A Tap on the Glass - 73 - The Valid Gut Instinct

You’ve made hundreds of big decisions in your life. 

I know that many of them have been business related. Do you make the deal? Spend that money? Hire that person? Did you bypass an opportunity?

How do you handle decisions that involve risk? Sure, you can look at data — but I would argue that at least 50% of your decisions in your career and in your life are not decided with the data, rather, with your gut.  Most certainly that’s been the case with me…and admittedly, with mixed results. 

But, the numbers don’t tell the entire story. I’ve learned a thing or two about achieving some level of success by listening to my gut when making decisions. 

I admit that it’s a learned discipline, with a margin of error, but it pays off for a lifetime.

Here are a few “gut” ideas that you may be able to use:

Going Solo. I’ve tried decision-by-committee in my career.  I’m convinced that nothing impedes the progress of a task more than forming a committee.        We employ people whom I trust with a lot of our day to day needs. I value the input of others. I want others to feel engaged, invested, and a part of the process.  We ask for it from every staff member and expect it from key people.  However, at the end of the day, if you’re the one writing the checks, the success and failure is completely on you and you alone. With risk, your gut deserves the primary focus. Stay open, seek opinions, collect data, and then trust your gut.

The Battle. I’ve found that most people do not give their gut the stage it deserves. The Gut gets tuned out, overshadowed, out-debated, and many times flatly squashed!  By what? A superior? A “Professional Consultant”?  No, most times it’s your own powerful mind.  Your mind is a potent device, but it behaves like a child at times.   Perhaps that speaks too close to my own truth, but I find that the mind wants gratification.  It wants a lot of it and it wants it now. It wants to be independent and yet constantly yearns for validation. The “mind” is eager to overwhelm, rationalize, and dominate our gut if our gut doesn’t give it what it wants.

“My gut told me not to do it… but I went with it anyway.” Consider the last many years and review some of the bigger decisions and turning points in your life.  Did you take one job over another?  Did you miss an opportunity? Did something turn into a disaster? Hindsight is valuable, and negative outcomes are the easiest to analyze.  In any of your outcomes, to what extent did you initially rely upon your gut? What did it tell you? Did it serve you well?  Were you LISTENING?

If we are listening, the gut usually will communicate one of the following three ways in any given scenario:

“Absolutely Yes”
“Heck No”
“Not ready to respond”

Gut responses of “Yes” or “No” are black and white and thus, easy to act on.    The third option, “Not ready to respond”, is equally valuable and is not used often enough as far as I can tell.

We get into trouble when we permit “maybe” to sneak in. That is the opportunity that our persuasive mind and people are looking for…to woo us into not following our gut. It’s much better to abstain for the moment then jump in with both feet when you truly KNOW better.  I’m reminded of the lyrics from a song that group Rush, sings in their song ‘Freewill’, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”   

(I’m convinced you can find a song lyric to say just about anything you want if you look long enough.)

When there is risk involved, our gut deserves a chance to be heard. Sometimes it takes hours — sometimes days — but time is not the point. 

Accuracy.  THAT is the point.

Learn to trust your gut and take notice when it does great work.

Thanks for reading.