Decision making using the cardinal virtues

Use the four cardinal virtues as building blocks for making decisions.

Prudence is the base, followed by justice, fortitude, and temperance. The order is important.

1. Prudence: Do your due diligence, run the numbers, ask questions and build scenarios. Do the work and make sure the unit economics make sense.

2. Justice: So economics work, but is your idea or action just? The test is whether your concept or activities deny someone else’s rights. If they do, then it’s not just. That test includes yourself. Are you doing yourself justice? Your plan might benefit everyone else but be punitive to you. An example is the 2018 immigration debate in the USA. A well-secured border is prudent, but separating babies from their immigrant mothers at the border is not just.

3. Fortitude: Okay so you’ve ticked the two boxes. The idea is prudent and just, but do you have the fortitude or courage to follow through on your decision. None of the first two virtues matter if you can’t follow through with the idea.

4. Temperance: Don’t get carried away by your emotions because it’ll cloud your judgment. If you allow your feelings to hijack your decision once you’ve committed, then you’ll buckle or second guess yourself at the first sign of resistance.

Virtues never go out of style or reach their shelf life. The same principles that applied centuries ago are relevant today.

Ball machines are predictable

It’s easier to criticize or dole out advice than it is to do. If people don’t have skin in the game or consequences of a decision or actions, then their opinion doesn’t mean much. 

It’s the same as getting advice from a highly paid consultant who has never run a company day to day. Everything always looks simple and obvious when the outcomes are academic. Academic recommendations don’t factor in real-world dynamics that are unpredictable and filled with unknowns.

Getting academic advice on how to implement something in the real world is like practicing tennis on an indoor court with a ball machine. At the end of an intensive tennis training camp with the ball machine, I’m sure the error rate will be low, and the person will have a stable backhand. Now take that same person and put them on a tennis court in the middle of a sunny day with a breeze. See how their tennis game deteriorates when they are serving with the sun in their eyes and their opponent charges the net after returning serve. Ball machines are consistent and predictable. Real-life is the antithesis of predictable.  

Instead of asking for advice, ask for shared experiences and draw your conclusions. If a person doesn’t have any shared experiences with the task at hand, then press mute and move on.

The paths to the well

“The knowledge I have is not my own. I just know the way to the well.” –@KapilGuptaMD

All our stories and ideas are connected. Nothing is original.

There are different paths to the well. Some trails are well trodden and wide open, some are narrow, hidden and hardly used. The source of the knowledge is the same, we all just get there on a different track.

We end up saying the same thing in a different way.

Choices and Luck

Success is a combination of luck and good choices.

Hard work and long hours don’t automatically result in success. A lot of people work hard. I’ve gotten off a train in Delhi, and seen taxi drivers sleeping in their cars at 5 am waiting for a fare. After I have knocked on their car window and woken them up, they wiped their face with a damp cloth and started the car. The back seat was still warm from where they were sleeping. People around the world work freaking hard. The Americans and the Chinese think they have a monopoly on long hours, my advice to them would be to travel a little and see the world. Travel will humble anyone.

I’ve seen people born on third base blow everything away including money, friends, and reputation because of poor choices. They had the luck of being born to the right parents but screwed up anyway. Being born lucky with a security blanket makes it way less likely thst someone will blow up their life, but a few bad choices will get the ball rolling. That’s why the mega-wealthy people set up trust funds with rules and conditions. The wealthy have learned to build safety valves that protect their offspring from dumb and ego driven decisions.

But it’s not just about luck. Opportunity favors the prepared mind. We are faced with choices every day. Where do you spend your time? Who do you associate with? When someone takes a chance on you, do you accept or do you demure? Who do you marry? Do you marry?

Saying it’s all about luck is a story we tell ourselves to justify our own situation. It’s hard to admit that the right decisions at the right time were involved as well. The trick is to acknowledge the luck, stay humble and choose wisely when they the big decisions are on deck.

Wastin’ time

The older you get, the more you value time. How much would you pay to buy back a couple of years when you are in your sixties? Time has less currency to a 25-year-old than a 60-year-old.

The wealthier you become, the more you value simplicity and flexibility. Real wealth isn’t about accumulating stuff, it’s about controlling your time. The freedom to decide how to spend your time each day is priceless. When you are young, you think you are invincible and have all the time in the world. Older, wiser souls value every day and cherish them because they know that buying back time isn’t an option.

As Bill Clinton likes to say, we all get to the point where we have more yesterdays than tomorrows.

I think Otis Redding tapped into this with (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay

Sittin’ in the mornin’ sun
I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ come
Watching the ships roll in
And then I watch ’em roll away again, yeah

I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time

I left my home in Georgia
Headed for the ‘Frisco bay
Cause I’ve had nothing to live for
And look like nothin’s gonna come my way

So I’m just gonna sit on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time

Look like nothing’s gonna change
Everything still remains the same
I can’t do what ten people tell me to do
So I guess I’ll remain the same, yes

Sittin’ here resting my bones
And this loneliness won’t leave me alone
It’s two thousand miles I roamed
Just to make this dock my home

Now, I’m just gonna sit at the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Oooo-wee, sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time

Written by Steve Cropper, Otis Redding • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group

Filter your feed

If you are overwhelmed by the Twitter outrage machine or the Facebook Feed, then I have a few tips.

Filter your feed. An unfiltered feed is overwhelming and will dunk and drown you with noise and information. Building a personalized and positive flow of information on Twitter is a little bit of scratch and peck – it can take years to curate the people you follow. Be patient. Explore new users. If there’s someone you admire, do some digging to see if she has a Twitter feed.

Don’t use the number of followers person has as a sign of quality. Popularity doesn’t equate to quality.

I’ve found that some people don’t tweet a lot, but they are prolific retweeters of fantastic content. Following quality content creators and quality content retweeters. They sometimes aren’t the same people.

Unfollow negative people. If reading someone’s tweets consistently makes you feel shitty then drop them.

Learn how to mute keywords from the feed. You won’t miss out on breaking news. The important news will always find you whether via word of mouth or a quick phone call.

Remove the Twitter app from your home screen. Out of sight and out of mind. You’ll check the feed less, and when you do check in, you’ll appreciate the moment.

Follow positive people and people you can learn from. Good community members on Twitter favorite and retweet other people. They contribute to the community and have constructive conversations. One way traffic and zero interactions with no favorites, retweets and replies is a red flag.

Report the trolls. If everyone does their bit, then Twitter gets better overall. Be a good Twitter citizen.

Don’t engage with trolls or bullies. Learn to mute and block.

Goodbye negativity, hello uplifting news feed.

Manage the downside

Seasoned risk takers manage the downside. When they fail, it’s never a knock out blow.

It’s like landing a plane on fumes, even if the final path to landing is a slow glide down to a makeshift runway. They pick the bailout area along the way, and if things don’t go to plan then they divert, land, refuel and regroup.

Increase your risk profile, but also increase the hedge against absolute failure. What’s your contingency plan, how do you mitigate loses? Don’t close your eyes, hit, and hope. That kind move only works in the movies.

Success is about persistence and repetition, but you can’t compete if you’ve crashed and burned along the way.