Have you ever found yourself flustered, pressed for time and anxious when making a tough decision?
That’s pretty much everyone I know and that’s ok.
When it comes to decision making, human beings are fallible. We are susceptible to biases and irrationality. We suffer from information overload. Sometimes, even under the best conditions, we are crippled by fear and risk.
On a recent episode of Quite Franklin, I was fortunate to pick up a quick brain hack from my opposite number and guest, Joe De Sena.
Through his multi-faceted experiences – from a teenage pool-cleaning entrepreneur to wheeling and dealing as a stockbroker on Wall Street before an eventual metamorphosis into a human ironman – De Sena developed a venturous appetite.
Given the high stakes of his many adventures, you could say De Sena fed on a steady diet of agonizing decisions throughout most of his life.
To avoid getting entangled in fear or anxiety, De Sena instead approaches decisions with what he calls the “upside-downside” spot analysis.
By quickly weighing the respective merits and drawbacks in any given situation, he is able to easily make the most informed choice.
Let’s say you wake up in the morning and decide you want some pancakes for breakfast. The upside to that is the instant gratification versus the downside which is the sugar rush will negatively impact your ability to tackle the rest of the day.
Among the plethora of decision-making models within cognitive psychology today, “upside-downside” doesn’t sound like novel cerebral methodology.
Yet, if De Sena was able to distill many of his potentially life altering decisions within so rudimentary a framework, then I guess there’s hope for the rest of us.
It is a nod to analytic over emotion in making decisions, and who’s to argue which is better if “upside-downside” gave De Sena the gumption to go ahead and plop down a 50 grand gamble that would eventually turn Spartan into the prime exporter of obstacle endurance races anywhere on earth?
In many ways, I was already a long-time subscriber before talking to De Sena. Part of my habits and routine which I will expand upon in a future post and what I will from here on now refer to as “upside-downside” helped make it easy to navigate a range of decisions.
Going to parties or spending the extra time catching up on rest when you’re a professional athlete seems like an obvious choice. However, other important decisions like career paths might not involve such binary outcomes.
Furthermore, making decisions under pressure or time constraints will stump even the wisest of us. We can’t force ourselves to think faster no matter how much we try. Instead, we rely on mental models to help.
And so, “upside-downside” is a clever way to short circuit what can even sometimes be a high voltage situation. Between deciding whether to retire or deliberating on major business and professional options, “upside-downside” has been a reliable tool for me.