Life in general!,  Organisation & culture building

Decide like Mahatma!

Defining a decision is easy, let’s take the task of putting what is a good decision in a frame and how are they made, shall we?

What separates a good decision from a bad one? Is it the richness of the information that is considered while taking the call? Or the ability to see the future more clearly? Or the purity of intention? Or the morality being on the side of the decision? Outcome sure is the ultimate yardstick with which all decisions must be measured and then the tone of the outcome should then be picked to name the decision one way or the other. But when we have the outcome in front of us, with it, we also often have the benefit of hindsight, which we may, not have when we’re in the moment in which decision was being made. And this awareness makes a big difference. Like it is rather naive and one thing for Modi who carries a Mont Blanc pen and yet call himself poor to criticize the policies of Nehru to say that he wasn’t as great as Congress makes him out to be but not quite the same thing, leading a nation when it was born and was grappling with a literacy rate of 17% and a life expectancy of 27yrs with over 90% of its population under the poverty line; leading a society which was burning in the communal hatred and lawlessness was being personified on the border like nobodies business. What Modi and his supporters forget that admits all that visionary Nehru not only led the foundation of creating an India that considers education paramount, germinated the seeds of healthcare, made institutions that hold our democracy together a reality: Let’s not forget he was a first time PM, with no experience of his own or someone in the country to learn from. He led on principles of plurality, social justice, and inclusiveness and thus we grew into a country what we are today, which allows for a chai walla to grow into a PM.

I pull the Nehru argument to underline the importance of siding with principles when precedents are unclear. Well, most of us are inconsequential and do not even come close to the magnanimity of the job that Nehru did then with a supreme degree of sincerity and what Modi does currently with all his ability, intention & hard-work. Both are great men, part of that 0.5% of humanity; this article is about the balance us, the ordinary people who have a day job, set of finite responsibilities and limited aspirations from lives. The goal is a good indicator of the decision too, someone who wants to make Mars a tourist destination will quite possibly take different kind of decisions than someone who has to worry about how to get more visitors on their website or increase footfall in a certain retail unit of their organization.

Some decisions are more important than the others; to give you a stat, roughly about 73% of the decisions that an average person makes every day is for things that do not matter, not in the least bit. Let me give you a few examples; which suit to wear, what tie, what to eat for the breakfast, which route to take to work, where to order lunch from, which elevator to take, to smile at this person or say hello; these are small decisions and things as silly as these take over 70% of our cognitive bandwidth; yes, our ability to take decision is limited. One of the reasons why many successful people bring defaults in their life is to conserve their cognitive bandwidth for more meaningful things so that they take better decisions at things that matter. Let me give you a few examples, reason why Mark Zuckerberg took the habit of wearing the same combination of cloth every day from Steve jobs is to limit the number of daily decisions that one is required to make.  People argue and harshly criticize Apple products, call their ecosystem a walled garden and yet they are most popular and arguably the most successful brand of all times; because they offer minimal and streamlined experience. No matter which iPhone or Mac you choose, in their default mode they all look and feel the same, there is no other kind of iPhone experience that exists, there is just one kind, and because it is just one, people find it simpler and so it becomes popular to the point of becoming happy loyal cult. On the other side of the wall, there is variety, richness of features, price classes a hell lot to choose from, so much so that there is clutter. A Samsung phone, is feature rich, cheaper, and perhaps better looking too, yet doesn’t sell very many, reason, within the line of Samsung phones, there are so many variations that it gets confusing. As a result, despite Apple making fewer kinds of products every year, they sell more. They have been doing it for over two decades now. Lesson: Simplicity shines!

We can, therefore, say to make a better decision we should:

Declutter – Look at only those things that matter (preferably in the long run).
Simplify – Decide to make things simple, what is understood easily is followed better.

You can use the above two in a situation that you control but there are also going to be setups that you do not own completely, like situations where your interests overlap with others or are in conflict, an environment that demands you to open yourself up to the complexity of the world. You must have a tool kit for that too. The thing that we said about hindsight earlier in this article must be usefully reiterated here. You will not always know for sure, there will also be situations where you are pressed against time limiting your ability to spend time on learning intricate details, the information at your disposal itself could be wrong, you may have your own strong opinions and biases for or against a certain matter. The unknown and the unclear will dwarf your courage, one argument is to say let’s take the risk and see and another is to say, why rock stable steady boat? Both viewpoints have merit. Ours is a huge world, one in which both academic success like Dr. Tharoor and semi-literate like Mayawati get to taste success and gain prominence. College dropouts like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs & Mark Zuckerberg create magic just as successfully as people like Neil Degrasse Tyson, George Smith, William Nordhaus, Raghu Ram Rajan who not only did brilliantly in their schools and colleges but also went to become popular educators and inventors. You have to decide what works for you!

When dealing with the unknown, the unpleasant and the unclear: data and gut, will be of little use. Let me give you an example, not too long ago in history, our nation was reeling under the brutal, most inhuman and immoral rule of the British empire. 200 years of extortion, degradation, depredation, loot, and plundering had left the country, weak, ill, demotivated and decapitated of strength. Everyone knew that driving British out was the solution not many knew which of the various methods known to mankind should be applied and in what precise force. The problem was not just knowing how, but getting mass support for it, so that the oppressor is forced to notice and then pays heed. The challenge was of finding a method that required resources which could be fed with the scarce reserves that Indians had then, communicating it to the masses effectively and then winning them over to the idea for life; so that the movement gets critical mass and then keeps on growing steadily as time progressed. A huge amount of respect for everyone who tried their own methods .. irrespective of the success that they met with. That is when our country got the gift of Gandhi, the son of the soil had returned completing his education from the very west he was about to take on most ferociously and having tasted failure in his career as a barrister in South Africa. He like everyone else knew what the problem was but did not for sure knew the way out. Of course, contemporary events unfolding in the rest of the world did come handy and Bapu used them smartly to sharpen his attack. But then when he started, he was looking into the unknown which was unclear and scary.

In our own lives we often face situations which are excruciatingly difficult, mind-numbingly taxing, shitlessly scary and dangerously deafening: none of us are freedom fighters, our causes are also not as meaningful or historic but in the small personal world that we live in sometimes things do get intense, harsh and complicated; there we could use lessons from the principle that Mahatma applied to pick up his weapons; He choose truth and non-violence, as all of us know. What happened thereafter is a pleasant history.

Father of our nation, decided to act in accordance with his value systems, principles that he held dear to fight the mighty challenge and came out victorious. He had the skill, he could have chosen to remain in the confine of the comfort that his western education and the degree in the bar gave him. He could have led a luxurious life with grandeurs of wealth and safety. But he elected, instead to, remain half nacked for the second half of his life, got beaten, jailed, humiliated and even mocked but because he was sincere, consistent, truthful and honest he pursued what he thought was right and emerged as a winner.

If he picked the simpler path he would have lived longer and better life remaining: Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi but he wasn’t meant for the ordinary; he live the tough life, made uncomfortable moves, which many wise men then called foolish choices but in the process, he became Bapu, the Mahatma, father of a nation as glorious as ours. He earned a place in the history of mankind forever.

We can, therefore, say to make better decisions in strange unknown circumstances, we could look at.

Principle and Values – Hold your principles and your values dear and remain consistent with it.
Tough is cool – Should situation get nasty do not shy away from taking the tough call.

With that I shall end this, you have a lovely Sunday, ahead!

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