Oswald Letter

Decide, Commit, Then Deal with Results

Last night, my wife and I were discussing our respective personalities and those of our three children. I must say that my wife views some of my personality traits more harshly than I do. Things that I consider strengths don’t sound quite as positive when I hear her describe them.

On some things we do agree completely. For instance, we’d both say that I’m a pretty decisive person. I don’t spend a lot of time second-guessing decisions. I’ve never experienced “buyer’s remorse,” something she experiences frequently. That’s not to say that I think I’ve always made the right decisions. (On that, we might disagree.) It’s just that once a decision is made, I’m prepared to let it run its course and evaluate the results.

If the results aren’t acceptable, I’m perfectly comfortable changing course to get the desired outcome. I will even review the decisionmaking process that led to an erroneous outcome. But I won’t spend time second-guessing the initial decision because I’m pretty comfortable with the fact that I weighed all the information available before pulling the trigger. And the bigger the decision the more time I will spend evaluating the data before I draw my conclusion. But once the decision is made, it’s made.

I’m a firm believer that when you make a decision, you must commit to it. If you don’t commit and things don’t turn out as expected, it would be fair to ask whether it was a poor decision or if it was the right decision just poorly executed. So I make decisions and commit to them. If I’ve made a bad decision, and I’ve made more than a few, then I can figure out what to do next to get the desired outcome. But I don’t believe in beating myself up for the mistakes I’ve make.

What’s the line my mother used to say? Oh yeah, “There’s no sense in crying over spilled milk.” I think I’ve said before, mom is full of great advice.

Bush and Obama

All of this discussion about being decisive somehow got me thinking about our politicians. Maybe because our last president, George W. Bush, just came out with his memoirs and the title of the book is Decision Points.

From the reviews I’ve read about the book, Bush was not prone to indecision or doubts. Certainly not all of his decisions were right, but you must admit he was decisive. The question about President Bush would be whether his stubbornness got in the way of either objectively evaluating all the information before making the decision or admitting when he made a mistake and changing course. The entire “weapons of mass destruction” fiasco comes to mind. There are things that can be learned from how the leader of the free world makes decisions, both when he is right and when he is wrong.

The subject also made me think about President Obama. In 2008, he campaigned on a message of compromise and bipartisanship. He said, if elected, he would change the way business is done in Washington, ending the partisan deadlock. That message of change resonated with Americans and led to his victory.

But the results have been very different. With the president taking the lead, Democrats drafted bills with no input from Republicans. Consequently, Republicans voted in lockstep against Democratic legislation. The partisanship and deadlock are greater than ever.

President Obama made a decision to pursue an agenda that included health care reform, a stimulus package, and cap and trade. And the message of compromise and bipartisanship was left behind. It cost the Democrats dearly in this month’s elections, but does the president regret his agenda decision? Does he consider it a mistake or simply the cost of doing the right thing? Was making the campaign promise the real mistake? Decision making in politics sure is interesting to watch and easy to second-guess.

Sinatra and Elvis

All of this reminds me of the lyrics to the song Frank Sinatra made so famous (yes, I realize Elvis sang it. too), “My Way.” Tell me if this doesn’t speak to decision making and its perils, but also demonstrates a pretty healthy attitude about living with the decisions you make.

And now, the end is near,
And so I face the final curtain.
My friends, I’ll say it clear;
I’ll state my case of which I’m certain.
I’ve lived a life that’s full –
I’ve traveled each and every highway.
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Regrets? I’ve had a few,
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.
I planned each charted course —
Each careful step along the byway,
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew,
When I bit off more than I could chew,
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way.

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried,
I’ve had my fill — my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.
To think I did all that,
And may I say, not in a shy way —
Oh no. Oh no, not me.
I did it my way.

For what is a man? What has he got?
If not himself — Then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way.

Yes, it was my way.