Life is a series of choices. As I teach my 6-year-old about life and being a good citizen of the world and taking responsibility, I realize a major lesson for her is about the choices she makes and the consequences of those choices.
Choose “bad behavior,” and you’ll lose privileges. Choose “good behavior,” and you’ll find that life is much better for everyone.
But the world isn’t black and white. Even in business, the choices you make can literally make or break your business – or you. They can help or hurt others. Or they might have little or no impact on anything. The choices you make are never made – or played out – in a vacuum. There are other factors, other players, other influences.
So even if you choose “good behavior” or make what you feel is the “right choice,” that choice can cascade into an avalanche of problems or cut out opportunities.
Last year, one of my focuses was to pare down the projects I worked on and the opportunities I accepted. They either had to be 1) things that make me say “Hell, Yeah!” or 2) things that paid me commensurate to my worth. This was my way of making better, more strategic choices about my career.
The first criteria – “Hell, Yeah” – is something entrepreneur Derek Sivers talked about back in 2009 – a criteria for determining when you agree to do something. If it isn’t a “Hell, Yeah,” then it must be a “No.”
The second part – being paid commensurate to my worth – has always been a tough one for me. Saying “No” to an offer to speak, for example, simply because someone doesn’t have a budget feels wrong to me somehow. Yet we all set goals for ourselves and our businesses, and if part of those goals are financial – which they should be if you’re in business – then wanting to be paid what you are worth is actually a good thing.
Still, saying “No” can be painful. I cringe. I feel guilty. I worry that I’ll never be asked to speak again. None of this is true, but it is hard to not worry.
I was recently offered a paying speaking gig, and although it wasn’t a “Hell, Yeah,” it was certainly an acceptable offer and my immediate inclination was to say yes. But then, another factor came to play in my decision, literally as I composed an email to accept. I realized the event fell close to other business travel I’d already scheduled. Suddenly my “few days away” from my husband and daughter was turning into 10 days away with travel time.
It’s hard to avoid the “Family Factor.” Family or relationships are another part of the complex puzzle of making choices. And after being away for 6 weeks in 2011 for a book tour and speaking engagements in Germany and Russia, I vowed last year that I’d make very conscious, careful choices about opportunities that took me away from home.
When I was single, I was a road warrior and loved every minute of it. Now that I have a husband and a child, I don’t only feel like I’m missing out on our life together when I’m away, but it is also complicated and stressful figuring out childcare in our rural town. For my 6 weeks away, I flew my mother to Alaska from Florida to help out. But that would be too costly for 10 days away. So I said “No” to the offer.
And my gut churned. Words started flying around in my head like “You reject this, and they’ll never ask you back” and “You just turned down MONEY. You’re going to fail.” To get through those moments of panic, I kept telling myself “You can’t just chase the money. You can’t just chase the money.” I knew I was making the “right” decision but even found myself a little disappointed that I chose not to go.
Life is full of choices. Even the good ones might end up “bad.” But if you know in your heart why you are making those choices and can live with your decision, then stand strong. Nobody said it was easy.
What criteria do you use to make your decisions?
Aliza Sherman is a Web pioneer and Travelgirl with a mission to empower women through technology. Aliza is the author of nine books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Crowdsourcing, and Mom, Incorporated. Her next book will be Social Media Engagement for Dummies. You can find her work at http://alizasherman.com and http://travelgirl.com.