Choices and Entrepreneurship Success

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In my book, SAIL YOUR BOAT – Success is a Lifestyle and a Journey, available on Amazon and on this site here, I, among other things brought in a few parallels of physical science laws that seem to have meaning in our social lives as well. I explained that the only major differences between the social laws that govern our lives as social entities and the physical laws that govern us as physical entities are as follows:

  1. There is a time lag between our social actions (‘cause’) and the social results (‘effects’) that manifest as against the almost instantaneous  results we see in the physical sciences. I gave an example of the lammergeier that flies to an altitude above a rock surface before releasing the bone it carried up. Gravity acts on the bone and smashes it into pieces for the bird to have a delicious meal of broken bones and marrow. The result to the bird is almost instantaneous. However, when we spend years attending schools to get educated and attend other self-development programs, we don’t see the results of our effort as quickly as the lammergeier does on its bone. Nonetheless, in both cases, the laws of cause and effect are superintending.
  2. The second difference I mentioned is the variance in magnitude. Physical laws always give us a completely predictable result both in ‘direction’ and magnitude. With social laws, however, we can predict the direction but not necessarily the magnitude. For instance, the sum of the weights of the splintered bones and marrow the lammergeier gets is the total weight of the whole bone before it was smashed into pieces. The results of getting educated and attending self-development programs (and doing other things right) on the other hand could be of any magnitude that cannot be predicted except for the ‘direction’ (i.e. it will be a ‘good’ result).

Other than these two differences, the two laws are completely dominating on us and, thankfully, predictable, if not in magnitude with the social, at least in direction with both.

What has the above got to do with choices and entrepreneurship results? Yesterday, I was on a road trip. At the start of the journey, I predicted that I was going to get to my destination by 9.30pm. I did get there at exactly 9.30pm. My prediction was accurate because I know my average speed and the distance I was going to cover (and have made allowance for potholes and checkpoints!) Those first two variables make it possible for your pilot to advise you precisely when you will touch down at your destination airport. The effects of head- or tailwinds can also be adjusted for and the notification updated. It is classical physics and Newton’s laws of motion are sufficient to help make those predictions. Even more sophisticated predictions regarding the state of sub-atomic particles can be made by Schrodinger’s equation.  It is called quantum mechanics. Why am I mentioning this? Well, if two variables, the average speed and distance, can help you predict where and when you will be on a journey, I think no variable in our social lives can predict where we will be at some point in our lives like the choice(s) we are making daily.  Within the reality of the ‘time lag’ mentioned above, where we are now in life is a good reflection of our choices of ‘yesterday’. Similarly, where we will be ‘tomorrow’ will be a result of our choices ‘today’. Obviously, it is not enough to make the right choices but not follow up with several other things correctly. But it is the necessary and critical starting point. With the right choices and other necessary actions, you will be headed in the right and it is only the magnitude of your achievement that cannot be predicted precisely.

Choice and Decision: What is the difference between a choice and a decision?

Sometimes we use the two words interchangeably, which may be wrong depending on the context. Other times they may actually mean the same thing.

Choice presupposes that there is a set of alternatives from which you can take an option. Do you remember this?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost

The above was a choice issue and its consequence! And every day in our lives we are confronted with choices to make. Sometimes these choices are minor, like whether we should have a cup of tea or coffee, and are not life-changing. Other times the choices are more critical and life-changing, like whether we should pursue a life of entrepreneurship or work as career civil servants. Choice is, therefore, the process of selecting a preferred option by weighing each available option and then adopting the one we consider the most advantageous.

On the other hand, a decision may or may not involve choosing from a set of existing alternatives. This makes it more general than choice. Decision and choice are the same if the issue is to select and adopt from an existing set of alternatives. But the core difference between the two is that decision involves setting direction while choice is more about selection. When the options or alternatives have to be created, then the decision itself is generative. Decisions could also be evaluative or predictive depending on their objective.

What is a choice? Initial discourse on choice were started by philosophers who delved into almost everything about knowledge! This was beautifully upped and developed by economists who were later also followed by sociologists, psychologists and more recently, mathematicians.

Economic choice refers to the conscious decision to apply scare resources in one manner rather than another. Two variables are important in understanding choices. First, we have limited resources so we have to make choice, ideally based on value which sets our preference. The scarcity of resources implies that we do not always have all that we need to do everything that we want to do. Depending on our roles, responsibilities, and objectives, resources that could be scarce may include time, financial, time, human capital, machine capacity, etc. Choosing and using scarce resources wisely among competing needs is key to success. And that brings the second issue: opportunity cost. For each option from a set that we choose we would have forgone an alternative. The alternative forgone is the opportunity cost of the choice we made.

But not all life-changing choices are economic. So we will take what are of practical importance to the entrepreneur.

Benefits of deliberate choice-making: Deliberately and wisely making the ‘right’ choices has innumerable benefits.

  • We get to do what is right at any point in time irrespective of the noise and distractions around. Conscious choice-making serves as a moral compass.
  • It keeps us focused. Having established what our objectives are, conscious choice-making keeps our focus sharp on our objectives.
  • We make the optimum use of all the resources available to us. Conscious choice-making enables us to identify and utilize our resources efficiently.
  • The right ‘direction’ for our achievements is assured. We achieve our ultimate objectives, at least to a reasonable degree and quite frequently, often beyond our wildest imagination

Choice-making: Every entrepreneur operates in a specific social, economic and political environment and will typically face different choices that will confront them day in and day out. To succeed in entrepreneurship and life in general, we must be both skillful and comfortable with making our choices. To be adept at making effective choices, we have to adopt a conscious approach to analyzing options at each ‘fork’ in our lives. Otherwise, we risk subordinating this very important human responsibility to intuition, peer pressure, culture and habits that wouldn’t necessarily and always throw up the best.

To develop choice-making skills, the entrepreneur will need the following:

  • Develop self-awareness and overall emotional intelligence. Once you know yourself and the internal discourse that goes on in you, it becomes easy for you to make certain calls.
  • Develop core guiding principles that settle what can and cannot be done. Principles put settled matters in a ‘fast thinking’ mode for you. That means you are able to respond to many issues correctly and without waste of time and other resources.
  • Continuous self-development. Developing our knowledge base and wisdom makes it easy for us to deeply consider issues before making choices.
  • Continuous relationship development. Sometimes we are unable to make the best choices without getting the necessary input from others. At those times, we may need to draw on other people’s expertise, knowledge, wisdom and experience.
  • Choice-making is not about ‘comfort’. Making choice is not always about being comfortable. It is more about saying and doing what is right. Quite frequently, it is the difficult things in life that are the right ones. Understanding this helps choice-making easier and acceptable.
  • Understanding the alternatives. As simple as it seems, sometimes we are not even able aware of the alternatives that are open to us. We have to be alert and curious to know what are the possibilities in any situation. Otherwise, we may miss the best alternative.

Constraints to effective choice making: There are several factors that either make choice-making difficult or ineffective. Some include time constraints, too little or too much information, cultural expectations, peer pressure, etc. Most of these factors can be addressed fully or to a large extent by developing on the choice-making skills mentioned above.

The success of an entrepreneur is directly proportional to the quality of the choices they make daily.

Feature image credit: Christian Stahl on Unsplash


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