Category Archives: Deciding: Why is it so hard?

Decision making and math

morguefile.com/archive/display/105605It seems like the more complicated the decision the more people look for some easy answer.

Wanna lose weight? Couldn’t there just be one food you could eat that would fix it all? Buy a car? Some simple calculation to make the right decision?

A couple of years ago (actually way back in 1980) Dale Dauten wrote a book called Quitting, Knowing When to Leave…a job, a marriage, or any other unhappy spot you’re in.

I loved the simple process of evaluating the possibility of really being satisfied with a decision to quit something.

Basically he says, first you become aware that a decision must be made. Then you determine and weight the possibilities for the future, whether the decision is really in your own best interest and how certain you are about the necessity of the decision.

I loved the book!

And then this morning I read over at ScientificBlogging.com an article by Hank Campbell, Garth Sundem Makes Geeks Cool(er) Again.  The post at least starts out with a reference to Geek Logik: 50 Foolproof Equations for Everyday Life by Garth Sundam. Hank suggests it’s:

a way to quantify every important decision you may have wanted to make, from how many drinks at the company picnic you should have to how much sports you should watch today. The beauty of it was that by abdicating the decision you also abdicated responsibility – or so you thought. ‘Should I hit on that girl?’ calculations combined with errors in a ‘How many beers should I have?’ calculation probably took you to a bad place if you are married and no amount of pointing to his book was going to help.

The value of using equations to solve life’s dilemmas was verified time and again…

Check out the results of four geeks in a bar in the 5:44 minute video  here.

But in the end, it seems that making the right decision has less to do with the math and more to do with the evaluation that yields the confidence to move forward.

And really that confidence in the choice is most important.

Decisions don’t have to be conscious

More news on the decision making front.
According to the Brain Mysteries site on December 27.

brain… Alex Pouget, associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, has shown that people do indeed make optimal decisions-but only when their unconscious brain makes the choice.

“A lot of the early work in this field was on conscious decision making, but most of the decisions you make aren’t based on conscious reasoning,” says Pouget. “You don’t consciously decide to stop at a red light or steer around an obstacle in the road. Once we started looking at the decisions our brains make without our knowledge, we found that they almost always reach the right decision, given the information they had to work with.”

I knew it! Don’t work so hard… Just freakin’ decide, already!

Further Pouget says:

If we had to wait until we’re 99 percent sure before we make a decision…then we would waste time accumulating data unnecessarily. If we only required a 51 percent certainty, then we might reach a decision before enough data has been collected.

Try it.  See what it feels like.

As long as no babies will die, you can always change your mind.

Check out my other articles on deciding.

New TVs and deciding

Sometimes making a decision depends on doing some research, making lists of pros and cons and most certainly on knowing what the constraints of the decision may be. When you have what you need, making decisions is much easier than when you don’t.

Our old TV is starting to make noises like it might be time to replace it. So we’re just trying to determine SIZE TV will fit in the a nice-piece-of-furniture we bought a couple years ago to house the TV and all those other wires and components.

I know how big the box is. I know a TV should fit in there. We have one in there now.  But if the new TV is to be a different size–and this HD thing makes them ALL different sizes–then what is the largest size I can get?

WHY is this so freakin’ hard?

Nice piece of furniture for my TV

The reviews of the TV’s online tell me all kinds of crap that WOULD matter IF it fit in the box. But it is of NO value if it doesn’t fit in the box.

My husband explains to me that “All TVs are measured on the diagonal of the screen.”

Yea? Great but will that fit in my nice-piece-of-furniture?

Well, you have to do “big math.” You can’t just consider the aspect of 16:9 and figure 32 is to 19 as x is to 9    … blah blah blah. It requires square roots and squares.

I am a math major.  I COULD figure this out if I wanted to … but really, all I want is some TV manufacturer, or more likely another nice person, to make it clear that a 32″ screen comes on a TV that is this basically wide and this high. Therefore, I can judge whether or not it will, or will not,  fit in my nice-piece-of-furniture. (P.S. I know that no matter how wide they say the screen is, it will still not be as wide as the whole TV.  I lived in the 50s and 60s with console TVs that were as wide as trucks and that was a good thing!)

If Google will convert dollars to euros why can’t it as easily tell me how big the screen is in normal person numbers?  Then I can estimate if the case on the screen will fit in my nice-piece-of-furniture!

Oh, Wait! Google knows everything!

SO I searched (finally) on 16:9 calculator and Google returned up this great site where you can put in the diagonal TV size in inches, push a button and it gives you the screen size in width and height and compares it to a similar sized old style 4:3 ratio TV.

You can check it out for your house here: www.nicetaco.com/tv.aspx#calculator (Thank you, thank you nicetaco.com)

Now I have learned I’m gonna need a new TV AND  a new nice-piece-of-furniture.

Yippee?

Deciding on the options

Ihave a real curiosity about deciding and how people do it. Read my back articles on that here.

This morning I stumbled upon this article “How to Fail: 25 Secrets Learned Though Failure”  over at UnstructuredAdventures.com

It’s an interesting list of learning opportunities. But I was particularly attracted to this one:

2. Postpone hard decisions until you have to make hard trade-offs.
Instead: Make decisions earlier to create options and build flexibility.

Make decisions before you think you need to. You’re probably too late if you come to the point where you realize you have to make a choice between hard trade-offs. By waiting to make a decision you’ve created trade-offs instead of options. Postponing decisions in the attempt to optimize your results is probably a waste of your resources in other ways.

The longer you wait to make a decision… well, probably some of your options are gone. So your choices are automatically narrowed down. Sometimes that’s not a bad way to make a decision , especially if it’s not a big one. Show up at the movie theater at 7:30 and watch what ever starts next.  No real decision. Can you think of stuff you decide that way?

But what about when it does matter: either for business or fun?

Can’t decide on seeing Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band in Baltimore or David Bromberg in Reading?  Wait long enough and you’ll miss the first concert. The decision is made.  Wait a little longer and you don’t have to decide at all.  The decision is made for you.

Sure, that’s easy.  But do you get what you want out of it? Or is it just easy?  Was it fun? Or just easy?

And may I just say that I did NOT wait to buy my tickets to either show!

Rev. Peyton was a nonstop rush of music and stage presence. The albums are great but in person, they’re even better.  Breezy could be my new measure of stage presence. On his MySpace page one review says  Rev Peyton sounds like:

Robert Johnson on crack… they get one hell of a sound out of an acoustic guitar, washboard, and snare drum. It’s easy to see why they are big.”  according to Steve Hammer, in Nuvo Newsweekly

However, I probably did not need to buy my tickets two weeks in advance. The concert was, after all, on a Tuesday night and featured a rather obsure group. But I did not miss it!~

Why is it so complicated?

Bread shot by EmmiP from Morguefile.com A couple of weeks ago on a trip to a nearby Salvation Army store I found a bread machine … with instructions .. for just $20. Because it is entirely possible that I might only use the thing once, I don’t want to spend a million bucks on more “stuff” in my house.

But the purchase was within my mental discretionary purchase limit, and I thought I’d like to try it out.

I brought the thing home and sat it on the counter for a week or so. Then I put it in the cupboard because it takes up too much room on the counter. I studied the instruction book for the bread maker. Are you listening? I READ the instructions over and over. I bought the stuff it said I needed. None was very expensive. And then I read the instructions some more. Finally after nearly three weeks, I got up the nerve to try making bread. It is amazingly simple. And the bread was pretty good.

Please tell me what is so scary about making bread in a machine that does all the work for you? You just put the stuff in the bucket and turn it on. Really, how hard can that be? Why did it take me so long to try the thing out?

Here’s my question: How much do you miss because you read more instructions that you need? How much time do you waste trying to be sure you have everything right before you try something new?

  • Nike says: “Just do it.”
  • Guy Kawasaki says, in his book, The Art of the Start “Get going.”
    Check out his talk on the topic at TiECon 2006 here.

Really, almost never will the bread machine explode gooey dough all over the kitchen.
And if it does, you can just clean it up.

What are you gonna get off your duff and do this week?