Making Decisions


LIFE’S LESSONS

Henrylito D. Tacio

Mr. Tacio, who hails from Davao, is a correspondent of the Asian edition of Reader’s Digest. He is the first and only Filipino journalist to have been elevated to the Hall of Fame in science reporting by the Philippine Press Institute. In 1999, the Rotary Club of Manila bestowed him the Journalist of the Year award. He is also East Asia’s contributing editor of the People & the Planet based in London.

For comments, henrytacio@gmail.com


LIFE is a matter of choice.

I was reminded of the story of Joe, an American who inherited a million dollars from his grandfather. The will, however, stipulated that he had to accept it either in Chile or Brazil. He personally picked Brazil. Had he chosen Chile, he would have received his inheritance in land on which uranium, gold, and silver had just been discovered.

Once in Brazil, Joe had to choose between receiving his inheritance in coffee or nuts. He chose nuts. Too bad! The bottom fell out of the nut market that and coffee went up to US$1.50 per pound, wholesale. Poor Joe lost everything he had to his name.

Joe went out and sold his gold watch for the money he needed to fly back home. It seems that he had enough for a ticket to either New York or Boston. He chose Boston. When the plane for New York taxied up, he noticed it was a brand-new 747 superjet with all the latest technology. The plane for Boston arrived, and it was a 1928 old Ford tri-motor with a sway back. It was filled with crying children and tethered goats and sheep. It seemed like it took all day to get off the runway.

Over the Andes, one of the engines fell off. Joe then made his way to the captain. Remembering the story of Jonah – the prophet who was swallowed by a big fish – he told him, “I’m a jinx on this plane. Let me out if you want to save your lives. Give me a parachute.”

The captain readily agreed. But he added, “On this plane, anybody who bails out must wear two parachutes.” Joe did not ask why as he jumped out of the plane. As he fell through the air, he tried to make up his mind which ripcord to pull. Finally, he chose the one on the left. It was rusty, and the wire pulled loose. So he pulled the other handle. The chute opened, but its shroud line snapped. In desperation, Joe cried, “Saint Francis, save me!”

A hand reached out of heaven and grabbed Joe by the wrist and let him dangle in mid-air. Then a gentle but inquisitive voice asked, “Saint Francis Xavier or Saint Francis of Assisi?”

Well, Joe’s answer was not good as mine.

“When you have a serious decision to make, tell yourself firmly you are going to make it,” a statement from a magazine once advised. “Do not expect it will be the perfect one. Some of those ‘against’ may never be canceled out. You must simply try to make the best decision you can, having taken all the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ you can discover into account.”

It adds: “Try not to be hurried by others, or by own your own panic, into a snap decision, before you have weighed matters and informed yourself fully… Whether we like it or not, making a choice is part of being human and we do not think too highly of those who throw away this right – always needing someone else to make up their minds for them.”

If you decide not to decide, then it’s already your decision. As William James puts it: “When you have to make a choice and you don’t make it, that itself is a choice.” Pat Riley adds, “There are only two options regarding commitment. You’re either in or out. There’s no such thing as a life in-between.”

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher also said, “Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides.”

The late Ronald Reagan – a movie actor who later became the president of the United States – learned from this lesson when he was still a young boy. A kind aunt had taken him to a shoemaker to have a pair of shoes custom-made just for him. The shoemaker asked, “Do you want a round toe or a square toe?”

Young Ronald couldn’t make up his mind. So the cobbler said, “Come back in a day or two and tell me what you want.” A few days later, the shoemaker saw Ronald on the street and asked what he had decided about the shoes. “I haven’t made up my mind yet,” the boy answered.

“Very well,” said the shoemaker, “your shoes will be ready for you to pick up tomorrow.” When Ronald picked up the shoes, he was astonished: one had a round toe and the other a square toe.

Before a group of friends, when he was already the president of the United States, he pondered: “Looking at those shoes taught me a lesson. If you don’t make your own decisions, somebody else makes them for you.”

Peter Drucker observed, “Every one of the effective presidents in American history had his own method of producing the disagreement he needed in order to make an effective decision. Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman – each had his own ways. But each created the disagreement he needed for ‘some understanding of what the decision is all about.’ Washington, we know, hated conflicts and quarrels and wanted a united Cabinet. Yet, he made quite sure of the necessary differences of opinion on important matters by asking both Hamilton and Jefferson for their opinions.”

“Stay committed to your decisions; but stay flexible in your approach,” Tony Robbins pointed out. to which Philip Brunstetter added: “There are no born decision-makers. The most successful decision-makers follow a set of rules that help them select the best alternative under the circumstances.”

According to Brunstetter, the basic rules of decision-making involve six steps. These are: (1) State the apparent problem or situation you face. (2) Gather the facts. (3) Organize and interpret the facts. (4) State the real problem or situation. (5) Develop alternative solutions. (6) Select the most appropriate alternative.

Murphy’s Law states, “If anything can go wrong, it will.” But someone argued, “Murphy was an optimist.”

In 1916, Georgia Tech University in Atlanta played a football game against Cumberland University, a tiny law school. The Tech team was a mighty football powerhouse and rolled over Cumberland by a score of 222 to 0. Tech pretty much bet the Cumberland players to a pulp, too. Toward the end of the game, Cumberland quarterback Ed Edwards fumbled a snap from center. As the Tech linemen charged into his backfield, Edwards yelled to his backs, “Pick it up! Pick it up!”

Edward’s fullback, seeing the monsters rush in who had battered him all day, yelled back, “Pick it up yourself. You dropped it!”

Peter Marshall reminds, “Give to us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for – because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything.”

Rate this post