Recently I was talking to a friend, also an ex-consultant from McKinsey, who told me that one of his senior level client counterpart has a “hard time making decisions,” but loves “having all the options on the table.” He added that this client was previously also a consultant from a top-notch management consulting firm. At the time, I must admit, I wouldn’t have agreed more about the nature of consultants had I not been experiencing this “indecisiveness” myself as I was setting up a new company in two different locations. As any Joe would do, I looked up the different pros and cons of setting up a company in these locations. I compared and looked for such sites. Then after I realized that one place was more superior than the other, I began thinking much more about the reputation of one location over another. Then I looked into costs. It turned out that one place was at least one-half cheaper than the more reputable place–in my eyes. But this more reputable location had more sentimental value to me because this was a place my wife and I had been talking about going for quite some time. The multicultural, melting pot, characteristic of the place lured someone like us: growing up in many different places and unsure of what culture to really belong to. So that aspect of the potential future kicked in. I also began fantasizing about the purpose of this entity. Would it just be created to host my consulting job or other endeavors? How much could I stuff my dreams in there and, again, potential future. Soon enough, I was caught in a paradox of choice, wait, more like vortex of choice. I was in the eye of the storm. My wants had clearly surpassed my objectivity in the situation and had complicated much of a very easy action. The one last lingering part about this was that I had to make a decision because I had a deadline to meet. This deadline concerned something else; it was an opportunity to invest in an interesting company. So here I was, trying to mash everything together with little luck because as you begin weighing the current needs, future wants, and all the minute pros and cons, you can’t reach a sensible conclusion. And that was exactly what happened to me.
So what did my gut tell me? Actually, my “gut” already had an answer I preferred from day two. The first day was just spent gathering most of the necessary information and my gut had already formed an answer. For the next two weeks, I was just busy trying to formulate a convincing strategy to make myself want to take the other option. The funny thing about all this is that you need to make it “feel right” at the end of they day and if you can’t, you are typically agonizing over a bad decision–even if this was not a real bad decision but only in your mind.
Unfortunately, I believe many of us fall into this trap. Especially when we have to make big decisions, for the fear of making the wrong one, we spend eons trying to justify everything. Trust me, it won’t work. Here’s a case in point, below, and it’s an embarrassing one.
So about three days ago, I had finally made a decision to shell out the additional cost to go with setting up the company in a more reputable region. I tried different approach to lower the cost, like trying to hire a local representative to be one of the board members, but in the end due to my need for a bit more privacy, I decided to opt it out. Then I had finally talked to my potential agent for, like the nth time (easily over a dozen phone calls in two days), and I said to him, “send over the invoice.” As it arrived, I looked over it and had roughly an 40 minutes before I had to leave for a client meeting. It was ridiculous because I spent those 35 minutes not being able to send the necessary email and payment directions. But since time was pressing, I hit the send button almost a minute before my departure. Mission accomplished, right? Not quite. I came home exhausted that night thinking about whether my decision was correct. I, as most people do, started to look deeper into the other option trying to see whether I had missed other important details (By the way, when you are extremely satisfied and happy about your decision you tend to go for the affirmation bias–to look up why that decision was extremely good and keep looking at the good stuff). Sure enough, somehow after I had made the decision and acted upon, my twisted antenna became straight again. I was regretting that I hadn’t made the correct, instinctive one. Here comes the ridiculous and incredulous part. Remember that afternoon, I had contemplated about pushing the send button for very long? Someone at the very late 11 to 12 am hours, I had believed that I hadn’t sent in the confirmation to my agency–I honestly forgot that I had made the decision. Then I asked my wife what she thought about the other location and she seemingly agreed that given the current situation, the other place seemed more appropriate. I tried to sleep but couldn’t.
At around 1 a.m. I got out of bed and began hectically contacting agencies on the other option. Then I went online, filled in an application and pressed submit. I even put in my payment, credit card, information! When the response email came to prepare additional documents, such as my ID, I went back to my old email thread of the more reputable option (Option 1). I realized, only then, that I had actually already sent the payment details for the first option. At around 2 a.m. I started panicking. I didn’t know what I was doing anymore. I was in disbelief, to say the least. I sat there wondering whether I had a sudden lapse of memory during the afternoon and someone caused me, in all honesty, to act ferociously crazy under immense pros and cons analysis over the past two weeks. I was in the mud. Suddenly, what seemed like a happy decision became a nightmare of “waits” and “did I just pay double?” mistakes. It was 2:30 a.m. and no one would respond to any calls. I had to sleep and call first thing in the morning to my first option location to tell them to quickly cancel payments (credit card).
Okay, I hope you are following me until now. The next morning, I got up at 6 a.m. Couldn’t wait so I checked my email. The agency guy from the 2nd option replied saying that they were already processing. This option I actually wanted (the option I switched to) so I wanted to keep it going. But at the same time, I didn’t want to be paying for the 1st option and the 2nd option definitely would b easier to cancel. Oh, did I forget to mention that these guys in both locations work very fast? They could finish up all these requests within 24 hours. So, I had a tougher time arguing the cooling-off period had I been charged already. Now back to option 1. I started calling them frantically from 8:00 a.m. Yes, I know, who in their right minds except anyone to pick up before regular office hours. So no one home. I try, just in case. But I needed a better, more proactive solution–not let’s just wait and see what happens. I called upon my wife. She swiftly solved the issue. In less than 15 minutes. I was flabbergasted.
Let’s not go into that detail because it entailed some creative maneuvers. Yet, going back to what happened to me when I kept pressing down the logical decision path, I want you to take something away from this strange and ridiculous incident that happened to me. That’s this: just focus on your feeling. The bigger the decision, the more it needs to “feel right.” Without this, we will always fall prey to what I now call the “consultants bias.” Always doing a lot of analysis, optionization, but not ready to commit to anything. Commitment plays an important decision factor. Had I been more committed to my wishes I wouldn’t have had so much difficulty. In most cases we all know the right answer after some due diligence. Anything beyond that just f*cks with your mind. I learned it the crazy way; but you don’t have to.