Louis CK’s 70% Rule For Decision-making

This GQ profile of Louis C.K. is short and sweet. Near the end, he outlines his rule for overcoming decision paralysis. Yesterday I talked a friend through her decision to open an IRA vs. have more money available in savings — so relevant! — and I wish I had this on-hand to copy and paste:

“These situations where I can’t make a choice because I’m too busy trying to envision the perfect one—that false perfectionism traps you in this painful ambivalence: If I do this, then that other thing I could have done becomes attractive. But if I go and choose the other one, the same thing happens again. It’s part of our consumer culture. People do this trying to get a DVD player or a service provider, but it also bleeds into big decisions. So my rule is that if you have someone or something that gets 70 percent approval, you just do it. ‘Cause here’s what happens. The fact that other options go away immediately brings your choice to 80. Because the pain of deciding is over.

“And,” he continues, “when you get to 80 percent, you work. You apply your knowledge, and that gets you to 85 percent! And the thing itself, especially if it’s a human being, will always reveal itself—100 percent of the time!—to be more than you thought. And that will get you to 90 percent. After that, you’re stuck at 90, but who the fuck do you think you are, a god? You got to 90 percent? It’s incredible!”

Also this is unrelated but it made me laugh:

[My older daughter] was saying how whenever she sees a three-legged dog, it lifts her spirits, because three-legged dogs are wonderfully unaware that they have a malady. They just walk around, and they don’t give a shit. And I said, ‘You know, honey, they are lucky. But do you know the only thing luckier than a three-legged dog? A four-legged dog.’

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6 Comments / Post A Comment

ATF (#4,229)

I needed this today. Hard, life changing decisions are HARD. I would kind of like to shake a magic 8-ball and let the answer dictate my fate at the moment.

samburger (#5,489)

@ATF I asked ask8ball.net “What should ATF do?” and it says “Signs point to yes”

YOU’RE WELCOME

ATF (#4,229)

@samburger Okay, fine. But we’re leaving $160K of Apple stock on the table if we choose to stay.

……there is no right answer. Either way I will be filled with regret.

compbiochick (#5,805)

It’s the decisions that you can go back on that are the hardest for me.When it’s a situation where you make a decision and then DO something to implement that choice it’s great because then once it’s done it’s done. But when you make a decision and there’s nothing you can physically do to affirm that the choice is made (for example when you decide not to pursue someone/something because they/it are not good for you in the long term), it’s hard because you can’t help but think ‘what if’ for the longest time.
Argh, sorry I’m rambling here. I second the ‘life decisions are hard’ sentiment anyway

@fo (#839)

“These situations where I can’t make a choice because I’m too busy trying to envision the perfect one—that false perfectionism traps you in this painful ambivalence”

Shorter version:

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”

Eric18 (#4,486)

This is a common trait that successful leaders in the military share. The 70% solution is oftentimes better than waiting for the 100% solution (that may never come).

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