Worrying about the downside vs. focusing on the upside      

Last week I saw a clip from an interview with Warren Buffet, one of the world’s wealthiest people, who said even though he made some business mistakes, that’s never really bothered him. What concerns him the most is actually pretty difficult to measure, which is what are the hugely profitable investment opportunities available that he is not capturing?

This got me thinking. Isn’t this so human? I immediately thought about a project management principle I learned at work: Don’t count pennies while millions are flying out the window.

So what’s going on here? I think it’s the classic pull between optimizing what you already know and taking a step of faith to a brand new territory. We all admire successful risk takers … at least I do … bias alert:) However, what I found in my study of people like Steve Jobs, Oprah or Lincoln is that for significant stretches of time they were considered losers by conventional standards.

I think the fair question to ask here is am I cherry picking? In other words, for every successful hero aren’t there hundreds of sidekicks who got killed along the quest to slay “the dragon.” Yes, of course. I guess I could throw a cheesy line from Braveheart here about how “they can take our life, but not our freedom” I will not. Even though I love this movie, I’ll try to be at least a tad more practical.

Perhaps using the binary value judgments of life/death or success/failure are precisely the wrong glasses to look through. After all, saying what’s really on your mind, taking a new job or even something as simple as having a casual conversation with someone you disagree with will not result in premature death.

So going forward, my intention when making a decision will be to shift away from black or white, zero-sum value judgments rooted in what I know today. I am going to approach it with Warren Buffet in mind: what am I going to miss out on if I shut off this opportunity today?

How about you? What drives your decisions?

Posted in Blog.

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