Stop Second Guessing
Several years ago I was rehabbing the waiting room at one of my shops. We needed a new coffee machine and Keurigs were becoming very popular. After shopping, I narrowed the choices down to a home model or a “professional” model. I then proceeded to agonize over whether or not the $50 extra cost of the professional model was worth it. My stepfather had been helping me at my shop and after about a week of indecision, I asked him, “Jerry, would you choose one of these coffee machines for me? I don’t care which I just can’t seem to make the decision myself.” He did. I didn’t care what his reasoning was and I don’t even remember which one he chose. Why on earth was that small decision even worth any of my time at all?! Great question. As a technician founder, my brain mostly operated in the “Cars are fixed correctly or not” mindset. Other than choosing a higher quality part, most repairs are black and white, they are either correct or not. In my journey to becoming a business owner, I found that business decisions are anything but black and white. Over the years, I replaced my physical fatigue from working on cars with mental fatigue and tiredness from running the business. Can anyone relate? The coffee machine may have been an insignificant example but I stalled on other decisions such as how to expand, changing our POS system, and letting certain people go. My brain was tired, I lacked confidence as a leader and often second guessed myself. Those inactions really slowed the growth and prosperity of my business and also my personal development at that time. Mistakes are great teachers though, and I did learn eventually.
I realized that the order in which I did tasks mattered. Earlier in the day I have more focus. (Morning coffee may be a factor here!) As the day wears on, my brain gets tired. So performing my harder tasks in the morning and saving my busywork and “autopilot” tasks for the afternoon helped. There was a famous study done with parole boards. They discovered that prisoners who appeared early in the morning were almost 7 times more likely to receive parole that prisoners who had their hearing in the afternoon. Those parole board judges became tired after making decisions all day. Another well known example is Steve Jobs who was famous for wearing the same black turtleneck and blue jeans everyday. Eliminating his daily clothing choice gave him just a little more decision making bandwidth for his company. For me, I just had to get to know my brain, it’s habits, and it’s limits. Some business owners perform better in a private office. Others become energized working alongside their staff. There are a few other habits that I found helpful as well.
Staying organized is key. I created a combined calendar and to-do list. When I just had a to-do list, it was pages long and depressing! Calendars are helpful but I have so many tasks that creating a calendar event for every task, especially when those tasks change frequently, was cumbersome. My combo list just broke up my long to-do list into small pieces that were manageable on a daily basis. I also spend time at the end of every day re-organizing that list and preparing for the next day. Getting the day started on the right foot is important. If I have something on my mind that’s bothering me and taking up precious mental capacity, I journal about it. It’s a great way to do a mind-dump. There’s just something about putting words on paper that helps a mind to process and hopefully release whatever thoughts are stuck when there’s work to be done. And lastly, meditation. If you ran all day long with no breaks, your leg muscles would be killing you, right?! But somehow our brains think and process from the moment we awake until we sleep. I wish I could say I was an avid meditator. The discipline is hard but studies are clear that those short minutes equal more efficient brain power. Give your brain a rest here and there, what a novel concept?! I’m still working on that one.
Now even with all the mental clarity and focus, there are still going to be times where we doubt ourselves. These are the true growth opportunities. Avoid them and you WILL NOT GROW. Sure you can learn a lot about leadership from books but experience (including mistakes) is one of the best teachers out there. When Facebook hires programmers, they are expected to make changes in their first week that will affect the service all across the world. That has morphed into their motto “move fast and break stuff.” Now I’m not suggesting to be careless but here is how I see it: Shop owners will be faced with 10 important decisions this month. They can stall, agonize, overthink, etc. and end up making 1-2 of those decisions or they can follow their gut and make all 10. If you got far enough to own your own business and you’re reading Ratchet+Wrench, you’ve done some things right and are probably a better decision maker than you think. So when those 10 decisions are made, 1 or 2 will be reconsidered but the business moves forward. Whereas the business owner who only makes 2 decisions may not have to correct those decisions but that business stagnates and if there’s growth, it’s extremely slow.
The path to success is not a straight line. Great business owners learn how to lead, how to make decisions, and how to keep pushing forward in a way that fosters a culture of success and excitement in the business. Our time on this earth is short in the big picture so take a good look at what inaction may be costing you, stop second guessing, and PUSH FORWARD. Do this and both you and your business will grow and thrive in these ever changing times.