Oct 6, 2022 - Economy

Tough choices: Doing the next right thing

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

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

I was stewing about a work aggravation as I sat in a pew at church in 2016. David Glade, the preacher, seemed to know it: He started talking about the difficulties of being good.

  • He told a story about how his kids wondered how β€” with all the chaos and challenge of life β€” a person can choose to do the right thing, always.
  • Rev. Glade offered nine words of wisdom that guided me through that problem β€” and shape how I try to live today: "All you can do is the next right thing."

Why it matters: This throwaway phrase in a random sermon has served as a mantra for running our company β€” and for me when I hit turbulence outside work.

The simplicity of the minister's phrase is what sticks:

  1. It's doable: It's overwhelming, with everything that hits us in life, to deal with the enormity of always doing the right thing. But if you just think about the right thing in the single moment staring at you at that moment, it's easy.
  2. It's clarifying: We do have a choice in every tough situation, even when we feel wronged. Taking a deep breath and asking yourself what's the right response puts it in proper perspective.
  3. It's life-enhancing: So much in life is habit. You can create a healthy habit of making good decisions if you stack small hard but good decisions on top of each other.
  4. It's universal: If you think about big career or relationship decisions, it's easy to get paralyzed by trying to apply game theory to your next big gig or marriage. It's much easier to fixate on getting the immediate move correct.

πŸ–ΌοΈ The big picture: It's shocking how often at work β€” and in life β€” people around us seem to do the wrong thing for the wrong reason.

  • It's tempting to fight fire with fire. But it’s rarely the right thing to do.
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