The cons of creating a pros & cons list

You know how successful people always go on about how they got where they are today by being bogged down by fear and never taking any risks?

Me neither.

Yet despite knowing that the most rewarding decisions come from trusting our gut, taking the plunge into the unknown, or creating something original by having no safety net of reference, we train our brains into categorising any big decision into risk buckets.

Not risk buckets, I just made that up. I don’t think it actually makes sense.

We call it something more harrowing. The spoiler is in the title.

Pros & cons lists.

This convention of decisions making has haunted us all for years, and will for many years to come.

It’s disguised as a helpful tool, to standardise the measurement of risk vs gain for any decision you make. 

It seems like it should work. It’s a logical system, allowing us to assess all the good associated with it, measure it in a nice column next to the bad. Then we make a very rational decision based on the number of bullet points in each column, each with an inherent weighting attached to it that makes sense to no one but yourself.

But once you’ve made that list - physically or mentally - you kind of know it doesn’t mean anything. You already had the answer before you started making it, and everything you then wrote was just to convince yourself. Or your client. Or your boss.

So what is the purpose of the pros & cons list? Really it’s just to to post-rationalise what you’ve already decided, or to try to sell a decision to someone else that really you just needed to convince with words, not charts. It’s essentially where creativity goes to die.

But if no pros & cons lists existed, what would happen? Would the world implode? Maybe. But fear not, the world has survived worse. 

Do we need a new list or way of articulating the value of an idea? Again - maybe.

Here’s one you can try. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and my productivity and decision making skills have increased by precisely 1 million percent. And it’s just three words.

Once you have your vision // what you want to achieve // ‘the why’… whatever you want to call it. Just organise your thoughts into these and go nuts (you can even create a chart if you feel so inclined).

WHAT. BY WHEN.

That’s it. Some could even argue you could remove ‘by’ and get it to 2 words, but geez that’s a bit aggressive.

This works either for yourself, or with your clients, because it requires you to change the conversation from one of fear and acknowledgement of all the things that could possibly go wrong, and frame it into positive action.

It means you mentally position things in a way in which fear of failure is removed. It’s not about what could go wrong. It’s simply about what you’re going to do to achieve your dream / goal / business target / KPI / misc. marketing term you feel the desire to insert into this sequence of slashes.

And if you frame conversations like this with your clients, it means they’re acknowledging that they’re on the ride with you. They’re not pointing out a list of ‘cons’ that you’re responsible for avoiding, instead they’re on board with you, together, to hit all the whats by the whens.