Jun 16, 2022 - Economy

Stop ducking the tough decisions

Illustration of a coffee mug with the Axios logo with steam forming a thought bubble

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

One of my favorite maxims from one of my favorite business books is: "If you are going to eat shit, don’t nibble."

Why it matters: Ben Horowitz, writing in "The Hard Thing about Hard Things," coined this wonderful, if crude, concept for taming the human instinct to avoid tough actions. He was spot on.

Think of all the time wasted avoiding tough conversations, or difficult decisions, or unpleasant moments. We dither, ignore, nibble around the edges.

  • All this does is prolong misery for you — and everyone else involved.

Consider all the areas we nibble instead of chomp at work and in our personal lives.

  1. Apologizing. Think of all the times you dragged your feet, or said sorry in small, incremental ways. A fast, full-throated apology is the only effective, time-saving one.
  2. Quitting. Think of all the times you dragged your feet on kicking a bad habit, or ditching a lame job, or dumping a crappy boyfriend or girlfriend. Rip off the Band-Aid.
  3. Taking blame. Many think it shows weakness, but owning up to a boneheaded move quickly and emphatically shows confidence — and shoves the matter behind you faster.
  4. Firing people. Nowhere do managers nibble more than here. It sucks. It’s uncomfortable. But ask any manager and they will tell you their experience shows the moment you think it's not going to work, it won’t.
  5. Killing bad ideas. Never underestimate the human capacity to rationalize and keep doing things you know aren’t working. No one wants to admit failure. Don’t throw good money at bad.

The bottom line: This is dangerous advice to offer, but in my experience, the moment you think something is off and unfixable, you’re almost always right. Don’t spend weeks, months or years nibbling. Do it in one big bite.

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