How to make a big decision

I speak to a lot of people who are thinking of taking the plunge, leaving a corporate career and starting a thought leadership practice. It’s a big decision.

I want to share a framework that I think is useful for this, and for most big decisions.

It goes like this. If you're facing a big decision or opportunity, put yourself 5 years in the future. What year will that be? How old will you be? Then consider:

A. You do nothing. How does life play out along your current trajectory?

B. You try and you’re successful. What does that look like?

C. You try and you fail. What happens then?

Here’s the thing. Mostly C is not that bad … and in many cases it's still better than A – better than not having a crack and not finding out.

This is similar to a question that Tim Ferris asks “What's the worst thing that could happen? Could I get back here?”

When I was 27, back in the year 2,000 (I’ll save you doing the maths, that makes me 44 now), I quit a pretty safe job as a consultant at Accenture to start a business coaching business.

A lot of people told me how brave I was. But I really wasn’t. I had just gone through this framework.

a. If I did nothing in 5 years I’d be a senior manager at Accenture with partnership hopefully around the corner. But not doing what I loved. (I’d just spent six months helping a large electricity company install a new billing system … not really world changing stuff.)

b. If I tried and was successful I’d be my own boss, be doing work I loved and be making the world a better place.

c. If I tried and failed, I could always get another job. I could spin it on my resume just fine … and in five years time either way I wouldn’t be living under a bridge.

Trying and failing was actually a better option than not trying at all. But most people don’t do the thought experiment and don’t come to that conclusion. So they stick with option A.