How to make great choices when you have many options.

My wife Dawn and I have started scheduling our dental cleanings at the same time. It’s a cute couple quirk I have enjoyed. Yesterday was our big day for getting scraped, polished and flossed as a couple.

When we pulled into the dentist’s office there was one open parking spot. So I took it. It was the easiest decision I made all week. Because it was the only option available. It seems we have a very popular dentist. Or they have a very small parking lot.

But this morning I drove to the airport to catch a very early flight, and the parking structure was practically empty. Which reminded me of something Dawn said to me early in our relationship.

The hardest place to park is in an empty parking lot. 

-Dawn Albrecht

The statement sounds moronic. But it’s highly insightful. 

If every parking spot is open you have to think more than you do when there is only one spot. And you probably have not predetermined your empty parking lot decision-making process. Which means that when you arrive at an empty lot you have to make a decision on the spot.

That decision could involve simply taking the closest space to the entrance. But there are often 2 or more highly coveted close spaces. Plus, many times when you park you are not going to one specific entrance. Like when you park at a park. Which is totally meta.

There are a host of other factors to consider.

  • Is there shade I should consider on a hot and sunny day?
  • Will I be going in one door and out another?
  • Do I have multiple places to visit while in this parking lot?
  • Should I consider staying away from shopping carts?
  • What space makes it easiest to drive away? 
  • Where do I want to be when the parking lot fills up?
  • Does it look like Joni Mitchell or Counting Crows were here before they paved paradise?

These are the branches on the decision tree that suddenly sprout when you arrive at the naked parking lot.

But who cares?  It’s just a parking lot. There is no real way to get this decision wrong, Long Duk Dong.

However…

The parking lot is an analogy for your life.

When you only have one option in life you take what you are given. The decision is simple. Because it is a nondecision.

But when all of the options are available, how do you choose?

  • How do you decide where you will live when you could live anywhere?
  • How do you decide which career path to take when you could do anything?
  • How do you decide where to go to school when you could study anywhere?
  • How do you decide where to invest your money?
  • How do you decide what to eat?
  • How do you decide what clothes to wear?
  • How do you decide if you should add a silly final bullet to a list of serious bullets?

How Do You Decide?

You need to develop your own decision-making criteria. Your criteria should be based on your values, philosophies and beliefs. Developing your personal criteria for decisions large and small helps you make better decisions faster in every area of your life.

It is highly valuable to consider what influences your decisions. What are your core beliefs? What are your priorities? And which factors are simply non-factors to you?

Consider the following exercise related to the empty parking lot.

Rank the following factors when deciding where to park:

  1. Speed to my destination
  2. Exercise opportunity
  3. Ease of exit
  4. Isolation from dings
  5. Access to my car
  6. Most privacy for making out

Once you know which of these are most important you can make better choices faster, pussycat.

Your decision-making criteria apply to the parking lot and your bigger life decisions. Establishing and prioritizing your values before you encounter challenging choices related to drugs, sex and stealing help you make better decisions. Knowing your priorities related to your career, investing, family, relationships, health and religion will enable you to make big decisions faster too.

  1. What is the most important factor that will drive your decisions?
  2. What is the second most important?
  3. What is third?

When you take the time to consider these questions and answer them before you pull into the empty parking lot, or make a more important life decision, the answers become easy and obvious.

Key Takeaway

Know what is most important to you. Consider your decision-making hierarchy before you need it. It enables you to make great choices when you have all of the options. And remember, you always have options.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

The source of inspiration I didn’t expect to find at a rock concert.

On Saturday night I went to a massive concert in Boston. I saw the legendary rock groups including Joan Jett, Poison, Motley Crue and Def Leppard in what was called The 2022 Stadium Tour. Or what I would have called The Soundtrack Of My High School Weightroom Tour.

Despite the fact that all of the members of all of the bands I saw were in their late 50s or 60s (and Mick Mars of the Crue was in his 70s), they all rocked. But there was one senior rocker who impressed more than all the others.

Rick Allen

Rick Allen, the drummer for Def Leppard not only rocked, rocked never stopped, he looked like he was having the time of his life. In fact, Rick and Poison’s lead singer, Brett Michaels, both looked as if they were having more fun than the fans at Fenway Park. Which is wicked hahd to do.

But what makes Rick Allen almost unbelievable is that he is a rock n’ roll drummer with only one arm. To be clear, he started off with a full set of arms. In fact, he and his 2 arms celebrated their 16th birthday by playing drums for Def Leppard while opening for AC/DC. I think I celebrated my 16th birthday by eating dinner with my family at Friendly’s in West Lebanon, New Hampshire.

On New Year’s Eve 1984, Allen crashed his Corvette, severing his left arm. Doctors reattached the arm but then later detached it because of infection.

But the show must go on. And Rick was determined to go on with it. So he designed an electronic drum kit that he could play with his feet to create the sounds he would have made with his right arm. Less than 2 years later Allen was back drumming for Def Leppard at the Monsters of Rock music festival.

When I saw Rick Allen on Saturday night with my high school friends Dan Richards and James Colligan we couldn’t believe how hard he rocked. He plays what looks like a normal acoustic drum set, augmented by the electronic foot pedals.

Rock n’ Roll is alive and well in Boston.

The 2 things that stand out about watching Rick play are that he has no left arm and that he plays the drums barefoot. The bluegrass look appears out of place amongst the glam boots and platform shoes of a big hair rock concert. But I dug it.

Besides tickling my eardrums with his foot drums for 90 minutes at Fenway Park, Rick Allen also provided a massive dose of inspiration. Because when you see a one-armed drummer rocking a packed stadium with a smile on his face you realize that with the right mindset there is practically no setback you can’t overcome.

What I have experienced through losing my arm, I wouldn’t change. The human spirit is so strong.

-Rick Allen

Key Takeaway

You can handle whatever you are facing. When a wave of adversity rolls into your life you can either let it take you under or you can surf it. You can use that adversity to drive you forward and take you further and faster than you could have gone without it. Setbacks set you up for greater success, but with a better story and a stronger sense of all that you are really capable of. Adversity is a gift. Use it to your advantage. And just keep rocking.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

To create more opportunities first become great at what you do best.

Friday night my family and I had dinner in Las Vegas. It was the last night of our southwestern adventure, and we didn’t really plan our last meal. At least not the way Jesus did.

Through a strange confluence of forces, including a rare desert thunderstorm that created flash floods in Vegas, we ended up eating at Buddy V’s Ristorante. I realized once we reached the restaurant that it was named after Buddy Valastro.

Shortly after we sat down to eat I spotted Buddy V himself walking into the restaurant. A few minutes later Buddy stopped by our table to say hi, check on our experience, and thank us for coming to the restaurant that night. (I refrained from saying that I loved him in Elf.)

Buddy then greeted the table next to us. The family at that table asked if they could take a picture with Buddy. Which tipped off our kids that this guy was a celebrity. So they asked us why he was famous.

Dawn and I explained that Buddy V owned Carlo’s Bake Shop in Hoboken, New Jersey. (Fun Fact: Dawn lived in Hoboken right after graduating from college as she worked at Lifetime, Television For Women, in New York City.)

We told our kids that Buddy was so good at making cakes that he got his own show on TLC called Cake Boss. He has now starred on 5 other TV shows. He owns 18 bakeries. And he is currently launching other restaurants.

After explaining this to our kids, I said that the real lesson from Buddy V was that if you want to create a lot of opportunities for yourself you should first become really great at something. And that something could be anything.

Buddy V was so good at making cakes that the world took notice and wanted to see and know more about him and his work. His personality made him interesting to a broad crowd and the opportunities just keep coming.

But it all started because he became great at his craft.

And maybe because he has a sweet accent.

Key Takeaway

Become really great at what you do. Expertise opens doors to new opportunities. It offers you career capital. Which leads to social capital. And financial capital. Keep practicing and improving your skills and you will become sought after. And when you are sought after everything changes.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best lessons I have learned from the universe, check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.