Opinion: Decisions, decisions

Commentary by Terry Anker

It is inevitable. Eventually, we are asked to describe what we do. Sometimes, the question comes from a stranger sitting next to us on a plane. Sometimes, it comes from our growing children, just beginning to understand that we have full and complete lives that do not include them. Sometimes, it is a line on a government form. Dentist.  Cowboy. Astronaut. Each of these labels seems succinct enough. But do they really tell us, or anybody, what we do? An astronaut rides a rocket ship into space. Right? But are they an adventurer, scientist or pilot? Can they be all?

Such is the problem when folks, innocently enough, say to the entrepreneur, “What, exactly, is it that you do?” Well, we build and manage companies. If, one might suppose, an inanimate object can be managed. Maybe said another way, we build and manage people. OK.

Experience teaches that much of the entrepreneur’s capacity is consumed by decisions.  Certainly, they sell, keep books, clean the floors and all manner of necessary tasks. Yet as a company grows, decision-making may be the singular and exclusive function that cannot be outsourced. The power of choice, in many ways, is liberating. Directions are set and plans are laid. Good. But the responsibility accompanying this authority can be burdensome. Are the decisions the right ones? Will the company, and the families it supports, survive a misstep?

So choices are carefully considered, studied and wrangled. Books have been written. Entire fields of study have come to support a fledgling “science” of decision-making.  With so much at stake, a bit of preparation is warranted, if not required. Then, where do we begin? How do we teach ourselves, our children and our colleagues to value positive choice? One assumes that to be successful, we will need to decide.