Intuition: When Should You Trust Your Own Counsel?

This tweet started a twitter firestorm. It's awfully difficult to communicate complex thoughts in 140 characters so this blog post attempts to sort it out with a few more words. 532 to be exact.

There's a delicate balance in the listening to others vs. listening to yourself equation. I suspect that people who are ardently on either side of the equation are probably there because of an extreme experience. Perhaps they blindly followed someone else's advice to disastrous results. On the other side is the guy who didn't listen to anyone else's advice and failed. The problem with both sides is a lack of openness. It's a tricky thing to be open and yet follow the guidance your heart to make the decision that is most compelling for you.

The Role of Others' Opinions

When I was in my twenties and wanted to do something different with my life my dad would always advise me to run it by my siblings--particularly my older brother. Sadly it led me to make some poor decisions because the advice was taken cart blanche. The thing is--my brother is very wise--as is my dad--but they can only make decisions that are right for them. Other people see through a completely different set of eyes than the ones in your own skull. It would be folly not to recognize that. Gaining the perspective of others can help you see things that otherwise might have evaded your own gaze. The rub is that you have to take their context into account. This context may mesh well with yours but it may not. Perhaps you can take a nugget or two from them to mix in with your own dreams, hopes, fears and goals to find something that makes your heart say '"Yes!"

Don't Ignore Your Gut

Looking back I don't think my dad wanted me to take the advice without running it through my own counsel. If we could time travel back I'm certain he would say something like...Run it past someone who thinks differently than you to see if there are any ways to improve upon your idea or things you haven't thought about. Then listen to your gut. The context I ignored in my twenties was that my dad, while an engineer, is also an incredibly intuitive man who truly trusts his instincts. This was a guy who built incredibly innovative concept cars by using both his analytical and more instinctive sides of his brain.  He lived his life according to his own set of inner rules. I see now that he never would have advocated abdicating responsibility for your life and decisions to others.

It's Not An Either Or Game

These days I love to surround myself with people who are much more linear and analytical (accountants, lawyers and generally practical people) than myself because they always give me a different perspective. Their opinions show me new ways of thinking about a situation and often I end up listening mostly to my original idea tweaked a bit by their thoughts.  Be open and listening to yourself aren't mutually exclusive. 

You just need to keep the opinions of others in context while you grow your intuition.

3 Ways to Get Out of the Answerless Desert

I had FOUR (count 'em) Thanksgivings yesterday. Well, I was invited to Four. I actually only made it to two. Now I know that's only 50% but still--it's probably more than you made it to--am I right? [Smiles smugly]

My second Thanksgiving was with my friends Sarah Welch, Ef Rodriguez, Jeremy Tanner and their lovely other halfs. The reason I never made it to the last two was this little game called Mad Gab. There are all sorts of rules that I'm pretty sure I don't remember so let me just tell you the essence of the game. The goal is decipher a bunch of words into a real phrase. Here's an example:
Puzzle: Plea Center Europe As Ward

Answer: Please Enter Your Password

There's a coach who assists while the rest of the team guesses. The coach's job is to help you get closer to the solution without actually seeing what the rest of the team was seeing. We quickly discovered that reading the phrase over and over again while looking at it got in the way. Even though the guessers knew it wasn't right their brains struggled to see something different. As the coach it was interesting to hear people practically saying the phrase without knowing how close they were to getting it right. As usual, I see parallels to life. What can I say--I'm an observer of life and once a coach always a coach.

As the person looking for the right answer it's sometimes hard to see that you're thisclose. It's easy to feel as if you're lost in an answerless desert. All you can see is what's right in front of you. In the beginning and even in the middle of all that guessing the answer can appear to you as clear as mud covered glass block. And, make you feel like you have swim across the Indian Ocean to get to the answer. Um, that's not fun.

Getting Out of the Indian Ocean

Back to my Mad Gab experience. We won the first game by luck. And lost the second by not paying attention to the rules and won the third by developing a strategy. Our winning strategy was essentially a good old tag team effort. When one person said the phrase while the others listened (without looking at the card) they were more easily able to get it. They were close enough but not too close.

3 Ways to Find The Answers To Your Biggest Questions
When we're too close to the answer here are a few strategies to get around solution block to solve your problem.

1. Take a walk on the beach. Walk away from it for a while. This may give you perspective so that answer becomes more readily apparent.

2. Assume that you're closer to the answer than you think. Rather than believing that you're a mile away from a solution assume that it's mere centimeters away. Then just make tweaks to the solution rather than overhauling it completely.

3. Find a neutral person to talk to. Spill the puzzle as you see it while they listen. Their job is to tell you what they're hearing. Not what they want you to do but what they actually hear you saying. Often times they can hear what you're saying and articulate it back to you so you can actually hear it.

No more feeling like you have to swim across a large body of water for answers. Time to wring out that bathing suit.

Just for fun let's end this lil post with some of the best quotes from last night:

- Which way to Heaven? [My guess. It wasn't right but I swear one day this phrase will be a part of urban dictionary.]

- Say it with an accent. [This actually helped the team guess the right answer  (Panama Canal) very quickly.]

- Although it wasn't a quote one of my favorite puzzles had Chewbacca in it. The answer was The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Combining Star Wars with a Victor Hugo novel? Genius.

The 5 Best Decisions I've Made

One of my favorite bloggers, Schmutzie recently wrote a post about the 5 Best Decisions of My Life. Inspired, I decided to pick through my life to find mine.

Writing

Even when no one else is reading. It helps me sort out my thoughts on things. It also means that my creativity isn't limited to just shopping and putting together interesting outfits. Which...is what happens when I stop writing. Blogging in particular provides a connection channel with others. Sometimes my writing shows up in the form of websites for clients other times it's blog posts. Other times I simply write my thoughts in Evernote, my favorite app for writing. Wherever I do it...writing is a daily imperative. One of the best decisions I make again. And again.

Making Travel a Priority

I grew up spending my summers in Starcraft pop-up with my family crossing off national monuments and national parks like I was a girl with a bucket list. By the age of 16 I had visited every continental United State except one: North Dakota. This set me up for lifelong wanderlust. In the past few years my travels have taken me to: Morrocco, Madrid, Barcelona, Sweden, Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, London, Austin (2x), New York (3x), Colorado (before I lived here), Santa Fe, Los Angeles (2x), Bahamas, Miami, New Orleans and California (5x).

At the moment I don't have any impending trips in the near future and I'm like a man in the desert desperately in need of water.


Web1.0 and 2.0

The first time I saw the world wide web was I was hooked. Getting involved with building this communication medium called intranets back in 1997 was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Managing the development of web sites during web 1.0 came next. My work during this time was my favorite ever. I loved exploring into new ways of communicating, connecting and selling through the internet. Although I went away from it professionally for a bit coming back a few years ago was an even better decision. I love the pace, creating new things, the social aspect and being to connect with people all over the world. Can't imagine not being in the internet tech world.


Being a pain in the ass

In one time in particular. It was back in the late 90's. I was very sick. The kind where you have a 102 degree fever for 3 weeks and have trouble walking up even slight inclines but the doctor passes it off as a bad sinus infection. Landed in the ER 2 days after that appt with a 105 degree fever. I begged, pleaded and pretty much refused to leave the hospital until the doctor admitted me because something was really wrong. Indeed it was. 2 days later in Cardiac ICU I flatlined due to bacterial strep in my pericardium. If I hadn't been in the hospital I would have died. Luckily, I was willing to be a pain in the ass. Life giving decision. Literally.


Moving to SF & Then to Chicago

I've done this a bunch and I'd say most of them were great decisions. The two best moves I made were from Michigan to SF in the mid 90's and from SF to Chicago in the late 90's. The move to SF opened me to a bigger world beyond provincial Detroit. This was also where I truly started to know myself. The move to Chicago was great because it gave me financial stability and most importantly, let me spend the first 5 years of life with my nieces and my sister. Both of these were career changing moves. And? Offered me the chance to get to know myself and my family better. Moving to Boulder allowed me to get back in touch with my love of tech startups. Great moves.


Intuition features prominently in all of these decisions. Thinking that following the gut and the best decisions are hand holders.

None of these decisions are permanent. They can all be changed. (well the 5th one could have been permanent as in no longer here.) It reminds me not to fret too much about decisions and if I make one I don't love I can just make a new one.

So.

What are the 5 best decisions you've made?

Good Decision? Bad Decision?

My dad (the one wearing the pocket protector) was a design engineer who developed prototypes for GM back in the day. Being an engineer he liked to break things down into nice tidy aphorisms that made things black & white. My favorite is one he used often.

It's simple but highly effective.

Whenever I have a decision I feel confused about or that am going back and forth on I invoke it. It helps me move past the "sunk cost" rationalizations or anything else that might confuse me as to whether it was a good decision or not. Here's the secret.

Good decisions get better.

Bad decisions get worse.