how to take abrupt action

Roosevelt ready for big game

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat. – Theodore Roosevelt

I am an analytical man by nature. Most of us would rather consider all possible outcomes to an event rather than forging ahead with immediate action.  Example?  Here are two cups.  One contains something bad, the other contains something good.  Drink one.

A reasonable person would say “whoa”. Does bad mean something nasty, or something fatal?  Does good mean tastes good, or is it something that tastes horrible that is good for me?  What does “good” mean, or “bad?”  These questions are reasonable, and considering the vagueness of the original proposition quite proper.

Analysis is the enemy of opportunity. Opportunities in life – financial, personal, and so on – are often quite fleeting.  Found a dream house in your dream neighborhood?  Sitting around analyzing the costs and calculating down to the penny the cost of acquiring the house can take so much time that the house is bought by someone else.  Maybe doing a quick 5-second back-of-the-envelope calculation and taking a leap would have secured the house.  You may find the lack of analysis hurts your or helps you, but nothing ventured – nothing gained.  The house may be a little too expensive, but the surest way NOT to find out is to analyze the possibilities until you have no option to buy.

I am sure a number of books and essays have been written on how your family, your education and your profession shape your life. No doubt they do – my family has always been conservative in life (although not in politics), my education took place entirely in the Deep South and my profession of auditing has shown me the awful result of risk one too many times.  Learning to seize risk in mid-life is as difficult as learning a foreign language in mid-life; not impossible but a formidable task.  I don’t think great reward is possible without some risk – and note that I said some risk, not great risk.  Learning how to take some risk is central to success, because without some risk, success is rare and becoming rarer.

photo credit: sakraft1

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10 comments

  • I spent the beginning of my career as a military officer, and it gave me a bias toward action, even if that action is the wrong one. It is easier to change course once moving than to start moving at all.

  • Curmudgeon: I had to chuckle when I read your comment. My grandfather (born in 1890, so he's been gone a long time) used to get so aggravated with people when they wouldn't make a decision. “Do something, even if it's wrong, just DO something!” How many times did I hear him say that! Will Rogers also had the same kind of advice: “Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.” It's hard advice to take for a dithery soul such as I, but I try to keep moving toward some goal–even if it's wrong!

  • Risk always comes into play, which separates a lot of people and their decisions on all aspects of life. I agree too much risk can lead to negative outcomes. It's nice to have a balance between the two. With the economy the way it is, I have a feeling you will see people become a lot more conservative with their mentality.

  • I am a satisficer. There is a lot of evidence to show that we are just as happy with our less analyzed decisions than our more analyzed decisions…

  • I am an analysis kind of person myself. I like to know it all before I make the decision. This can make me miss opportunities. I saw a quote the other day that said if you want the big fruit you've got to go on out on the limb. This is true. I just started blogging a month ago and am looking at buying a domain soon. It looks like a good step if I want to be able to make money and be more accessible to readers. Any advice would help.

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  • The flip side of the coin is people who act without thinking enough.
    I've been guilty of that.
    There has to be a happy medium.

  • There is a big difference between getting stuck in analysis paralysis and carefully weighing the pros and cons of what looks like an opportunity but may turn out to be a nightmare. Between losing an opportunity and taking a leap of blind faith, I will invariably let the “opportunity” go. Some risk is always necessary, but throwing all caution to the wind for fear of losing an opportunity is irrational.

  • There is a big difference between getting stuck in analysis paralysis and carefully weighing the pros and cons of what looks like an opportunity but may turn out to be a nightmare. Between losing an opportunity and taking a leap of blind faith, I will invariably let the “opportunity” go. Some risk is always necessary, but throwing all caution to the wind for fear of losing an opportunity is irrational.

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