Making decisions and taking risks coexist. In life and business, we are faced with a lot of choices that will lead either to the positive or the negative road, and not choosing anything at all wastes away the opportunity of seeing the outcome and learning a lesson.
With Aesop’s fable of the donkey who starved himself to death because of indecisiveness, Alex lets us come to know why decisiveness is the most lucrative skill in ethical influence. Discover why highly decisive ethical influencers always think big but act small, and why indecision is a decision that surrenders your responsibility.
On the side, find out how to make fewer decisions and where significant innovations come from.
Listen to the podcast here:
Why Indecision Assassinates Innovation
This is the story of Aesop’s donkey. Aesop was a fable writer who lived about 2,500 years ago around the time of Socrates. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but he was a hunchback. He wasn’t good to look at and he was also smart. What he did is he used fables and animals to make a political outcry and to teach lessons like Gulliver’s Travels with Jonathan Swift. He used parables and animals like Animal Farm to teach humans by indirectly telling stories.
That’s what I like to do with the show because frankly, the show means storytelling is central to selling. People don’t like selling because of anticipated rejection because they feel they may offend the person they’re attempting to influence. With ethical influence, if you utilize storytelling to stop the objections and the roadblocks and the resistance, then people will open up to you, they will understand you, believe you. It will be the right time for them to buy and they will know, like and trust you better.
The Indecisive Donkey
Here’s the donkey fable the way I heard it. There was a donkey who was starving. This donkey was looking down at the ground and on the left side he could see an apple, on the right was a pear. He looked at the apple. He looked at the pear. He looked at the pear, the apple, the apple, the pear, the pear, then he collapsed and starved to death. Why? He couldn’t make a decision. He dies of starvation.
What could that donkey possibly do? The donkey could have tested as Galileo did in a previous episode, dropping two cannon balls to prove that Aristotle was wrong. Objects that are heavier don’t fall faster. All he had to do, this donkey, is taste the apple and see if that was ideal for his taste buds and then taste a little bit of the pear and see if that fruit was ideal for the taste buds. He didn’t have to go back and forth and make a binary decision between one or the other which is what we humans do in the ethical influence game.
In fact, what we parents do, I don’t know if you’re a parent or not, but I do know you were once a kid. In looking at parenting which I am, I have two teenagers, Gabriel and Breanna, it’s not ever about having a final decision with them.
I will die of starvation if I am not a good parent if I don’t test little things if I don’t think big, like I want them to succeed but I want to act small. I want to test. Gravity is a big thought and Aristotle said an object that’s twice as heavy would fall twice as fast and for 2,000 years no one tested that and people didn’t accept the truth.
They could have seen it through an observation through 2,000 years until this guy, Galileo, comes along and climbs up all 294 steps of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, drops the cannon balls and the scientific method was born. How is this relevant to being decisive?
First of all, it’s a decision to take a bite out of the apple. If the donkey took a little bite out of the apple, first of all, the donkey would have at least got some blood sugar up, no more starvation. The donkey went to the pear and took a bite, now the donkey could make a decision.
One fruit tastes better than the other. I’m going to eat that fruit and then I’m going to go to the other fruit or I don’t like this fruit, I will eat the other one or I like both fruit and I’ll eat both simultaneously, going back and forth systematically. Instead of doing that, the donkey collapsed and didn’t procrastinate, wasn’t a perfectionist.
[bctt tweet=”Procrastination is the fear of starting. Perfectionism is the fear of finishing.” via=”no”]
Procrastination is the fear of starting and perfectionism is the fear of finishing. Instead, the donkey didn’t make a decision. How many times does this happen with you in your life as a parent, if you are one? How many times did it happen as a child when you were growing up? Your indecisiveness became a decision and you surrendered your responsibility. What’s the responsibility? The ability to respond.
At least a small decision, acting small, you can end up having an opinion through observation. Did that work? I have this intention, I have a purpose. My strategy is to take a small action that’s what you usually go through all the time. What’s my intention? That’s the head. The purpose is the why, that’s the heart, then the how is the strategy. Why does the strategy have to be big and complicated? It can be small and that’s what ethical influencers do. That’s what the great ones do. They take small little steps. They dip their toe in the water. Metaphor, analogy, you get it, then they decide to jump in.
Making Fewer Decisions Through Systems
At least if it’s ice cold water, they got a feeling of what it’s like. In the world of ethical influence, being decisive is the most lucrative skill and like a muscle, the more you decide the better you become. In fact, you make about 200 to 300 micro-decisions every single day. I believe the more decisions you make, the more it depletes your willpower. The fewer decisions you make the better for you. How do you make fewer decisions? By setting up systems.
In marketing, we have marketing funnels. We have membership sites. We have username and password within a membership site and if you forget it then the system itself ends up telling you, “Forgot the password? Click here,” and then you get your password or you need to change it.
That relieves you of decision making. You’re not feeling like a hamster on the wheel following up and making more decisions with people because it’s exhausting and willpower is finite. You only have so many units of willpower each day and then it gets too depleted. The more decisions, the less willpower, and the less willpower, the less you’re in charge and responsible. Responsibility is your ability to respond.
The right strategy for Aesop’s donkey was to take a little bite. As an innovator in your business whether you’re a coach or a consultant or any service business, you have to sell because selling is the business. If you’re a dentist, how do you have a patient in the chair to do anything whether it’s to reshape teeth, to fill cavities, root canal or a whole new set of teeth called veneers? You can’t do that unless you enrolled them and sold them into that dental chair or you’ve had a system may be a referral from colleagues who referred or through patients or through your hygienist, whomever.
Sales and marketing is the business. What you do is fulfillment. I see many people set up systems and they have product lines and they have offerings and when it comes down to selling, they can’t do it. They don’t want to be rejected. They fear the reaction from the other side and everything crumbles. All that work goes to waste.
I have a solution. Make small little steps towards the sale. Those are called little trial closes, little breadcrumbs and through this breadcrumb navigation, you get a sale. If you have a lot of split tests. We talked about split testing in a previous episode. A split test is never going with one idea. It’s going with idea A and idea B. For example, a split test, should it be $29.95 or should it be $19.95? You would think, “$19.95 is going to win.” Not necessarily.
I’ve done split tests on offers on television where $29.95 made more money. We didn’t sell as many, but we made more money. That was the winning test because we were going after more money. If you want to generate more candidates, I call them candidates, most people call them leads or prospects, then you’re as good as going with a $0.99 offer or you definitely are better with a $19.95 offer because every split test I’ve done proves that $19.95 beats $29.95 for getting more orders. Rarely is there an exception, I’m sure there is.
Think Big, Act Small, And Split Test
Understand the right strategy is to think big, act small, do lots of split testing each day. You don’t have to be technical to do that. You don’t even have to be a marketing professional. How about if you split test with your kids what it takes to get them to bed on time? I’ll give you a split test. I attempted to get my son to bed on time and he is a rower. He’s in the crew, with Marin crew, national level rower. He’s in an eight-man boat. They’re all guys and there’s a coxswain who gives them the orders and for 2,000 meters that’s how long the race is.
If you know something about the crew, he is in the stroke seat which everyone else is moving off of him. He’s fast on the water as they say. The goal to the crew and to rowing is to have this feeling of the swing where it feels like you’re gliding through the water and moving fast. He’s won several national championships in his brief rowing career. I couldn’t get him to bed on time and he would get sick because he had come home from crew practice which is three hours.
He has lots of homework from school and he would get to bed at 1:00 AM or 2:00 AM, then he’d wake up at 6:00 AM sometimes to do homework and other times to get ready for school. He would take his sister, Breanna with him and she would model his behavior because he’s the older child. I tried everything. I would split test everything I could to get him to bed on time and he didn’t follow my lead.
He loves me. In fact, he still tells me he loves me in front of his friends and other parents say, “What do you feed this kid? I can’t even have my kid dropped me off in front of their friends. This guy is telling you he loves you.” I’m blessed to have a son as a teenager to say that in public but I wasn’t blessed to know how to split test and get them to bed on time. Until a Harvard recruiter came to Marin and I decided to see if I could anchor what he said because Gabe was keen on going to an Ivy League school and getting recruited for rowing.
[bctt tweet=”Responsibility is your ability to respond.” via=”no”]
That gentleman including Dartmouth and Yale and everyone else who came to recruit because on the West Coast they row all year round, on the East Coast they can’t row during the winter months. The West Coasters are fast on the water. Whereas the East Coast, typically they’re faster on the erg.
The erg machine is that machine you sometimes will see in a gym. Gabe is fast on the water and so they’re recruiting him. When I talked to him about that, my split test with him was, “Alex says you’re going to get sick.” That’s Alex, me, dad. You want to get up early. You want to get plenty of sleep. Sleep is the key and it’ll make your brain work better at school and you won’t zone out. I said, “What did the recruiter tell you?” He indicated the recruiter said to get plenty of sleep, nothing’s more important.”
That worked. Gabe goes to sleep early. What was magical? I got to buy one, get one free. In fact, not even buy one because he’s going on a scholarship possibly. Who knows? We’ll see.
His sister, Breanna, also started to sleep before 11:00, which is totally important. That’s my parenting. You find something that works better not just in business and you do that until you find something else. What am I split testing now? What an elegant question to ask yourself. It’s not just in sales. It’s in your civic leadership. If you’re in politics, it’s for politics. If it’s in parenting or spousal support, it’s in spousal support.
There are two different ways to go after spousal support. I’m divorced, my then wife is divorced. There are several different things we can split test between supporting each other and I’ve worked on that. We found a happy medium to work and then I’ll consistently split test because if the answer is no, then that test didn’t work and I’ll still go with what’s called the control.
In direct mail, the control is the winner. The letter that always wins. Same with email, same with the subject line, same with anything. What is your control? What are you split testing now? What are you thinking big about and acting small? Many innovators throughout history split tested things. You can go back to Martin Luther King, Jr. You can go back to Amelia Earhart. You could go back to Mahatma Gandhi. You can go back to Jesus. You can go back to Muhammad.
I want to include everybody. You could go back to Buddha. Buddha has many contradictory lessons and he split tested different lessons for different levels of knowledge in studying Buddhism. I know a lot about the Mahayana tradition from Tibet but there are many different factions of Buddhism and Buddha, the Buddha who lived about 2,500 years ago, he approached his teachings differently. He split tested with people who had different levels of sophistication and knowledge base.
What you say to the general population which is less educated at the time, you say differently to the intelligentsia or the nobility and you get the same result. You speak to them on the level that they’re willing to be spoken to. Let’s look at split testing as far as it relates to Darwin. I don’t know if you believe in Darwinism or not, but I believe in what he said because within his system it works.
In a species, split testing itself in living is all about adaptation. The species that adapts the most survives. The cockroach has adapted a lot better than dinosaurs. The Alexism for this episode is in decision making. Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.
Productivity Versus Priority
I had to split test a decision years ago. What’s more important, productivity or priority? Productivity, I define with five words, maximum results in minimum time. Priority, I also define with five words, maximum productivity with minimum effort. Priority is maximum productivity which is maximum results in minimum time, but with minimum effort. In other words, how do I get the most done with the least amount of effort?
The principle of priority and this was taught to me by my friend and a world-renowned author, Steven Pressfield. He said, “The principle of priority is knowing the difference between what is important and what is urgent and doing what is important first.” Think about that.
With productivity, it doesn’t have a bias between urgency and importance but if you just keep doing things that are urgent, you are not living into your purpose. You are probably living into someone else’s or other people or maybe an entire faction of people.
Between priority and productivity, what works better for you? For me, priority is the new productivity and I know that the more decisions I make, the more my willpower is depleted.
Let’s take Steve Jobs in conclusion because he adapted like a Darwinian method of adaption but he adapted by not only getting fired once. The second go around he came back and the iPod starting in the year 2001 wasn’t a success. It wasn’t a success in 2002 not even in 2003.
He created a whole system called iTunes and by the third year about three-and-a-half years into it then it started to connect with the population. It took off and what happened? The first sale is always the toughest. That led to the iPad and then the iPhone and the iWatch and the i this and the i that.
His legacy is carrying on his adaptability and his split tests and he was one of the best product launch people who ever lived. If you create systems which you probably have, the fewer decisions that you make, the less tired, exhausted you will become. In other words, more willpower, fewer decisions and systems take care of decisions for you.
[bctt tweet=”Mistakes are great because the more you make them, the smarter you get. Just make small ones.” via=”no”]
Here’s our review about a few specific insights you and I have rediscovered in this episode. Number one, your ethical influence is determined by your decisiveness. Remember Aesop’s donkey. Number two, mistakes are great. The more you make, the smarter you get, just make small ones.
My root mentor, Tibetans calls them Lama. My root Lama was Buckminster Fuller and the reason I say he’s my root mentor, it goes Bucky, Marshall, Blair, Harv, Alex. In the way I think, I have another root mentor for marketing. His name is Roy, but in my thinking style it was Bucky Fuller and that’s one of his universal principles, “Mistakes are great. The more you make, the smarter you get.”
The third distinction is big innovations come from many micro-decisions you make every single day. In fact, if you change your micro decisions each day, the small ones, do I tie my right shoe or left shoe? Do I wear this pair of clothes or that pair of clothes? I know a lot of people who only wear black because they don’t have any decision to make on what clothes to wear and that doesn’t deplete their willpower which gives you more energy to become a better ethical influencer. I want you to think big and act small. These insights can only work for you if you work them.
Speaking of reviews, I want you to go to AllSellingAside.com/iTunes and type in your biggest takeaway or a-ha moment you’ve experienced in this episode. If you’ve already done this, then iTunes won’t allow you to do it again and I thank you for your feedback. You can do this in the review section which is a little bit more interesting than typing a generalized review.
This is a specific insight that you experienced because this is about you. In the review section, iTunes will ask you to rate it. I hope I’ve earned five stars from you as a result. Go ahead, declare your one big takeaway in the iTunes review section by visiting AllSellingAside.com/iTunes that will redirect to my iTunes channel. I’m also on Google and I’m also on Stitcher. It will take three minutes out of your day but what you declare could provide you a lifetime of learning.
One final gift in honor of this sixth episode and that’s a complimentary copy of my eBook titled Alexisms: Useful Life Lessons from a Recovering Serial Entrepreneur. This is a book I’ve had a lot of fun with. It took me 25 years to write but it only takes, according to my mother Carol, 25 minutes to read. You can instantly download it at AlexismsBook.com.
That does it for this episode. I hope our paths cross next episode for the show again. This is the show dedicated to making ethical influence within your reach so that you can achieve and even exceed your sales potential.
Do whatever it takes and join me next episode because our topic will be about The Power of the Rockefeller Effect. It is not political. It is practical in sales. You’ll love it and I encourage you to invite a friend or to bring a study buddy along with you because if you have an accountability partner, you will become a faster, better and more influential in the sales process. I can’t wait to connect with you then. All good wishes.