What Choices are you Making?

January 19, 2019
Today’s topic is about choices. The actions we choose to take and, more importantly, the actions we choose not to take. All have impact.

Contrary to popular belief – or what you employer may tell you – you ALWAYS have a choice. Some choices are better than others, but they are choices nonetheless.


As you move through your career, you will be faced with many crossroads where you have options – choices to make. Some of those choices will be very clear. But the further you move in your organization, the bigger the stakes get and the muddier the choices become. Your ability to tap into and remain focused on the overall goal will be critical in continuing to make the right choices – even when they are not popular.

Malcolm Gladwell has a podcast called Revisionist History. In an early episode called “Big Man Can’t Shoot” he explores the choices we make and why we make them. I’m simplifying significantly here for applicability. And forgive me for going against the “you shouldn’t use sports analogies because it marginalizes women” rule. I’m a woman and I actually like sports so work with me here…

“The Big Man Can’t Shoot” episode of the podcast (Season 1 Episode 3 for reference) starts off talking about Wilt Chamberlain and Rick Barry. Wilt, arguably the greatest big man to play the game and Rick Barry, the best free throw shooter the game has seen – by the numbers. The underlying question was what was Wilt willing or not willing to do to truly be the best player in the game. What CHOICE did he have to make for his greatness to be unquestioned? His free throw shooting was horrible and had he fixed that, Gladwell posits, there would be no argument about whether or not he was the GOAT.

And here’s the crazy part – Wilt actually had a proven solution to his horrific free throw shooting – shooting underhanded! Proven because Rick Barry had been doing it and it worked. And, more importantly, when Wilt tried it, it worked! But…

Every decision has consequences. EVERY. DECISION. HAS. CONSEQUENCES.

In this case, the consequence of shooting underhanded, for Wilt Chamberlain, was embarrassment. And that embarrassment was intolerable, therefore, he CHOSE to remain a horrible freethrow shooter. Now, I encourage you to listen to the podcast as Malcolm Gladwell does an exceptional job of tackling this issue of thresholds and their impact on our decision making. But for today, the point is that, when faced with the choices we have, our decision is somewhat based on our risk tolerance and our goal focus.

If you are miserable in your role, you have a choice: stay miserable and suffer the consequences, or take the time to evaluate the why and make a plan to adjust. And let’s be clear – doing nothing is a CHOICE.

If you are evaluating options for change, you have a choice: take the option(s) with long-term reward towards your goals or take the short-term option that gives “instant gratification.” Both options have pros and cons and your CHOICE will be influence by these.

Now many will say, “I can’t just leave, I need this job” or “everywhere has its issues so why leave the enemy I know?” or “it’s just not that easy, Laurel.” Of those three arguments, the most important is the last – making choices is not always easy. In fact, sometimes the choice we make is so hard it seems impossible. Just ask the hard-working parent who has to choose between paying rent and buying food. Real world problems. And even in that unspeakable circumstance, the parent is making a CHOICE.

Side note on empathy, compassion and inclusion: leaders, you never know what race someone has run before they enter the doors of your organization. Be mindful of how you treat others.

What is important is truly knowing and believing that you DO have a choice.

The choice could be as simple as changing your attitude to better deal with a situation or person. Attitude is paramount I making choices! Or it could take a bit to decide what exactly you want to do. You should give yourself that time if you need it focus on:

  • Knowing your why.
  • Understanding the impact of the choice on your overall objectives.
  • Being clear on the pros and cons of the choice you make.
    OWNING your ultimate decision.

You have the choice to change or adapt to your environment; to remain with or leave an organization; to nurture or terminate a relationship. NO ONE can tell you that there is no choice. Even when there seems to be none, there is always a decision to be made. And YOU have the power to make the decision that is right for you based on your circumstances. Even if your employer says the opposite.

And that’s The Rutledge Perspective. What say you? What choices are you facing and what keeps you from actively making them?

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