How to be a Great Chooser

Sometimes the best choice is the decision to stop choosing.

I learned this from The Paradox of Choice, which suggested the following:

“Don’t allow the number of available options to significantly impact your decision-making.”

Instead, try this:

1. Find something that’s good enough.
2. Meet your own standards.
3. Look no further.
4. Let the countless other available choices become irrelevant.

Otherwise you get snared into an endless tangle of anxiety, regret and second-guessing.

BESIDES: Who cares if there’s something better around the corner?

You can’t go through life regretting every decision you make just because it might not have been the best possible choice.

It’ll eat you up inside like a tapeworm.

Better to just make a choice and get on with your life comfortably – as opposed to being plagued by doubt, wondering about what could have been a marginally better option.

That’s the secret to becoming a great chooser:

Having high standards; yet giving yourself permission to be satisfied once your experience matches those standards.

Take the mall, for example.

Once you find a parking spot that’s good enough, you have two options:

1. Do you turn off your car and start walking toward the entrance?

2. Or, do you frustratingly waste your time waiting for some soccer mom to back her SUV out of a closer spot, complain about how she’s taking too long, park, then look over your shoulder on the walk into the mall, wondering if you could have gotten a better spot, thus inviting unwanted stress into your life?

I vote for the first option.

Because, as I learned from The Paradox of Choice, “The exhaustive search of possibilities entails a high information cost that isn’t worth incurring. Instead, determine how much information is necessary to make a good decision while simultaneously noticing when information seeking has reached the point of diminishing returns.”

Then you move.

Otherwise, if you keep looking, you’ll always find something better.

There will always be a closer parking spot.

THEREFORE: Beware the tyranny of small, irrelevant decisions.

No need to over-think or over-choose.

It’s smarter to put a stake in the ground now, before you get seduced into the endless spiral of “a little bit better.”

MY SUGGESTION: Ignore new choices instead of falling into the trap of post-choice pondering.

This actually diminishes the satisfaction you get from the choices you already made.

Think about it:

Why check out all the possibilities before deciding?

You’ve got stuff to do. Just pick one that’s good enough and move onto the next step.

Why contribute to your time burden by preparing for, making, reevaluating and regretting every goddamn decision?

You’re a busy guy. Post-choice regret doesn’t serve you well psychologically.

Why become a slave to your own judgments?

A great chooser thinks, “Screw looking around to others to make my decisions.”

Instead, decide which choices matter – and WHY they matter – then make them quickly and consistently.

Because if you don’t shorten or eliminate deliberation time about decisions – especially for the ones that are unimportant to you – you’ll become a picker instead of a chooser.

This is not good.

As author Barry Schwartz reminds us, “Believe that accepting good enough will make your decisions simpler. And that your ultimate satisfaction from a decision decreases with every minute you spend pondering about the opportunity cost of that decision.”

LESSON LEARNED: The pursuit of perpetual improvement is overrated.

Constantly searching for perfect solutions leads to frustration, or, worse yet, inaction.

This is not good.

Don’t be afraid to opt out of decision-making in certain areas of your life.

As I mentioned before, sometimes the best choice is the decision to stop choosing.

Look. Choosing is a lot of work. It’s stressful. And unless you’re (truly) dissatisfied with your decision, stick to your guns.

Don’t be tempted by new and improved (it’s not).
Don’t scratch unless there’s really an itch (there isn’t).
Don’t worry about missing out on the amazing new things the world has to offer if you make the wrong decision (it’s probably crap anyway).

The ability to change your mind about a decision, Schwartz concluded, does nothing but set the stage for future anxiety and lower ultimate satisfaction.

Both of which are the essential ingredients to the prescription for misery.

Maybe Marry Poppins was right.

Maybe enough really is as good as a feast.

Are you a great chooser?

For the ebook called, “20 Types of Value You Must Deliver,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor

Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!

When Knowing How Doesn’t Matter

In 2001, I had no idea how to put out a book.
But I published HELLO, my name is Scott anyway.

And by some miracle, it found its way to CNN and USA TODAY.

In 2003, I had no idea how to set up (or sustain) a blog.
But I started HELLO, my name is Blog anyway.

And by some miracle, it won a Top 100 Business Blog Award.

In 2006, I had no idea how to write, shoot, edit and publish video modules.
But I built NametagTV anyway.

And by some miracle, it earned customers, sponsorships and heavy traffic.

LESSON LEARNED: Know-how doesn’t (always) matter.

“Don’t be stopped by not knowing how,” as my personal philosophy states.

How is overrated.
How is a dream destroyer.
How is the enemy of progress.
How is the hallmark of hopelessness.

Not that it hurts to know what you’re doing.

For example:

If you’re a surgeon, you better know how to close sutures.
If you’re an architect, you better know how to build a foundation.
If you’re an accountant, you better know how to read a balance sheet.

OTHERWISE: When the cost of incompetence isn’t health, safety, respect, reputation – or, millions of dollars – knowing how isn’t (necessarily) a prerequisite of success.

Instead, here’s what matters:

1. Override how with what and why. First, inquire within. Instead of walking a hole in the carpet about how to do something – go plop onto the couch and reflect on why you want to do it. You’ll find that “Why?” trumps “How?” every time. Don’t worry: Confusion is healthy. And “How?” comes eventually.

For now, put boot to ass and touch the center of your true intention. Because if you’re not fueled by an honest why – and you’re not willing to work like hell to keep your why alive – all the how in the world won’t camouflage the gaping void of purpose and meaning in your endeavors. How much execution have you squandered because you’re at war with how when you should be in love with why?

2. Occupy your imperfection. Not only do you (not) have to do everything perfectly, you also don’t have to do everything right. Perfectionism is just a lie your ego tells you to mitigate risk. The reality is, flawless execution doesn’t exist. Don’t allow the misguided desire for perfection to prevent you from doing, having and becoming what you need.

As Bikram Choudhury explained in a recent interview with Yoga Monthly: “Few of us ever do the poses perfectly. Instead, it’s about how well you understood what you’re trying to accomplish in each pose, and how you tried to accomplish your goal. And you don’t just learn the ideal pose – you learn what challenges you will face during the process, in addition to what clues will help you make rapid progress.”

Lesson learned: When know-how is lacking, decide what amount of progress is acceptable. Then, create of a way to quantify that amount so you can constantly measure it. That will help you focus on moving forward without moving flawlessly. Are you trying to keep from losing ground, or trying to make progress?

3. Exhibit confident uncertainty. Learn to thrive in shades of gray. Believe that your endeavors will be executed, even if you’re not sure which course of action needs to be taken. This activates your self-starting mechanism. Which gives you more room to be wrong. Which makes risk-taking a little less risky.

The only rub is, you have to trust your resources. You must have confidence in your abilities. And you need to celebrate past instances of those abilities bearing fruit. Just be patient. Before you know it, requisite competence will arrive. And if it doesn’t, there’s always slave labor. What do you have to do today to be ready for an uncertain tomorrow?

4. Ignorance is fuel. In 1946, inventor and businessman Edwin Land took his five year-old daughter to see the Grand Canyon. After snapping the photo, she innocently asked, “Daddy, why can’t we see the pictures NOW?” A year later, Polaroid introduced the world’s first instant camera.

Fifty years later, here’s the punch line: Ignorance isn’t an excuse – it’s a turbo booster. That’s the best part. Instead of being paralyzed by not knowing how, you’re energized by wondering what if. And it’s a hell of a lot easier to break the limit if you don’t know the limited exists.

The secret is to combine stupidity with coachability. Because while being ignorant is acceptable – staying ignorant isn’t. Are you smart enough to be dumb?

5. Learn the minimum amount you need to know for now. If you waited until you (fully) knew what you were doing – and, therefore, felt (fully) ready to do it – you’d never make it out of your garage and into the world. That’s when overlearning becomes a trap. An infinite regression.

Like the cartoon character that keeps taking cookies off the pile – but the pile never gets any smaller. Ever notice that? It’s like the cookies (appear) to magically refill themselves. Well, when you’re a kid, you think it really is magic. When, in reality, it’s just laziness on the part of the illustrator.

So, as an entrepreneur, here’s why that example is relevant: Your to-do list has no intention of getting any smaller either. Parkinson’s Law proves that, like the cookies, your pile of stuff to do and things learn will always refill itself.

My suggestion is: Don’t kill yourself learning how to do all fifty steps right away. It’s a terrible investment of time and energy. What’s more, by the time you realize that you only (actually) needed to know the first three steps to get it done – your stamina will be fully depleted. Like a newlywed on day six of the honeymoon.

Just do the minimum and move on. How many of your competitors are zooming past your vehicle of puttering perfectionism?

Okay. One final caveat:

Although (initial) success doesn’t always require know-how, long-term sustainability is unreachable without it.

Eventually, you’re going to have to figure out the how.

Because while faking it till you make it is helpful for a while, if you never (actually) get around to making it, you’re nothing but a bullshit artist. An entrepreneurial mannequin. Someone who’s very successful at looking like she’s very successful.

THE BOTTOM LINE: People, who are stopped by not knowing how, rarely execute the what.

They’re too scared.
They’re too invested in their egos.
They’re too susceptible to executional inertia.

Take it from a guy who just finished his twelfth book at the age of thirty:

Just for now, forget about how.

You have more important things to do.

Will you be stopped by not knowing how?

For the ebook called, “99 Questions Every Entrepreneur Needs to Ask,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor

Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!

6 Ways to Rally without Being Ready

Let’s start with the bad news:

You’ll never be ready.

You’ll never be smart enough.
You’ll never be mature enough.
You’ll never be prepared enough.

You’ll never have enough time.
You’ll never have enough money.
You’ll never have enough experience.

You’ll never be ready.

But don’t be discouraged.

TRUTH IS: Nobody’s ready. Nobody’s ever been ready. If they were, they would have taken action earlier.

Which brings us to the good news:

Whether you’re thinking about starting a business, writing a book, having a baby, going full time as an artist, moving across the country, getting married – in short, doing anything risky and terrifying…

It doesn’t matter if you’re ready.

It matters if you’re real.
It matters if you’re consistent.
It matters if you’re committed.
It matters if you’re willing to fail brilliantly now so you can shine spectacularly later.

AND HERE’S THE COOL PART: The sum of those components will outweigh your need to feel ready.

If you’re currently dripping your toes into the chilly waters of adventure – business, personal or otherwise – keep the following ideas in mind:

1. Flex the muscle of why. Readiness comes from knowing why you want what you want. Without this primary data, your flawed assumptions might set the whole process into motion – misguided motion. Take running for office, for example. Two approaches: Either you’re trying to get a vote, or you’re trying to gain a lifetime of support. Which baseline motivation do you think makes a candidate feel more ready? Precisely. The latter.

On the other hand, if you’re not fueled by an honest why – and you’re not willing to work like hell to keep your why alive – all the readiness in the world won’t camouflage the gaping void of purpose and meaning in your life. Remember: Any number multiplied by zero is still zero. Why do you want what you want?

2. Go back to the future. In a 2006 issue of FastCompany, Marcia Conner wrote, “Find the end at least once. By working back from the end, you gain the skills and leeway to forge your own path.”

Try this: Imagine what you need to become in order for your goals to manifest. Ask yourself questions like, “Looking ahead six months, standing there, what decisions would you make today?” “What three small acts you could take today to prepare for the life or work that you’d like?” “What if, overnight, a miracle occurred, and you woke up tomorrow morning and the problem was solved – what would be the first thing you would notice?”

By speaking from the future – then looking back to identify the steps will lead there – you paint a compelling, detailed picture of your dream. Then all you have to do is make meaningful strides toward it. Are you a time traveler?

3. Go back to the past. When I wrote my first book at the age of 21, I wasn’t ready. When I did my first interview on CNN at the age of 22, I wasn’t ready. And when I gave my first paid public speech at the age of 23, I wasn’t ready. But I took massive, forward action anyway. I stopped wondering, “Who’s going to let me?” and starting asking, “Who’s going to stop me?”

Your challenge is to go back in time . Think back to three situations in which you rallied without being ready. What were you thinking? What attitude did you maintain? What actions did you take? The point is to find out where the rock created the ripple – then start throwing more rocks. Every damn day. Will your failures become the product of poor planning or timidity to proceed?

4. Gauge readiness internally. As Marcus Aurelius wrote in Meditations, “Readiness comes from a man’s own judgment – not from mere obstinacy.” Translation: True readiness is felt in your body. For example, when you think about taking the plunge, do you get short of breath? Does your energy shift? Does your stomach sink?

Listen to your body. It will never lie to you. Whether you’re ready (or not ready) your body will let you know. Even if it speaks in silence. That’s still an answer. The secret is trusting that you can meet the demands of challenging situations. Knowing in your bones that you can remain flexible enough to handle the unexpected. What message is your body leaving you?

5. Planning is the gateway drug to procrastination. You can prepare forever – but remember: To be ready is to begin. As Aristotle once said, “The things you have to learn before you can do them, you learn by doing them.”

Eventually, you’re just going to have to jump into the pool with your clothes on and trust that you’ll figure out how to swim before the water fills your lungs.

But only if you recognize that readiness is a process of accretion. And that you don’t become ready and then take action; you become ready as you take action. Momentum is a beautiful thing. What is waiting getting in the way of?

6. Learn to be an incrementalist. Achieve small victories first. As the aforementioned Marcia Conner suggested, “When you get ready, create similar conditions to those you’re aiming to encounter, adding in each new factor slowly so you can adjust with each step.”

My suggestion: Keep a Victory Log. Make daily entries. Before you know it, your series of minor tasks accomplished in advance will boost your self-belief and raise your readiness. After all, the word “ready” comes from the Old English term geraede, which means, “arranged.” How are you arranging small victories to convince yourself that you’re ready enough?

REMEMBER: Readiness is highly overrated.

Stop waiting for a train that doesn’t even come through your town.


Will you win without planning?

For the ebook called, “25 Questions to Uncover Your Best,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor

Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!

How to Win without Planning

I started my company the week after I graduated college.

Mainly because the prospect of getting a regular office job like the rest of my friends made me want to gouge my eyes out with a broken Coke bottle.

Anyway, because I hadn’t yet woken up from the compliant, self-hypnotic stupor of higher education, I actually went to the library one day to, ahem, write my business plan.

Ugh. It was awful. I’m pretty sure I died a little bit inside with each page I wrote.

But, I still wrote it. Probably for the same reason most businesspeople obsess over plans:

Because planning preserves the illusion of control.

Or, in my case, because planning helped underwrite the illusion that I knew what I was doing.

Which I didn’t.

I just wanted to feel like a grown up. A professional. A real entrepreneur.

Interestingly, I never once looked at that business plan. Ever again.

And eight years later, my company is thriving in ways I never could have imagined.

LESSON LEARNED: You don’t need a plan to win.

Especially early on in the game.

As I learned in Rework, “When you do write a plan, usually it’s before you’ve even begun. And that’s the worst time to make a big decision.”

Now, it’s not that I’m against planning completely. Rather, I’m against the assumption that planning is always necessary for success.

You’ve probably heard the old saying, “Failing to plan is planning to fail,” right?

Well, let me suggest this:

Failing to plan is planning to prevail.

Let’s explore six strategies to win without planning:

1. Strengthen your why. Planning is a form of how, and how is not your responsibility. Why is what counts. Why is what matters. Why is what makes money.

Decide details later and start focusing on the true motivation behind your current endeavors. Ask questions like: What core values motivated my decision? What do I want this idea to become? With what attitudes do I need to approach this endeavor for me to look back ten years later and still be okay with my decision?

Remember: When you enlist a strong enough why, your plan – your how – will write itself. Otherwise, no amount of planning in the world can compensate for misguided motivations. When was the last time you took inventory of your why?

2. Plans are the preventers of progress. The danger of planning is that it’s a big decision. And big decisions often cause you to prematurely commit to an endeavor that (might) later prove to be unprofitable. Which makes the cognitive dissonance of exiting extremely painful.

That’s another keeper I learned from Rework: “Plans let the past drive the future. They put blinders on you. ‘This is where we’re going because, well, that’s where we said we were going,’ you say. And that’s the problem: Plans are inconsistent with improvisation.”

Be careful. Don’t let the lust for what is familiar block the beauty of what is possible. Are you a victim of your own past commitments?

3. Planning isn’t controlling. In reality, it’s the exact opposite. Especially when you blindly follow a plan that has no relationship with reality. In that instance, it’s no longer a plan – it’s a straightjacket. And unless your name is Houdini, that’s not good for business.

Your challenge will be surrendering control. Focusing more on listening and responding – and less on planning and managing. How vulnerable are you willing to make yourself?

4. Less talkie, more walkie. When I started my publishing and consulting business in 2002, my friend Kate offered me the best piece of advice an author could get: “Stop planning and just write!”

Wow. I didn’t know it was that simple. But she was right. I started to (slowly) learn that great authors don’t “plan” what they’re going to write – they simply show up at the page every morning and listen for what wants to be written.

That’s all creativity is anyway: Active listening.

What’s more, I learned the more you plan; the harder it becomes to invite healthy derailments along the way. And that’s how you miss unlabeled opportunities to grow: When you’re too busy managing the stress of planning to experience the benefits of executing. Don’t close yourself off by making Gods out of your plans. Learn to trust whatever surfaces. What is planning getting in the way of?

5. Practice non-planning when the stakes are low. Try traveling without plans. I recently spent five days in Tokyo with no plans, no agendas, no contacts and no obligation. Didn’t know the language. Didn’t know the culture. I just showed up and let the Japanese winds carry me as they saw fit.

Sure enough, it turned out to be an unforgettable week of getting lost, exploring a perpendicular culture and listening for serendipity to present itself.

Lesson learned: Fewer plans = Greater flexibility. Next time you take a vacation, challenge yourself to cut your planning in half. No need to cut it out completely. Just half. Make plans for the first few days – then go planless for the remainder.

Then, compare the two halves of the trip. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. Or you’ll end up stranded on an island in the South Pacific inhabited by cannibals. Where could you practice non-planning?

6. Redefining the approach. Ready, aim, fire! Ready, fire, aim! Fire, fire, fire! Several problems with these all-too-common approaches. First of all, you’re never really ready. Nor do you need to be ready to take action. So stop waiting for permission.

Secondly, aiming has the tendency to override spontaneity and alienate unseen targets. That’s the big problem with having a plan – you might hit it. Which means you probably weren’t stretching enough. You weren’t uncomfortable enough.

Third, firing is a dangerous word. It’s too violent, highly unfocused and overly aggressive. Plus, if all you ever do is fire, you might find yourself up to your ass in blood and shells. And that’s not the kind of execution you want.

Instead, consider this alternate approach that wins: Try, listen, leverage!

First, you start. You just do stuff.

Second, you listen. Or watch. Or observe. And you note the trajectory of your idea to see if the flight plan needs tweaking.

Finally, you leverage. You identify movement by asking, “Now that I have this, what else does this make possible?”

Then, you document everything as it happens. And you reflet on your experiences by extracting lessons learned. Finally, you catalogue those lessons and refer back to them when the time comes to try again. What’s your version of the “Read, Aim, Fire!” approach?

ULTIMATELY: Failure doesn’t come from poor planning – but from the timidity to proceed.

Planning is the gateway drug to procrastination. Don’t get hooked.

JUST REMEMBER: When you don’t know where you’re going, nobody can stop you.

No labels, no limits.

Will you win without planning?

For the ebook called, “38 Ways to Make Customers Gasp” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor

Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!

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