Diving in the Shallow End

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-girl-diving-pool-image2866893Are you conservative or aggressive? Are you more Warren Buffet or Richard Branson? Is one of them reckless and the other careful?

I say they’re more alike than you think.

It comes down to a topic I’ve touched on several times – risk. Both take risks but they are not risky – they find ways to minimize and manage risk.

Risk in business is like a swimmer approaching a pool. Diving into the water is not a risky thing on its own but diving into a pool with an unknown depth is.

Doing your research, finding out the depth of the pool, then planning your entry is how you minimize risk. The angle of entry is how you manage risk. What neither Warren Buffet nor Richard Branson do is dive in the shallow end, the risk is too high. Instead they seek out the deep end. The deep end offers the most benefit with the least risk. It might still be dangerous but it’s less dangerous.

Of course once the research is done and the decision is made you still have to dive in and that’s what a lot of people don’t do, or wait too long to do and miss out on the opportunity. Once the key information is determined you have to move. Like a quote I used in the chapter called Risk in What Next, Lee Ioccoca, former CEO of Chrysler said: ““I have always found that if I move with seventy-five percent or more of the facts that I usually never regret it. It’s the guys who wait to have everything perfect that drive you crazy.”

So avoid diving in the shallow end but do dive in!


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Regrets Lead Backward

Do you live your life looking back or do you look forward to what will be?

Regret DemotivatorThere are two reasons I don’t have any regrets in life. The first reason is that I prefer looking forward and believe that focusing on regrets is like driving while only looking in the rear view mirror.

The other reason I have no regrets is because the decisions I made in the past were correct at the time, they may be wrong now but back when I made them, the decision was right (as far as I knew). Because I only had so much information at the time I made the best choice I could and there’s nothing to regret about that. If now, after time has passed, I find flaws in my reasoning or better options, there’s nothing I can do about it. Sure, I wish I knew then what I know now, but the fact is I didn’t know it and no amount of wishing will change that.

I suspect most people have regrets about things they didn’t do rather than things they did and that’s why I’m more adventurous than most people I know, why I’ll explore more options, and try different things. I’ve pointed out before that I’ve had more failures then successes but what did those failures cost? Not much if I was smart about it, but what I gained was experience and knowledge. Being a self published author, I spent far more money writing my first book then I made, but I learned how to write a book. What I don’t do is look back and regret that first book (I also don’t recommend it) because there was value in the experience. (I do however recommend the second book What Next A Proactive Approach to Success).

Like the driving analogy I used earlier I do look in the rear view mirror from time to time but just to learn from the experiences I had in the past, not to beat myself up over them.

Do you have regrets? Why? Rather than feeling bad about the choices you made, understand that you have experience and that lesson will help you avoid mistakes in the future. You can start every sentence with I should have or I could have or you can start every sentence with I will, it’s up to you.

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Sometimes the things we say in jest end up being all too true. One of the tasks at my day job is teaching people how to edit video using software called Avid. A lot of people are worried about making a mistake, about doing something so wrong that they’ll never recover. Well that’s almost impossible thanks to a feature that is available on many programs, the undo button or Control-Z (Command-Z for all the Mac users).

When I first tell my students about CTRL-Z, they are relieved that whatever they did, it isn’t the end of the world. I then say “I’m still waiting for someone to invent a CTRL-Z for life.” I’m kidding but, after the laughs, I usually hear some murmurs of agreement, “tell me about it” or “Yeah that would be nice” or “me too.”Undo

We all have regrets, hopefully small ones, but no CTRL-Z. We live with our mistakes, learn from them, and move on because that’s all we can do. Like any mistake in editing video, there aren’t many mistakes or misfortunes in life that rise to the level of “the end of the world.” As long as you remain alive and in relatively good health, any mistake or misfortune can be overcome. This is not an excuse to make mistakes! Yeah I’d like to learn from my mistakes but I’d prefer not to make them in the first place.

Whether the bad thing that happened was your fault, simply bad luck, or an accident, don’t look for the undo button, there isn’t one, but rather turn it around and make it positive. Think differently about the problem. You can never undo the bad thing like Julie and I couldn’t undo the fire that destroyed her house six months after we began dating, but we were able to assess the situation, think strategically, and make the best out of what we had.

In What Next I recount a story that Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com tells about making the decision to leave a good job, with a very good salary, in order to start Amazon. He said he thought about the decision and came up with a “regret minimization framework,” a way of thinking that would hopefully reduce any regret he felt, reduce his desire for an undo button. He does a much better job of explaining it than I can.

What Next and the concept of regret minimization work well together. What do you want to do and how are you going to do it?

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