A powerful word that will improve your decision making ability

Would you share this blog post? It all depends. If I were the one reading this, and someone asks me this question, I would probably say ‘no’ at first. But then, if I see a proper incentive, and I think about the opportunity cost, maybe I would say “It depends”.

It goes unnoticed, or we forget, but perhaps the “it depends” term is one of the most powerful concepts to put in perspective and try to find the incentive that any situation can offer us.

By nature, we tend to quickly discard or ignore anything that doesn’t give us confidence or something which we can’t feel immediately attracted for. Think about the opportunity cost of what you just read. By not having a filter, something that stops us from responding to a situation in “autopilot” mode, we can lose valuable opportunities.

And you might be thinking “discarding or ignoring something that doesn’t generate trust is called intuition, and it’s a good thing”. And you’re right about that. Intuition acts as a valuable filter that helps us identify things that we feel are not right for us. But, what would happen if we combine intuition with the “It depends” filter?

Imagine having the ability to mix your intuition with the ability to identify the potential benefit that any situation can offer. A powerful combination. From repeating them, and being absorbed by everyday life, there are activities that we start to do in “autopilot” mode. How many times someone asks a question and you answer something wrong or something you didn’t want to say, just because you didn’t take 10 seconds to process what was being asked?

We are omitting super simple steps that could make all the difference. In this case, taking 10 seconds to process the information before giving an answer.

And that’s where we can apply this “it depends” filter. This tool is useful to stop us from processing important information on “autopilot”, and will help us to understand that almost any decision or situation can bring benefits or prejudices. This filter can help us to see the benefits most of the times.

This “depends” is like a stop sign on the road: If you apply it, you can keep going. If you ignore it, things can go very wrong. Applying the “it depends” filter you can save your life, relationship, work or project.

Imagine a marriage. The man is doubtful of what his wife is doing when she goes out without him. His reaction to this doubts is to shout at her and to accuse her of being a cheater. This guy has no proofs; he is reacting on autopilot.

What would happen if this guy, before judging, stops for a few seconds to think, and realizes that he should first ask his wife? Applying the 10-second filter can completely change the dynamics of the conversation…and the relationship.

The word “depends” is a reminder that almost nothing in life is absolute. That almost everything is relative, and that there will always be different perspectives for a single situation.

Filters work. Some people use the ‘3 Whys’ filter. Before making an important decision, ask yourself ‘why’ three times. The objective of this technique is to try to dig deeper and try to find the real objective of any decision, so you can avoid the “noise” and other external factors that may affect that decision.

Even in TV cartoons, the characters have filters when they make their decisions. The angel and the devil standing on each of their shoulders. Sometimes they listen to the angel, sometimes they listen to the devil, but they always apply the filter and take 10 seconds to think before making a decision.

The same thing should happen in real life. It doesn’t matter if we make the right or the wrong decision, at least (if you apply the filter) we know we may be wrong, but we will be wrong with arguments. We did a correct process before making the decision, and we will learn for the next time. At least we know we didn’t make a decision on “autopilot”.

In his book ‘Tools of Titans’, Tim Ferris brings another interesting case of a filter. Marc Andreessen, a legendary investor in Silicon Valley, does this when deciding in which companies to invest:

“Marc and his founding partner, Ben Horowitz, make a point of smashing each other. ‘Whenever Ben brings a deal, I just beat the shit out of it. I might think it’s the best idea I’ve ever heard of, but I’ll just trash the crap out of it and try to get everybody else to pile on. And then, at the end of it, if he’s still pounding the table saying, “No, no, this is the thing…” then we say “we’re all in. We’re all behind you”…It’s a disagree and commit kind of culture. By the way, he does the same thing to me. It’s the torture test’”

So, It’s time to put some filters in our decisions. Start talking more with your angels and your demons, and start appreciating more the fact that you have good friends that give you feedback about your crappy ideas. It’s all about increasing the quality of every decision we make.