Zombies and Raccoons and Me. Oh My!

I made a bad decision the other day.

It’s not the first bad decision I’ve ever made. I’ve made lots of them. And it probably won’t be the last one either. Unfortunately.

What makes this particular bad decision notable are the circumstances under which I made it. Because at the time I made the decision, I was certain, absolutely positive I was making the right call. No doubt about it. I was going to be a HERO. The Man!

But I wasn’t.

There would be no excited high-fives for me. No effusive praise. No gushing accolades. Instead all I got was pitying looks. Sadly shaking heads that said, “What were you thinking?” more loudly than words.

No doubt about it. Making (and living with) a bad decision sucks. But, in my defense, consider this guy.

At least my bad decision didn’t kill anyone. A moral victory for me. Look, you take what you can get.

Other than a fatal gunshot, the circumstances between my bad decision and the video were similar. Okay, mine didn’t involve a zombie apocalypse, raccoons or shotguns either. But my decision making process was pretty much the same (as the guy in the video).

  • I was totally focused on the situation at hand (the guy in the video was focused on the zombie apocalypse).
  • I filtered available input to the decision-making processed based on my narrow focus at the time (“Tommy’s been bit!”).
  • I jumped to an ill-informed conclusion (Gotta kill Tommy, he’s been bitten by a zombie).
  • I bowed to pressure (“You know what you got to do! Do it!”).
  • I over-reacted (the guy shot Tommy, killing him).
  • I listened to better input after the decision (“It was a raccoon”).
  • I felt like crap (“You killed Tommy”).

There you go. A funny video. A not so funny real-life decision. So, what happened?

There’s no denying it (believe me, I've tried) I was suffering from “situational tunnel-vision”. I was so focused on the immediate circumstances that I forced the input I had available to fit my predisposed view of the situation I was dealing with. And that only supported my gut feel that the decision I was making, difficult as it might be, was the proper one. More than that, it was clearly the only one. And I was going to make it. Because that’s what I do, by God; make the hard decisions.

You know, the ones that totally blow up in my face? Yeah, I make those decisions. So, what went wrong? In 20/20 hindsight, the causes are obvious. Among them are these:

  • Had I just slowed down and considered more than my narrow focus, I would have made a different decision. Trust me on this one.
  • If I’d listened to the available input for what it really was and not what I thought it was, the result would’ve been better. At lease I hope so.
  • If I had opened my perspective to see there was more at play in my decision than I was considering, Tommy would still be alive.

Wait, I didn’t kill Tommy. It was the guy in the video. I wouldn’t have killed Tommy! If it had been me in that situation, poor Tommy would still be alive. So, I made a bad decision. So what? At least I’m not that guy.

Which only illustrates another aspect of bad decision making; a bad decision is almost always followed by a great rationalization.