(2-minute read)

With the notable exception of the Coronavirus outbreak, of stories leading the news I’ve been following the college admission scandal with an equal amount of fascination and disgust.  For me it’s been like “rubber-necking”; you can’t help but look.

As each layer of the deception surfaces, I can’t help but wonder how the players, especially the parents, came to their decisions. How does a family start with “Let’s look at colleges,” and end up with “Let’s just cheat your way in?”

Was there any consideration of other outcomes besides the one they wanted? Did anyone ask the obvious “what if” questions, or think about what their children would learn about the “real” world?

If they had, there is a good chance this scandal would never have happened.

Every course of events in our lives and careers begins with a single decision. We make some in the spur of the moment; others we deliberate for hours or days.

Having a process to follow offers peace of mind and helps us make decisions that are more balanced and informed.



Informed and balanced decisions aren’t happy accidents. They are the product of collecting the best information available and weighing it against the amount of risk you’re willing to accept.

This can be a big task.

Make it easier by breaking the larger decision down into smaller micro-decisions within these five categories.

  • Outcomes
  • Information
  • Consequences
  • Compromises
  • Helpers

When you gather information, be honest.

Include what’s positive and what’s negative. Including both will help you create an objective picture and avoid the trap of “telling yourself the story you want to hear.”

1) What is the outcome I want?
Be clear about what’s most important. Is it more money, responsibility, or is this a step toward something greater? With a prioritized list, you’re better able to work out your fallback positions in advance.

2) Do I have all the information I need to make an informed decision?
Take a look at the bigger picture.

What are the broader challenges faced by the organization?
Knowing these challenges, is my timing good or bad?
How can I address those challenges in an expanded or new role?

3) What are the positive, negative, and neutral consequences of my decision?
Positive consequences may be a better title, more responsibility, and more money.

Negative consequences may include more hours at work, stepping on the toes of others, getting way out of your comfort zone, or not being able to pay off your ambition. Neutral consequences could be as simple as maintaining what’s familiar.

Here’s a template to make this step easier.

4) What compromises am I willing to accept?

What is non-negotiable?
Where am I willing to compromise?

5) Who can help me get where I want to go?
Choose an advisor who knows you and isn’t afraid to tell you the truth about your strengths and weaknesses. If possible, find someone familiar with the organization. What you’ll get is an inside/outside perspective to help you stress test your case.


With all of this information, your final test is a “gut check.” Do a gut check and listen to what it says. Your gut is rarely wrong.

Making decisions, especially under a time constraint, can be stressful. Having a process to follow ensures that you have everything you need to make the best decision possible.



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