the most successful entrepreneurs are college dropouts, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates to name just two.

 

10. You Are Not Afraid To Ask For Help

Free stock photo of hands, people, ground, group

Most entrepreneurs know when to ask for help. They can self-identify their strengths and weaknesses and know how to surround themselves with people who will complement their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses.

This also often extends into their personal life since it often takes a very supportive significant other and/or family and friends to succeed.

 

11. You Have The Ability To Finish Things

People Doing Marathon

Many people have great ideas and start developing them but never seem to finish them.

Entrepreneurs have an exceptionally high will, drive, and ability to get things done.

 

12. You Have An Infectious Excitement

Man in Red Crew-neck Sweatshirt Photography

In order for an idea to turn in a profitable venture, other people must buy into it. This potentially includes investors, partners, and employees. It always includes buyers. Therefore, the best entrepreneurs seem to know how to let their infectious excitement for the project rub off on other people.

 

While having the 12 traits described above are not absolutely mandatory to successful entrepreneurship, they are traits shared by many of the most famous and most successful entrepreneurs of all time.

About the Author: 

Joel Brown is an Australian Born Speaker, Coach, Author and Founder of Addicted2Success.com, the #1 Motivation website with over 125 Million Views Worldwide. His Podcast “Addicted2Success” has received over 1.5 Million Downloads featuring 100’s of the worlds most successful thought leaders. Joel also features in the new hit movie “THINK: The Legacy of Think & Grow Rich” and the Documentary Film “RiseUP” alongside Tony Robbins, The Dalai Lama, Jack Canfield, Dwight Howard, Alanis Morissette and many more.

How I Built a Successful Brand With No Marketing Budget

Picture the scene: It’s August 2017. I’ve just left my job at TripAdvisor and arrived at my next adventure: A building site.

Backstory: I had just joined a brand new company called LABS. The vision was to build a premium co-working space. The reality, however? A building site in a saturated market, with no brand, website or identity.

Damn.

Fast forward fourteen weeks later, and we filled the building — all six floors of it — with nil marketing budget. In less than a year, we’ve hosted events with the likes of Twitter and Spotify, built a recognisable brand, and are now opening our sixth (SIXTH!) building in London.

But how did we do it? And what did I, as a marketer, learn along the way? Here, I’m sharing the six key takeaways the experience has taught me so far.


1. IDENTIFY YOUR ‘RIDE OR DIE’ MESSAGING

It’s official. Research shows that, now more than ever, consumers are looking for brands to court them with transparency, simplicity and evidence.

In short, your brand’s story matters.

Your messaging is your brand’s ethos. Your ‘ride or die’ mission. And, most importantly, your why.

“Every business knows WHAT they do. Many businesses know HOW they do it. But very few know WHY, and that’s the sweet spot. The result. The cause. The belief. The single thing that’s going to make you stand out in a sea of saturation.” — Simon Sinek.

RESOURCE: This strategic messaging map is a great place to start. And once you have your messaging in place? Remember:

  1. Consistency. Every communication — from your homepage heading to your sales brochure — should align with your messaging framework.
  2. Accountability. Make sure every single person in your business is aware of it, and every marketing decision is determined by it.

2. INVEST IN USER RESEARCH, NOT MARKET RESEARCH.

Engaging with your desired customer directly, and placing them at the forefront of everything you do is one of the smartest things you can do for your business. Fact.

My team and I became obsessed with asking our first clients their opinions (and actually listening!). The result? A roadmap that’s driven not by our preconceived ideas, but by the pain points of our users.

And it needn’t cost much, either. For the price of a few coffees, you can gather opinions that will save you serious time and money along the way.

Interview your first clients, your dream clients AND your lost clients. A few of my favourite questions include:

  • What’s your first impression of our product?
  • What’s the one thing you wish we offered?
  • What is your biggest challenges and how can we help solve it?

3. KNOW THAT IRL INTERACTION HAS NEVER BEEN SO IMPORTANT.

Want to know the biggest marketing channel we developed at LABS? Events. Yep. Old school, IRL events.

Why? Because events bring eyeballs. And people bring lessons (on lessons, on lessons, on lessons).

With research showing that 75% of Millennials and Gen Z prefer experiences over things, and event attendance on the rise, events are as an effective an acquisition channel as any.

Tap into your local entrepreneurial ecosystem and work that room. (And if your area doesn’t have one? Create one.) Reach out to people unashamedly. Host product launches or “appy hours”. Partner with aligned brands for sponsorship opportunities. Think about where your target customer is and be there. Consistently.

Show up, share and know that everyone had to start somewhere.

4. SPEND MORE TIME THAN MONEY ON SOCIAL.

“People are so infatuated with what’s next, they don’t focus on what’s actually happening. Don’t worry about voice. Don’t worry about Augmented Reality. Don’t worry about Blockchain. Don’t worry about anything. Attack Facebook!” — Gary Vaynerchuk.

How do you build social with no budget? Through community.

In practical terms, this means ditching vanity metrics and focusing on building a community of likeminded people who care and engage.

Take Instagram, for example.

Identify the best and most relevant hashtags to follow in your industry and do so (a mixture of well-known and lesser-know hashtags works best, FYI). Leave a comment on the relevant photos under those hashtags. Respond to comments. Like, engage, respond, share, repeat.

If you’re still questioning the ROI of social media, don’t. A good social media profile is an invaluable credibility play and one of the most effective ways of engaging with — and learning from — your target customers.

5. CONTENT IS KING, BUT WORD-OF-MOUTH MARKETING CONQUERS ALL.

It’s 2018 and I’m still all about that referral scheme life. Dropbox, Paypal and Harry’s were all built on referral schemes, after all.

And the best part? You don’t even need customers to get started.

At LABS, we opened our referral scheme up to anyone and everyone. If you had someone to refer, we wanted to hear about them. What’s stopping you from doing the same with your business?

The secret is to make it ridiculously easy for people to invite their friends, give clear incentives and make the messaging benefit-driven for your customers, not for you.

Get it right and your customers will do your marketing for you.

6. CUT CORNERS + EMBRACE THE MESS.

“If you’re not embarrassed by your first release, you’ve released it too late” — Mark Zuckerberg

At LABS we made mistakes fast, but learned even faster. We tested obsessively and celebrated our failures as much as our successes, because forward is forward.

It’s that Silicon Valley, Lean Startup-inspired mentality:

Every day, there are new competitors, new threats, new opportunities. Look for the lessons, face them head on and you can’t go wrong.