Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Pitfalls of Poor Choice Selection

Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. - William Jennings Bryan

We are the creative force of our life, and through our own decisions rather than our conditions, if we carefully learn to do certain things, we can accomplish those goals. - Stephen Covey

Choices are the hinges of destiny. - Edwin Markham

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …

Abigail sighed as she climbed into bed and slid under the inviting bed comforter.  She had been straining for years to make some choices about her future and never quite seemed to make them.  Her Life was sliding away and she knew it and yet she still didn’t make the choices that she knew her Life depended on.

She reached over to her nightstand, turned the light off and buried her head under the sheets.

“What’s wrong with me?”, she thought, anticipating another long, sleepless night and yet, despite the restlessness of her mind, sleep came quickly.

Or so she thought, waking with a start.

“Trouble sleeping?”, a voice to her left asked her.

She turned towards the voice and a man was smiling at her, his eyes twinkling.

“My apologies”, he said, offering a hand, “That was rude.  My name is Gabriel.”

She shook his hand and replied, “My name is …..”

“Abigail”, Gabriel said with a smile, “Yes.  I know.”

Abigail frowned and started to ask him how he knew who she was when she was interrupted by the sound of children.

She turned to her right and realized she and the stranger were standing in a parking lot in front of a candy store.

A group of kids were running out of the store, chatting back and forth as the store owner locked the door, turned off the “open” sign and disappeared inside the store.

“Ahhhhhh, kids”, Gabriel said, chuckling.

“They are always a great source of wisdom, don’t you think?”, he asked.

She turned towards him and noticed that he was staring at her, still with a big smile on his face.

“I don’t know”, she replied, “I’ve never really thought about it before.”

Gabriel pointed to the kids.

“Take a look at these kids”, he continued, “What do you think you can learn from them?”

Abigail shrugged as she looked at the children in front of her.

Gabriel pointed at the first one.  “Take Tommy, for example”, he said, “He went into the candy store and not realizing he could choose anything he wanted, limited himself to something he didn’t like because he thought it was the only choice available to him.  He suffers from choice by limitation.”

“Or”, he said, pointing to the little girl beside Tommy, “Jenny, who got so caught up in the process of evaluating her choices became a victim of choice by indirectness and ended up being left with choosing something from what little was left after all the other kids had already made their choices.”

“Then there’s young Gerald over there”, Gabriel continued as he pointed, “who was so focused on choice by elimination, weeding out each choice by criteria that only he understands, was left with something he doesn’t like because he had accidentally rejected the better options with his excessive and unnecessary criteria.”

“I don’t understand”, Abigail said quietly as she watched the children.

“Sure you do”, replied Gabriel, “You’re choosing not to understand.  Observe.”

“Young Joel over there”, Gabriel continued, pointing to the smallest child, “didn’t make a choice at all and ended up with the last candy in the store even though he doesn’t like it, something I call the choice by default.”

“Little Vicky standing beside him had so many preconditions on what her choice should look like, something we call excessive conditional choice, that she ended up with a candy that she would gladly trade away for almost anything.  The only problem is that she has too many conditions on any trade and so she won’t find anyone who would want to trade with her.”

“Meanwhile”, continued Gabriel, “Bobby embraces choice by reaction, where he worked so hard not to choose something that someone else wanted or that would upset someone, that he chose a candy that he hated but at least he took comfort in the fact that he didn’t upset anyone.  Susan, on the other hand, using choice by consensus, asked everyone else which candy was best and ended up with a recommendation that she hated, fearing to act on her own needs and interests.”

“All of this from candy?”, Abigail, asked, “I don’t understand ….”

Gabriel silenced her by raising his hand.

“Patience”, he said, “I’m almost done.”

“Let’s see”, he said, scanning the crowd, “Who is left?”

“Ah yes”, he said with satisfaction, “Young William over there believes that orange gumdrops have magic powers and so he chose a large orange one using a process we call choice by adverse possession.  Data, while important, is ignored and thus he consistently produces poor results based on choices that don’t even make sense.”

He paused for a moment before continuing.

“And then we have one child left”, Gabriel observed quietly.

Abigail looked over the crowd of children and saw a young girl sitting on the step, sobbing with her head in her hands.

“Why is she crying?”, Abigail asked.

“She suffers from choice by excessive permutation”, Gabriel said quietly, “Otherwise known as choice by over-processing.  She is learning that when we spend too much time looking over every option incessantly or because we fear making the wrong choice, we often end up having all of our options removed from us for different reasons. In her case, she waited so long to make a choice that the store closed before she could make one and all of her options were suddenly removed.  Many times in these situations, we end up having choices made for us or as in Abigail’s case, we end up with nothing at all.”

Abigail gasped, startled by the mention of her name and as she looked more closely at the child, she gasped again.

She was looking at herself as a child.

She started to speak when she suddenly realized that Gabriel was walking towards the little girl.

He knelt down beside her, hugged her and then opened his hand to reveal a bright red gumball.

The little girl looked at him hesitatingly and he smiled back at her, nodding his head approvingly.

She took the gumball from his palm quickly, expressed a quick “thank you, mister” and ran off to join her friends.

Gabriel stood up and watched the kids run off with their candy.

Abigail walked over to Gabriel and as she reached his side, he looked at her, the smile never leaving his face.

“Not everyone gets a second chance when they make the wrong choices or in this case, no choice at all”, he said, his dark glittering eyes staring into hers.

“Do you understand what I’m telling you?”, Gabriel asked her.

“I think so”, began Abigail but she was interrupted by Gabriel’s raised hand.

“You’re thinking too much”, he said, “I can tell by the look in your eye that you’re about to embark on a deep analysis when the answer offered here is closer to the surface than you realize.  Act on it.”

Gabriel paused for a moment.

“Act on it”, he repeated, “No choice is a choice.  Delayed choices often end up becoming no choice.  No choice or an improper way of making choices will not produce the results you seek or deserve.”

Abigail said nothing for a moment, started to speak and then was interrupted by an unusual sound from behind her.

She turned towards the sound ….

…. and awoke with a start when she realized it was her alarm, beckoning her to return from the world of dreams.

She rubbed her eyes blearily, confused by her dream, and she reached over to turn off the alarm.

And then she saw it.

A shiny, bright, red gumball lay on the night table beside her cell phone.

To be continued.

© 2017 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved


This post came to mind after a series of meetings this morning and listening to explanations from different team members as to why they were doing what they were doing.

It is also a long-distance dedication to V. and others who hesitate to make the choices they are called to make to maximize their potential.

Many of us avoid making the choices that really matter through one or more of the following processes (borrowed from The Path of Least Resistance and expanded upon):

  1. Choice by limitation - choosing only what seems possible or reasonable
  2. Choice by indirectness – focusing on the process instead of the result
  3. Choice by elimination - eliminating possibilities until only one one exists
  4. Choice by default - choosing to not make a choice, forcing a choice to occur by default
  5. Conditional choice - imposing preconditions on choices
  6. Choice by reaction – making choices designed to overcome / prevent conflict
  7. Choice by consensus - following the result of an informal poll that determines what everyone else wants or recommends
  8. Choice by adverse possession – choices based on a hazy metaphysical notion about the nature of the Universe
  9. No choice by excessive permutation – choices limited by sensory overload, causing no choice or a choice by default
  10. No choice by over-processing - taking too long to choose, devolving into choice by default (or none) – similar to no choice by excessive permutation.

Few people are direct and purposeful with their choices, whether it be in selection, execution and follow-through.

Are you one of them?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

Series Origin

This series, a departure from my usual musings, is inspired as a result of conversations with former senior advisors to multiple Presidents of the United States, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks as well as my own professional background as a Wall St. / Fortune 25 strategy advisor and large-scale technology architect.

While this musing is just “fiction” (note the quotes) and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)

This “fictional” musing is a continuation of the #1206 series noted here and is part of the Abigail / Gabriel series noted here.

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