172. Make up your own mind.

Have you ever met a person whose opinions are determined by the last person they interacted with?

You know the type of person I mean? Whatever conclusion they have arrived at or decision they have made can be instantly changed when presented with a differing viewpoint or opinion.

Even if that new opinion comes from a stranger they briefly sat beside on a bus.

Sadly, there does exist among us a breed of people completely incapable of independent thought who need input from others in order to make decisions, and those decisions once made are, at best, temporary.

These folks seem to believe, as gospel, everything presented to them even when new information contradicts old and they flip-flop on their stances, positions and decisions with an ease that we usually attribute only to career politicians.

It is extremely difficult to work for or around people like this for once they have given their imprimatur to a project or an idea they are likely to change their minds repeatedly as each and every thought presented to them by others becomes better than the one immediately preceding it.

I have, an occasion, met with folks like these and it seems to me that they have a high need to please others and therefore will be agreeable to any thoughts, suggestion or ideas in the hope that the previous presenter of thoughts, suggestions and ideas will not learn of their change of heart.

The Habit of Reaching Your Own Conclusions does not rob us of the right to change our minds but rather serves to allow us to gather information and then move forward without the risk of paralysis commonly caused by indecision resulting from an inability to make a decision out of fear or concern that in so doing one might cause conflict by going against the suggestion of another or, worse yet, making a wrong decision.

Great leaders have long known that no one person has all the answers and that gathering information from others prior to making decisions is crucial when making critical decisions. They also know that managing by consensus is one of the surest ways of ensuring that nothing ever gets done.

The comes a time when each of us must collect available information, make a decision, stand firmly on that decision and change our minds only in the face of irrefutable, indisputable factual evidence to the contrary.

Many of the decisions we make are on nonfactual, subjective matters (e.g. design, taste, format, methodology etc.) and our lives will be made easier the moment we understand that others will have differing opinions and that their viewpoints are just that, opinions.

When decisions are based on pure fact – which is rarely the case – there should be little opportunity for contrary thinking as facts are facts and, as such, provide for very little subjective input.

The vast majority of decisions we are called upon to make are purely subjective and therefore, in making a decision, or simply expressing an opinion we hope that our choice will produce the desired result.

The Habit of Reaching Your Own Conclusions means that you are willing to reach, and stand by, a conclusion or decision based on your best assessment of available data and not on whether others share your perspective.

And you do so with neither guilt nor regret.

The Habit of Reaching Your Own Conclusions is also the Habit of Willing To Be Right because it is not possible to be right without risking being wrong.

And, as the old saying goes, the only guaranteed and assured way of avoiding failure is by never taking a risk.

And that makes for a pitifully boring life.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

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