Categories: How To, Human Behavior
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Published on: 2011.04.05

“Decision Making 101” should be a class in every school. It can no longer be assumed that people can reason with themselves and make rational decisions.

Every time I see or hear questions like “Should I do (thing A) or (thing B)?” I’m reminded of my high school drafting instructor Glenn Williams. He was an interesting man to be sure (and I’ve been told that he was later dismissed from the school for inappropriate behavior, but I haven’t confirmed this). He was also my bus driver for a few years.

Mr. Williams, unlike other teachers on my class schedule, actually believed that his students had the capability to learn, rather than simply memorizing enough information to pass a test and move on. Further, he believed his students had the capability to learn to teach themselves.

One of his favorite answers to many questions was to silently stride to the chalkboard and write in large letters:


Invariably, the new student who’d asked the question would look at him with a puzzled expression while more experienced students snickered. When the questioner finally got up the courage to ask “What is T.M.A.D.?”, Mr. Williams would gesture to one of the other students, who would answer:

“Think. Make a Decision.”

Simple and concise, this phrase — after much repetition — changed the way many of us approached our assignments, and indeed our later adult lives.

Mr. Williams never gave this answer if the question was about class requirements, the rules of drafting (or other subjects he taught), deadlines for assignments, or dates for tests. He gave “T.M.A.D.” as the answer if the student should be able to answer the question for himself, after a little thought.

For every decision in life, there are specific questions we should ask ourselves and then answer, and those answers lead us to the right decision. This should be automatic, and for some of us it is.

Most people can make simple decisions like “Should I Eat Now?” They don’t even realize they’ve asked and answered “Am I hungry?” and “Do I have access to food?” automatically.

But if the question is slightly more complex, or requires research, many people seem at a loss. They start asking friends. They ask complete strangers in internet forums. They look like fools because they haven’t even begun to think about it for themselves or do any research, and they’re ready to accept my answer as gospel truth.

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