Monday, January 20, 2020

An Unexpected Lesson from Steve Jobs - What to Do When Cons Outweigh the Pros in Making a Decision

Recently I was troubled by a personal matter. I need to make a tough decision. As usual, I took out a piece of paper and started listing Pros and Cons. A few minutes later, I've got an abundant of Cons, and the Pros are meager. However, something just didn't feel right about deciding against this matter. The matter lingered on my mind for the past few days, till today I recalled a story I recently read from "The Ride of a Lifetime" that might shed some light on this situation:

When Bob Iger first brought up the idea of Disney buying Pixar to Steve Jobs, they did a whiteboard exercise listing pros and cons of this potential deal.

Steve first launched into many cons. For example:

  • Disney's culture will destroy Pixar!
  • Fixing Disney Animation will take too long and will burn John and Ed out in the process.
  • There's too much ill will and the healing will take years.
  • Wall Street will hate it.
  • Disney's board will never let you do it.
  • Pixar will reject Disney as an owner, as a body rejects a donated organ.
There were many more including one in all cap letters: "DISTRACTION WILL PIXAR'S CREATIVITY."

Well, let's look at the pro list:
  • Disney will be saved by Pixar and we'll all live happily ever after.

Two hours into this exercise, the pros are extremely short and cons are plenty. 

When Bob Iger felt dispirited and said: "well, it was a nice idea. But I don't see how we do this."

To this, Steve replied:

"A few solid pros are more powerful than dozens of cons." - Steve Jobs


To Iger, that's a powerful quality of Steve Job's. The ability to weigh all sides of an issue and not allowing negatives to outweigh the positives, particularly for things he wanted to accomplish. 

Upon recalling this story, I re-examined my pros and cons lists. Yes the number of cons surpasses the pros. But it all comes down to one pro that I should really pay attention to, which renders the decision a "yes". It's what I need to accomplish that's aligned to my value. 

Cheers to an unexpected lesson thanks to Steve Jobs.

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