Posts Tagged ‘Decision Making’

Great Grandma Jean and Abby, Easter 2011

Late Thursday afternoon I got a message from my wife that she was at a local emergency room with her mother.  My mother-in-law, Jean, was having a hard time breathing.  Minutes later I was on my way there.

Of course, we had no idea we would spend seven hours at a hospital today.  You don’t anticipate such things; you just respond and do what needs to be done.  You do what’s right and kind and be thankful that you have the ability to be there for people you love when they need you.

One way I respond to potentially stressful situations is through humor.  Maybe it’s to relieve the tension in others.  Maybe it’s to relieve my own.  Probably it’s both.  With my mother-in-law’s great sense of humor, it’s safe to say we laughed a lot more than others in the ER.  Humor is not only fun, but it’s healthy, so why not put it to good use in such a situation as long as the ailing one is so inclined?

It’s amazing how our detailed plans for each fraction of the day are quickly tossed out the window when there is an emergency.  Those things we think we must do today can suddenly wait.  The events that are “mandatory” on our calendar get quickly discarded while something with a higher priority takes its place.

That should tell us something.  It should indicate that we really live life with at least two sets of priorities.  One covers our wish list of what we want to happen and how we want to order our lives if there are no serious bumps along the way.  The other set, however, is the real, ultimate set of priorities that kick in when it’s crunch time, especially when people we love are hurting and need us.  The first set is the “nice to have” priorities.  The second is the “must have” priorities which should always take precedence.

The challenge is to know the difference and to act according to the right set of priorities at the right time.

Leap year lesson #255 is Change your priorities when necessary.

I’m tired of hearing people blame others for things.  In our current toxic political climate, for example, blame is thrown around far more than taking responsibility to make things better.

At my work a few years ago, some in leadership frequently repeated the phrase “It’s not my fault, but it is my problem.”  They wanted to instill in us a mindset that we are to be focused on getting things done and solving problems instead of pointing fingers at others and absolving ourselves of any responsibility when something goes awry.  The reminder that “it is my problem” may not have been what we wanted to hear, but it was true.

A different context in which this thought comes to mind is in taking responsibility for our own past decisions.  Even though we may be highly influenced by others in certain decisions, we are ultimately responsible for the choices we make, whether they turn out good or bad.

It was refreshing this morning to read an email from a great dog trainer whose emails I enjoy – Eric Letendre.  He started by saying this: “I’ve made some BIG mistakes in my life.  Some so bad that they are still embarrassing and painful to think about.  The great thing about mistakes is that you can learn from them.”  Then he went on to list a few of those mistakes as they relate to dog training and the lessons learned.  I respect that.

I can think of a couple of times in recent years when I have actively sought the advice of others on matters and then taken that majority advice, only to regret it later.  Still, the final call was mine to make and, regardless of how many supported the decision, I was wrong to take their advice, especially when there was a still, small voice within me that resisted doing so.

Blame doesn’t change reality and is a waste of everyone’s time.  It may not be your fault, but it is your problem.  What are you going to do about it?

Leap year lesson #252 is You’re responsible for your own decisions.

One of the fun things I’m doing during my time off from work this week is visiting some pizza places I’ve never been to before.  Sunday afternoon my wife and I went to Mellow Mushroom Pizza in St. Matthews, KY.  It was tasty and had a great atmosphere, but was too pricey to suit us, and the service was too slow.  We may go back for the convenience of a place we can walk to and the variety of menu choices, but we wouldn’t go out of our way to go there due to the price.

Tonight we went to The New Albanian Brewing Company off Grant Line Rd. in New Albany, IN.  Along with my son and daughter-in-law, we enjoyed very good food and excellent service, all for half the price per person as Mellow Mushroom.  We had to drive across the Ohio River and go very much out of our way to get there, but it was worth it and I would happily return.

I still have one more place I want to try this week – Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint in Louisville.  I’ll add a comment to this post after I’ve been there to let you know how it goes.

From experiencing the first two establishments, it is apparent that a simple meal of pizza and drinks can vary widely in price.  That isn’t news to anyone who has experimented with everything from store-bought frozen pizza to delivery from a major chain, to a more enjoyable dining experience elsewhere.  So how do you decide which to patronize?

Sometimes, you may just have to go with what is fastest or cheapest or most convenient, but if you have a choice, what makes one stand out?  That’s where the concept of value comes in, and not just in a financial sense, but also in the aspect of the question “What is important to you?”

Of the two we’ve visited this week, if we want convenience, Mellow Mushroom wins.  If we want financial value, New Albanian wins.

In life, there isn’t always a single right answer to the question of which is best – for pizza or a host of other choices.

Leap year lesson #251: Value is relative.

I just finished packing for a trip to San Francisco.  I’ll get there Sunday afternoon and stay until Thursday, speaking twice at a conference and attending other sessions.  Having been there several times before, I’m sure it will be a good experience.

Perhaps the hardest decision I’ll make all week, though, related to the conference is what I just went through – packing.  We own three suitcases – one large, one small, and another slightly larger than the small one but a lot smaller than the large one.

There is no way five days worth of clothes and needed items will fit in the small suitcase, but I don’t want to lug the large one around.  I decided, therefore, to go with the not-as-small one (in all it’s old, duct-taped glory).

At that point, though, I had to make the call on what to take and what to leave behind.  I’ve traveled enough to know that I generally pack too much, but that doesn’t make it easier to take less.  Eventually I let the size of the suitcase dictate the limit on the number of shirts, pants, shoes, etc. and declared myself ready to roll.  We’ll see over the next few days if I made good choices or not.

The lesson from this simple experience has nothing to do with traveling – at least in a geographic sense.  The takeaway for me is that there are choices to be made regularly about how much baggage we are going to carry with us and how much we will leave behind – emotional baggage like bitterness, grudges, ill will, hurtfulness, fear, anger, etc.

I’m guessing I really won’t mind leaving some baggage behind for this trip that I normally would take with me.  We’ll find out soon enough.  I am certain, however, that I have never regretted leaving behind the other kinds of emotional baggage that only weigh us down.

Leap year lesson #236 is Leave some baggage behind.

I’ve been thinking lately about the unexpected path that has led to my current work role.  As I’ve shared before, I love what I do and am very fortunate to get to work with the great people on my team.

If I step back, though, and look at a big timeline of what has transpired over the years to get me to this place, it wasn’t always positive, happy occurrences that led to the next turning point.  Sometimes I had to go down a path originally unplanned and unwanted in order for it all to turn out as it has.

For example, I would not have sought out another department to transfer to in 2011 if the department I was in at that time had given me the ability to concentrate on that major part of my role which needed all – not just some – of my attention.  Likewise, I would not have joined that previous department in 2009 if I had been completely happy with the management of the department I had served from 2003-2009.  Going further back, I would not have come to my current company in 2003 or the previous company I worked for briefly in 2003 if the market for contract trainers in my area of specialty hadn’t dried up between 2001 and 2003.  And the market for people with my certifications would not have dried up if Microsoft had not changed the rules allowing unqualified trainers not certified in the subjects to teach them anyway.

So, in hindsight, there has been a somewhat consistent pattern of events that at the time were very unpleasant and that forced me to look for and walk through other doors.  Yet, without any one of those negative circumstances happening right when it did, there is no way I would be in the fortunate place I am today, doing what I love with wonderful people.

That gives me hope for the next time I seem boxed in by unpleasant circumstances.  Chances are good that – even though I might not recognize it in the present – I will eventually see a bigger picture of how it all worked out for good.

Leap year lesson #229 is Enough left turns may still get you to the right place.