Best Advice: What a Navy SEAL Taught Me About Decision-Making

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This post is written by Neil Bulumenthal, Founder @Warby Parker.

This post is part of a series in which LinkedIn Influencers share the best advice they’ve ever received. Read all the posts here.

The smartest advice I ever received came from a former Navy SEAL commander. “Before I make any critical decision,” he told me, “I always ask myself one question: How much time do I have?” In his professional capacity, my friend was faced with a wide range of decisions—sometimes getting woken up in the middle of the night to make a split-second decision, sometimes having more time to gather information. In order to distinguish among time-sensitive matters, he made a habit of pausing to evaluate exactly how much time he had before a decision needed to be made.

For the average CEO, the stakes will be much lower than they are for our nation’s elite special ops force—but the lesson still stands. It’s common for business leaders to succumb to a sense of artificial urgency that compels them to make over-hasty decisions.

When you’re on the verge of launching a business or bringing a new product to market, it’s common to feel panicked and rushed:

What if a competitor arises from nowhere? What if we’re late to the game? When my three Warby Parker co-founders and I were initially working out the process of selling glasses online, we knew that it would have been feasible to simply throw up a product page and cross our fingers that people would order. But instead, we broke down the idea into a series of questions: How would people hear about our site? How would they react when they first got there? How would we overcome a shopper’s reluctance to purchase glasses online? What could we do to make the experience instinctive, fun, and super-simple? How would customers choose glasses? How would they pay? (Plus about a thousand other questions.)

The truth is that people generally like to try on glasses to see if they like the fit and style before purchasing. For this reason, we spent time researching and testing out Virtual Try-On technology, asking ourselves throughout the process whether it could be a good solution. The answer was yes, it was good—but it might not be enough. So we went back to the drawing board (literally—we scribbled on a whiteboard in my apartment), which was where we eventually came up with the idea for our Home Try-On program. That was the breakthrough moment.At the end of the day, having more time allows you to gather more (and better) information, and gives you the opportunity to examine a problem from more than one angle. It allows you to break down obstacles into manageable components; to take steps rather than jump. Time allows you to think.
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Mohit Bansal(23) is B.Tech in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, India. He has interest in business and entrepreneurship and has published couple of research articles. He is also associated with various NGOs. He is with Techaloo when it was just in concept stage. The Techaloo site was not existing even then. Currently Mohit is working with Mu Sigma as a Business Analyst Profile.

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