A smelly hippie walks into your office. He has started a company with a friend of his, a hacker who likes to give away his creations. Now they’re starting production on a product for the hobbyist market, but they need cash. He asks you for $50,000 and tells you he will give you a one-third share of the business in exchange. Do you take his offer? I didn’t think so.
Steve Jobs walks into the office of Nolan Bushnell of Atari. He and Steve Wozniak have started Apple Computer and are starting production on the Apple II, but they need cash. Jobs asks Bushnell for $50,000 and tells him he will give him a one-third share of Apple in exchange. Should he take this offer? Of course! Apple is now worth billions. Did he take the offer? No. Did he make a bad decision? No. The decision he made was the one above.
You can base a decision only on what you know at the time. The problem is that we often look back on what might have been and say, “That was a bad decision.” This thinking has an inhibiting effect on our future decision-making. I’ve seen this myself. I often become overly cautious following a decision that turned out badly due to an unforeseen turn of events. I need to remind myself that it was the best decision I could have made at the time. A missed opportunity like this one, on the other hand, may make me recklessly chase risky ventures with little chance of paying off. We tend to abandon our decision-making capabilities in a futile attempt to make up for bad outcomes. How do you keep yourself moving ahead instead of kicking yourself for missing opportunities?