David Herzbrun, in his book Playing In Traffic On Madison Avenue, recalls an occasion in the 1960s when he rented a car from Avis. "The ashtray," he notes, "was jammed up with cigarette butts." At the time Herzbrun was a copywriter for the advertising agency responsible for Avis' success through the "We try harder" campaign. Upset with his dirty car, Mr. Herzbrun had a decision to make. Do I continue to write their ads even though they are not living up to their message - or do I quit the account?
He decided to write one more ad for Avis. The ad copy began this way, "I write Avis ads for a living, but that doesn't make me a paid liar. If Avis would not live up to its advertising," he added, "they can get themselves a new boy." To Mr. Herzbrun's surprise, Avis ran his ad. The whole incident, his decision to write the ad and Avis' decision to run it, is credited with raising the company's standards.
Everyone faces tough decisions in today's marketplace. Often issues do not appear completely
black or white. Sometimes options seem cloudy and the best option is not in clear view. You may find yourself feeling somewhat like singer Jimmy Buffet who joked, "Indecision may or may not be my problem."
Here are a few ideas to guide your decision making:
- Choose Principles Over Convenience - Let's face it. You can make decisions that are right or you can make decisions that are easy. Occasionally an option is both right and convenient, but usually you must choose one or the other. Decide in advance to be a person of principle. An anonymous speaker once said, "When one bases his life on principle, 99 percent of his decisions are already made." Theodore Rubin adds, "Decisions put us in charge of our own lives. Every time we make a decision, we find out who we really are because we make use of our own values."
- Utilize Analysis Not Impulsiveness - John Mott, president of AMR Travel Services, makes the point that good decisions come from good information. He said, "If you want to make decisions, then eliminate all alternatives with the power of factual data." Don't make your decisions on a whim. An old proverb says, "It is a trap for a man to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider his vows." Similarly, when a decision or commitment is made rashly, without proper evaluation, the consequences are often painful Think through and analyze your options. Good information greatly increases the odds of a good decision.
- Weigh Benefits Versus Risks - You can often find clarity when you weigh the benefits versus the risks. If you tend to be a bit careless, you might heed some caution as you evaluate your options Of course, if you tend to be overly cautious, it is easy to let the risks overwhelm you. Consider the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out. Or as Frederick Wilcox put it, 'Progress always involves risks. You can't steal second base while keeping your foot on first." Determine your own risk tolerance level. Consider all the benefits. And get on with your decision.