Tripwire City



This is the last week I will be discussing the book I am reading, Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath.  As I glanced ahead at what the last letter in the WRAP acronym meant, I couldn’t help but be perplexed… The P stands for “Prepare to be Wrong”. Wasn’t the whole point of me reading this book to help me make great decisions so that I am not wrong?? Fortunately the Heath brothers gently reminded me that we are finite beings who make mistakes and the probability that we will make the wrong decision at some point is high. But the great thing about the last section of the book is that it lays out ways for you to prepare to be wrong(and to be right).

The first suggestion they make is to bookend your future. You do this by thinking about the worst thing that could happen from your decision and then thinking about the best thing that could happen.  If you consider a year from now and in that year your decision has failed miserably, what will you do? Or what if your decision has done better than you thought it possibly could? How can we prepare for that?  By preparing for the worst you allow yourself to be okay with failure and the possibility of it. In Decisive, the authors highlight multiple studies, one of them a description of companies that do a “realistic job preview”. Essentially, if prospective/new employees are given a very clear and honest understanding of what their job will be like (warts and all) they are more likely to have job satisfaction.  It is much easier for us to deal with problems and set backs when we have adequately prepared for them.

It is equally important to prepare for success (I like this side better)! So when you are making a decision have a “preparade” in your mind. Imagine that you are so successful with your decision, there is a parade thrown in your honor. Obviously a parade is a dramatization of what is actually going to happen, but if you are adequately prepared for success, the waters will not be as rough and you will handle your parade with ease.

The second suggestion the Heath brothers make is to set up a tripwire for yourself. Basically a tripwire is something that snaps you out of autopilot and allows you to reconsider your decision. If you are operating on autopilot your behavior is going unexamined and may cause you to miss the mile marker on your road trip that explained you were going the wrong way. Setting a deadline is important with tripwires, if you choose to take a leap of faith and start your own business, be sure to set a tripwire with a deadline. The tripwire could be “If I have less than three clients in three months, I will reassess my business strategy”. This allows you to snap out of autopilot and adjust your vehicle to manual control.

And as the Heath brothers say, “That quick switch is what we need so often in life- a reminder that our current trajectory need not be permanent. Tripwires provide a sudden recognition that precedes our actions: I have a choice.”

I hope that learning about the Decisive process of making decisions has helped you out in some way. I have found that utilizing a process has given me freedom to be bolder and less hesitant about my future. Being decisive is a choice in itself, not necessarily a character trait. I guarantee that you are more likely to be filled with regret if you don’t seize an opportunity and if you hesitate with a decision. When you speak with an elderly person, you are more likely to hear about things they regret doing versus things they actually did.

Essentially, I agree wholeheartedly with the last few lines of Decisive…. “..It is better to try and fail than to delay and regret. Our decisions will never be perfect, but they can be better. Bolder. Wiser. The right process can steer us toward the right choice. And the right choice, at the right moment, can make all the difference.” –Chip and Dan Heath


I am definitely not perfect at making decisions, and I absolutely still struggle to act, but I am grateful for a process that allows me to think freely about my future and:


Widen my Options


Reality Test my Assumptions


Attain Distance Before Deciding


Prepare to be Wrong



Happy Monday, make a <good> mess!