I once worked for a boss who was prone to reciting quotes seemingly lifted from those “Successories” motivational posters that you used to find at the mall. There was one, in particular, that he used all the time. While proclaiming that our company was aggressive in making bold decisions quickly, he would proudly tell anyone who would listen that “We don’t say ready, aim, fire. We just say aim and fire!”
It was always a good line to rile up the sales staff and to use when presenting for corporate, even if I never personally believed it was factual. In my experience, our motto might have well as been “Ready, aim, and let’s schedule a follow up call to see if we had aimed correctly. After which, ‘we’ll circle back’ (corporate catchphrase #628), add some more members to the strategic team, and seek their advice on whether now is the right time to fire. From there, we’ll tweak the plan before scheduling the next call to prepare for a yet-to-be scheduled final meeting with a Senior VP before firing for real.”
This happens all too often in both corporate America and life. When it comes to decision making, we can let the fear of making the wrong choice paralyze us to the point of not taking action at all.
And if there is one sure way to fail, it’s to stand still.
General Norman Schwartzkopf, best known as “Stormin’ Norman” from the first Iraq War, tells a story about an early mentor of his, a high ranking General in the military. This General was asked to make a decision about a problem that had been brewing for 10 years. After being brought endless boxes of documents and hearing hours of technical explanations, the General looked at the staff and said “The decision is obvious, Gentleman,” and then gave them the answer.
After the room had emptied, Schwartzkopf approached the General and asked him how he could make such a decisive decision. The General replied “The best minds in the military have looked at this information for a decade and couldn’t reach a decision. So you know what? We need to pick an option and do it. Decisions are power and I’m here to make them. That’s why I’m a leader.”
And while we have all felt the frustration of being in an office culture where seemingly nobody in a position of authority wants to pull the trigger on the tough choices, we have nobody to lean on but ourselves when creating massive action in our personal life.
The fear of failure is a powerful inhibitor. Yet, the only true failure is in not acting at all.
What’s the worst thing that could happen? Could you make a decision and be wrong? Sure. But at least you will find out quickly and can adjust your game plan accordingly.
In my life, I spent 6 months laboring over whether to leave radio programming to start my own business. How would I make money? Could I find clients? What would other people think? Would I be judged? Would my friends and family still love me? What happens if I fail?
Eventually, I just had to take a leap of faith and trust my instincts. To be honest, it was the only difficult part of my transition. Once I committed to a decision, everything else happened quickly. I designed a website and had my first paying clients in 6 weeks. I began to get my writing published to worldwide audiences at The Huffington Post. And every day that passes, more exciting opportunities present themselves that are helping me grow personally and professionally.
But none of it could have happened if I stayed “on the fence.”
Our greatest gift in life is the power to choose. And if things don’t go as planned, we can always choose again. This is how we learn. This is where growth comes from.
So what decision are you putting off in your life? Is it time to look for a new career challenge? Is it time to let go of a relationship that no longer serves you? Could it be time to commit to better physical and emotional health? Is now the time to finally have that difficult conversation that you have been hiding from?
Step out of your fear and let go of your need for everything to be “perfect.” Just make a choice.