The Power of Decision-Making: How To Make Hard Decisions?

Jonathan Doyle International Motivational Speaker, Author, Executive Coach and Mentor

In this episode of the Daily Podcast, Jonathan dives straight into the topic of decision-making, inspired by his recent readings on Ulysses S. Grant’s biography. Grant’s remarkable story serves as a lens to explore the power and importance of making conscious decisions in our lives. Jonathan shares insights on why taking action is crucial, emphasizing that even uncertain decisions propel us forward. Join Jonathan as he encourages listeners to embrace the responsibility of decision-making and seize opportunities for growth.

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    Welcome Aboard: Embracing Change

     Hello there, my friend. Welcome aboard to the Daily Podcast. Jonathan is with you here. I’m glad you’re here. Let’s jump straight in. I was observing some of the podcasts last week, and I thought I did that housekeeping at the start and for regular listeners, it must be driving you insane. I do the same housekeeping each day. It’s hard to know because we get new listeners, regular listeners. I never say older listeners because it makes you think you’re old, which you’re not.

    I’m just going to jump straight in. From now on, my friends, we are entering brave new territory. There will be no housekeeping at the start of the podcast. We can do it at the end. All right, let’s do it.

    The Power of Lifelong Learning

    So I want to talk to you today about decision-making because many years ago, somebody once said to me that talking to me was like talking to the last book that I read. I think it’s true. I read an enormous amount. It’s a great joy of my life. I was reading yesterday something about Abraham Lincoln: Lincoln was famous for being a lifelong learner and had an obsession with learning. He just never stopped reading and learning and I’m the same. I just liked to read.

    Today I was reading an article on a blog that I follow. It mentioned a new book from an author that I really admire. Riding the motorbike home today from the coast, I detoured by this bookshop and bought the books so that I could keep learning. The reason I do that in the introduction is because I’m currently reading a 1,000-page biography of the American civil war General Ulysses S. Grant. I just found that biographies have such an impact on me.

    The Impact of Biographies on Personal Development

    In today's fast-paced world, staying truly present and mindful of our life's speed can be challenging
    In our fast-paced world, staying present and aware is a challenge

    I’ve spent the last few years training for ultramarathons. One of the things that really helps me with training is biographies. I always say this to people, if you want to get into audio books and you have to pass the hours of your training for something specific, biographies are hard to beat. You learn so much. They’re engaging, they’re interesting.

    I’m working my way through Grants’ biography, about page 400 at the moment, but something jumped out at me the other day that I really wanted to share with you. It was a comment around decision-making because last week on that speaking tour in Tasmania, I talked about the formation of character in our lives. And that our character, the core of our personality, is formed essentially by choices. The choices that we make are deeply related to our decisions, right? Choices are essentially our decisions.

    I often make the point to my audiences that our modern lives are moving so fast that it can be difficult for us to be really present and aware of the pace at which our lives are happening. And a lot of the decisions that we’re making, they’re being made on autopilot, or they’re just happening so quickly that we don’t really engage with them.

    Leadership Lessons from Grant: Strategic Decision-Making in Action

    Every decision is a key move in the game of success

    Last week I was reminding people about the power of decisions and to be conscious of them. So this thing about Ulysses Grant decision-making jumped out at me. I felt it was really important to share it with this audience today. You, my friend, I don’t want to recapitulate the 1000-page biography for you, but it is a fascinating figure of history.

    He’s a real anomaly. I know many of you are probably not familiar with him at all, He became the Supreme Commander of the Union Forces. In the US Civil War back in 1861, he was a general, but he became Supreme Commander in 1863. But just the most unassuming guy, like he was nothing to look at so many times. He’d be in the room because, obviously, there was no social media news, media, or electronic media. People didn’t really know who he was to look at. 

    He’d often be in a room, and he was such an average-looking character that people thought. Often they mistaken him for his butler, or his staff member for who he was, but a fascinating character history. Just the other day somebody was commenting on him in the book, giving their opinion of him, and they shared this story about decision-making.  One of the superpowers that Ulysses Grant had was the power of decision-making, because he ended up obviously in charge of an army, the total number of soldiers under his command was around 500,000 at its peak. So he’s got 500,000 people under his command.

    Decision-Making Mastery: Decisive Leadership Principles Unveiled

    Ulysses S. Grant Memorial located in Lincoln Park in Chicago, Illinois
    Ulysses S. Grant Memorial located in Lincoln Park in Chicago, Illinois

    In his early career he worked as a quartermaster. If you’re not familiar with that, it’s the person who looks after the logistics, the food, and the clothing and allocates food and clothing to soldiers. So he had developed this skill of allocating resources, but there’s this section in the book where it talks about this raw decision-making power.

    There was a big decision that came through about a big expense. It was a significant amount of money. One of his staff members said to him, “General, are you not worried that this could be wrong?” And he basically said, it could be, but the only way I’m going to find out is if I make the decision. If I find out that it’s wrong, then I can make the other decision; I can make it’s opposite decision. He also said, The one thing you can’t do in  war – and he’s obviously speaking about that in that context; he said, The one thing you can’t do is not make a decision. He said the costs are too high.

    The Imperative of Decision-Making: Wisdom for Empowered Choices

    Making a decision when it's needed is better than delaying that you fail to make one altogether
    Making a decision when it's needed is better than delaying that you fail to make one altogether

    What really resonated with me in that and what I wanted to share with you, my friends, is just the power of decision-making. It is better to pull the trigger than to live on the barrel. As I said many years ago to somebody, ‘it’s better to make the choice when you have to make the choice, than to prevaricate and procrastinate so long that you don’t make it.’

    Life, my friend, is this process where you have to choose; you have to make decisions, and some of them are going to be wrong. And I’m not talking about being frivolous, disconnected, or not caring. It’s different from that. This is something different, this is realizing that you are entrusted with the cockpit of your own life. The structure of your life is playing out in decision-making. Yes there are other factors, and I don’t discount those: our background, how we grew up, all those different things, but eventually, we are in the driver’s seat. We have to be, because if we’re not, we’re completely powerless, and then life looks pretty awful from that point.

    I would just encourage you to think about your life at the moment. Think about the para decisions that you’re making or not making, you avoiding something, or the decisions you’re not making, and I’m with you in this.

    Empowerment through Decisive Action: Catalyzing Growth and Achievement

    Ignite the engine of progress with decisive action, propelling you to greater heights of success and growth
    Spark progress through decisive action, propelling you to greater heights of success and growth

    Karen and I just had a three-day break with the family, and we’re at the coast this morning. It’s a decision we had to make. It’ isn’t a huge one, but it’s a fairly complex one. I sat with it for two or three days, and then we’ve got some time this morning to discuss it. Finally just pulled the trigger and pressed send on an email, and something happened.

    I don’t know if it’s the right one. You never fully know, right? You never, we never, are always going to know that the decision was perfect. And you look for signs; you look for peace. You’re looking for decisions that don’t cause harm to yourself or others, you’re looking for decisions that help you flourish and grow as a person.

    But I think the essence of today’s message, my friend, is that, decisions or choices, you just got to make them. You want to get moving in your life, you want to move to the next level. Then, accidents happen, sometimes you get lucky and things happen. How many times have you heard stories about lottery winners that you know win a hundred million and their lives fall apart.

    Even if you add something that you think you want to your life, you still have to make decisions. There is no point at which we get to stop making them unless we’re completely incapacitated. You’re listening to this, you’re still in the game. So look into your life today and ask yourself, What decision can I make?

    Igniting Momentum for Success with Decisive Action

    Seize the moment and propel yourself towards success with decisive action, as we pave the way for a future filled with triumphs.
    Seize the moment and propel yourself to success through decisive action

    I came into the studio just now and rode maybe 400 kilometers today on the motorbike with my son on the back, I got home. It’s hot, and I’m like, man, I’m gassed. That’s a big day, especially with motorcycle riding. But I’m like, no, there’s things that I’m working on. And I said, No, I parked the bike, jumped in the car, came into the studio, let’s get this done. Let’s get the content out there. Let’s make the decision. There’s a part of me that wants to just take the afternoon off, and there’s times when that makes sense, but I’m like, not, this is, and that’s the inflection point.

    We often think that our lives are going to miraculously resolve the way we want them to at some distant point in the future. But that distant point that you're thinking about will only ever be the culmination of the decisions that you're making now.

    With the decisions that I’m making now, I can’t know if this podcast reaches a particular decision-maker who then starts to work with me, books me for a conference event, or trains their staff. And it opens up a whole new set of parameters. All of that is hinged on the decision to come into the studio.

    So get in the game, my friend. Get in the game. Switch onto your decisions. Don’t wait, what is it? Paralysis by analysis. We’re never always going 100 percent. No, we just have to execute.

    Stay Connected

    My friend, if you like what you’re hearing, please make sure you’ve subscribed. Everything you need to know about me is on the website: You can book me to speak. You can find out about everything that I do on the website. And if you’re on Instagram, you can find me at @jdoylespeaks one word at jdoylespeaks.

    God bless you. My friend, go make some decisions. This has been the Daily Podcast, my name is Jonathan Doyle. You and I are going to talk again tomorrow.

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    Jonathan Doyle


    I’m on a mission to liberate the potential of the incredible people that make up your organisation, school, or business.

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