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-- Chinese proverb
I can trace every success or failure in my life back to something I did or didn't decide effectively. Whether in the course of developing relationships, doing business, selecting investments, or accepting invitations, I've found a direct correlation between my location on life's highway and my decisions to turn, exit, stop, or start. Extenuating circumstances beyond my control were always involved, yet more times than not, I was a victim or victor of my own making, achieving or failing because I did or did not put in place the necessary prerequisites to accomplish my desired goals. Now, to be sure, I am not a self-flagellating individual who uses this premise to blame and belittle myself for past decisions and their consequences. No, I am saying that my decisions set the course of my life.
I have now been married to the same woman, the mother of my children, for over twenty-five years. That relationship decision has set the climate of my life much like a thermostat on a heating system sets the temperature in a room. In keeping with this concept, persons in a room may not know that the temperature is affected by the smallest incremental movement of a drop of mercury in a device at an unnoticed location. In spite of its invisibility to the inhabitants of the room it still affects the comfort level of everyone present. Similarly, my key relationship decision, and many other decisions I have made, affect me and all those around me. Good results are a direct reflection of my ability to think through, discern correctly, and move succinctly from the trajectory of my last decision.
Sometimes we have to make a small decision such as choosing a new hair style or whether to paint the bedroom sky blue or periwinkle. Other times decisions are larger, such as whether or not to move to a new city for a better job, or to keep an old one. We each have our own style and ways to approach the decision-making process. Some of us tend to know exactly what we want. We make up our minds quickly and act immediately. Others prefer to deliberate for a long time, weighing all the angles and options before deciding what to do.
Reflect -- Discern -- Decide
Good decision making in relationships, business, anything, results from a process of reflection -- discernment -- decision. This truth recently emerged in a new light for me. I have had the same COO in my for-profit company for nearly ten years. It was interesting to me to note an observation he made about me. Often people who work with you notice things about you that you have not realized about yourself.
He advised some business constituents that it was unwise to approach me with a presentation that was long and laborious. He had noticed what I jokingly refer to as my ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), that my attention wearied quickly during presentations like those that included the history of a company and who the founder married in 1802. I really would rather be spared the guillotine of losing my head in the details that are largely irrelevant to what I need to decide. In other words, cut to the chase, answer my questions, and leave me to my own thoughts.
He also shared with them that the hardest part of doing business with me was the millions of questions I ask in the name of doing due diligence. I smiled at my COO's remarks and thought they were an accurate depiction of my inward reality. Even my staff members on the not-for-profit side of my organization have learned to come to me expecting multiple questions and to be armed with the answers before setting the meeting.
I do not apologize for this proclivity; I believe that good leaders anticipate tough questions and have at their disposal the answers that predict issues, struggles, and maladies that are inherent in the normal processes of doing business.
Sound decisions are based on great information, so the more significant the question, the more due diligence I require. I believe important decisions demand stewardship. If we are to be good stewards of great opportunities, we must show respect for those opportunities by the level of diligence to which we prepare for the next move.
Relationship decisions are among the most opportune choices in your life, and I remind you that no others leave as many footprints alongside your own on life's journey as those you make to unite yourself with another person emotionally, sexually, spiritually.
Several years ago, my wife and I purchased a new home. We did so after selling our previous home and nearly doubling our initial expenditure for it. I searched ardently through the better neighborhoods in our city trying to find a home that would yield a similar return in the future should we decide to sell. I had found a good house in a great neighborhood and began to discuss with my friends and family the possibility of purchasing it. To my surprise, one of my friends advised me against getting the house. He said, "I know you so well that I can hear your uncertainty in how you explained the value of the proposed home. You seem as though you are trying to convince yourself that the deal is a good one. In other words, thou dost protest too loudly."
My friend seemed to know that I wasn't totally happy with the decision to buy that house. It was a great deal, the house would sell easily later, and would no doubt yield a return. The problem was that I didn't really like the house. I liked the deal -- but not the house!
After this observation, I had to reflect. My goal of getting a house with curb appeal -- that was marketable for resale -- was not equally important as getting a house that I liked. Ultimately, I decided that my enjoyment of the house was a significant consideration that I had minimized.
Friends, many times we make poor decisions because we have decided what success looks like. Due diligence must include a heart check. Is the goal good looks or good character? Wealth or happiness? Safety or excitement? Is the goal a matter of marrying someone who looks good on paper or looks good in person? Is the goal to find a person who is economically sound or emotionally stable? Yes, you are right. It is possible to have both. But neither is possible if you don't decide that these are the goals. What does success look like to you, what comprises a successful relationship to you?
After looking at over twenty-eight homes all across the metroplex, I made a choice. By the time I was ready to choose, I had examined the return rate on my investment, the likelihood of foreclosure from my loan, a feasibility study that looked at fair market value (FMV), and comparable properties similar to my investment. The difference this time was that I also factored in the importance of liking what I was going to spend a good number of years paying for.
You may not be able to imagine buying a home without this vital consideration. In fact, some people make how they feel about their home, how much they like their home, their number one criterion for its purchase. They don't consider the kind of neighborhood it's in, its potential resale value, or where the market for homes in their metro area will be in five years. They only know that it has a great view, new appliances, and feels bright and cheery. Maybe you are less inclined to focus on the business of real estate and have little regard to the profitability of a house. Perhaps you gravitate by nature to the cosmetics of the house and your ability to enjoy it and decorate it. I realize that there are many buyers who are more interested in the feng shui of a house, the convenience of a functional kitchen, and the nearness to schools, and who never consider the resale value.
Both sets of factors -- your head and your heart -- must come into the equation in making this or any significant decision. You must consider both the hard data as well as the intangible internals.
So with both sets of data in mind, I finally bought a beautiful family estate on some extensive farm land! Farm land here is a good buy, and the house was all my rather large family would need as we grow into grandchildren and in-laws. My new property, with its extensive acreage, provides a home for bobcats, coyotes, and a few hungry Angus cows. Every morning when I wake up to the sound of squirrels playing in the tree outside my window and rabbits scurrying across the grounds, I know that the value of my home is not just the appraisal. It also includes the happiness for which there is no price tag. This reminds me of the MasterCard commercial in which the price of numerous items are listed followed by the value of the total experience, "priceless."
There is certainly a difference between making small daily decisions such as what to wear or what to order at dinner versus making a larger decision that will have greater consequences in your life. Large decisions, like making a major purchase such as buying a house, can have ramifications for your financial health for years to come. Moving to a new town or community could affect your relationships with your family and friends and could impact your kids, if you have them, for the rest of their lives.
You are also going to have to make decisions about relationships in your life. Considerations such as whether to enter into one, get out of one, or change the status of a relationship are decisions you'll have to make throughout your life. And those choices are not as easy as the prevalent Hollywood romantic movies today would lead you to believe. In the movies, things typically turn out happily ever after.
This is not to say that won't be the case for you. There is nothing more gratifying than a relationship with someone you love and trust, with whom you can share your innermost thoughts and feelings. Having a partner to rely on, to hav...