General Question

jlm11f's avatar

When making a decision, what is more important to consider?

Asked by jlm11f (12335 points ) October 29th, 2008

Is it more important to make the decision based on the safest, no risk route OR is it better to take the harder, less trodden on route, which could be more beneficial in the long run? The former (simpler route) means having 100% guarantee of reaching the “next step” in your career/ambition/goal but perhaps not being as prepared. And the latter means maybe not making it to the next step at all, but if you do, you will be better prepared to face the hurdles and perhaps will be more successful in the long run.

Does any of this make sense to you?

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24 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Too abstract, PnL. Could you give us a concrete example? Most decisions are not based on abstractions.

jessehattabaugh's avatar

“the latter means maybe not making it to the next step at all, but if you do, you will be better prepared to face the hurdles”

If you took a different route, you will have had different experiences, and therefore may in fact be less prepared for the hurdles which your peers have already learned to conquer by taking the safe typical approach. Sometimes paths less trodden are shorter, but more often they are deadends. Take them only if you have some insight which other people lack. Have faith in your judgement, but also be critical of it. It’s a hard line to walk, but that’s life.

jlm11f's avatar

I know this is abstract, but if you can just run with it and tell me what your gut instinct says, then maybe after more answers i will expand some more. Oh and some more info: both options take the same amount of time. And you get more experience/learn more from the latter path.

poofandmook's avatar

Seems to me like maybe, in the subject of career advancement, the less-trodden path is just the long way to learn what you’ll learn on the other road… only without the satisfaction (read: compensation).

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

Hmm… I think I know what you’re getting at. I guess it gets down to “do it for love, or do it for money.” I’m all about delayed gratification, especially if there’s learning involved. Which is the more mentally challenging? Which will lead to a perception of thought leadership? It sounds like whatever the decision is, there’s a bit of “is it a job” or “is it a career” at play.

laureth's avatar

Sounds like it’s time for a risk/reward ratio assessment.

scamp's avatar

With all the stress I face on a daily basis now, I choose the safe way. That way I have something to fall back on if I’m not fully prepared, and make mistakes along the way.

And it helps if you have a “poof” on your side

SuperMouse's avatar

How much will you learn from the job with the long term potential? I mean if you are taking a short cut, will your lack of preparedness cost you? If you go with the longer term option, do you have a guarantee of taking the next step in the long run?

Personally, I am big fan of what my boss used to call the Ben Franklin List.

nikipedia's avatar

Sorry but I agree with the previous sentiment; it depends on the circumstances. Some risks are worth taking; some aren’t. I would be happy to start a color-coded spreadsheet on a shared google document for you if you’re having trouble making a decision!!!! :)

gailcalled's avatar

1. Ambition
2. Energy levels and number of hours needed for sleep.
3. Ability to prioritize and ability to rarely procrastinate.
4. Willingness to let career goals dominate your life, for now.
5. Define what is “success” to you.
6. Willingness to sacrifice other parts of your life e.g.; friends, downtime, family, daydreaming, etc.

scamp's avatar

@ gailcalled

1. Not so much anymore.. I’m just going to punch the clock and do my time.

2. Energy.. sleep? What’s that?

3. I do what needs to be done, and leave the rest for the energetic whippersnappers!

4. They get me for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, and that’s all they get!

5. I don’t worry so much about being successful anymore.

6. Again.. what’s downtime? I collapse on sundays so I can do it all again the following week.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

I still have to recommend the learning path over the easy money path. Knowledge is always useful, and can be that edge when you least expect it. It opens doors that you don’t even know are there if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

jholler's avatar

if you take the easy route, what sets you apart from the crowd?

Knotmyday's avatar

If the “hard” path means quitting your current job- reconsider.

richardhenry's avatar

It entirely depends on the career you want to enter. For what I want to do, it’s the harder, less trodden route.

BronxLens's avatar

In case it helps, here’s a decision-making tool found in “What color is your parachute”: Prioritization chart

greylady's avatar

PnL, I have no idea how old you are, but what I can tell you is what I did.
When I was in my second year of nurses training I saw that I could not earn enough to pay for the last year. I could take the “easy way” out, get a bank loan, graduate, and get a job, then pay off the loan in 2–3 years. Or I could join the Army and they would pay my last year but I would owe them 2 years of active duty- their choice what to do with me. I chose to join the Army, and have never regretted it, even the year in Viet Nam, (and that was 37 years ago).

Bri_L's avatar

@PnL – This is coming from the perspective of someone who never got a bad review in his life, or went with out a raise, has fourteen years experience in his field and finds himself 1 year and 2 months unemployed except for the freelance and contract work he can scrounge up.

In my opinion, there are no guarantees. In this climate especially. I would take the safest route you can. Now especially. Move forward. I have always found that risky options present themselves with greater frequency.

With what you’ve given that is all I can say except, I wish you nothing but the very, very best of luck! Keep us posted!

augustlan's avatar

Is there any possible way to do both? Take the job, learn on the side…that type of thing?

tinyfaery's avatar

If it’s the next step in your career, and you are up to the task, why do you think you wouldn’t be prepared? No one can be prepared for something they have never done; you go into it with as much background knowledge as possible, and sink until you swim.

jlm11f's avatar

Let me start off by saying thank you to everyone who replied. Lurve to everyone I absolutely love you guys! Really! By reading your answers, I feel like I have reached a better clarity with my situation. So I sincerely want to thank you for taking the time to care and answer the Q with your best judgment :). I do want to respond to each of you, but I am afraid I am too tired for that tonight. I need to turn in but will be back tomorrow to do so! Just to let you know, I sort of already had made my decision (i chose the latter route), but a few friends/family made me doubt it by spouting all sorts of different opinions (some logical, others not so much) at me. And my major counselor/supervisor/mentor got….fired and the new guy is absolutely clueless! So I felt I needed to “regroup” and start from the basics…which is a major reason I kept the Q sort of general/abstract. I know decisions vary strongly with the specifics, but sometimes you need to stop getting so deep and look at the big picture.

Also, this doesn’t really have to do with quitting a job for the pursuit of higher education (as romantic as that does sound). It’s more along the lines of taking too much responsibility at one time (which I tend to do), and certain concerned well wishers were worried I might break and go AWOL at the time I need to be at my best. So they wanted me to really lighten my load and enjoy life before it gets too crazy. But I still think I can manage to both…so we’ll see.

galileogirl's avatar

As I passed 55, I had to decide whether to invest in a hot stock market or CD’s at 5%. I’m still smiling. ‘Nuff said.

lapilofu's avatar

I know you’ve already come to a conclusion, and I’m not sure what your age and situation are, but I really want to share something Paul Graham said about risk and being young in an essay attempting to convince undergrads to start a startup after graduation:

“Most undergrads probably have more debts than assets. They may feel they have nothing to invest. But that’s not true: they have their time to invest, and the same rule about risk applies there. Your early twenties are exactly the time to take insane career risks. [...] If you start a startup, you’ll probably fail. Most startups fail. It’s the nature of the business. But it’s not necessarily a mistake to try something that has a 90% chance of failing, if you can afford the risk. Failing at 40, when you have a family to support, could be serious. But if you fail at 22, so what? If you try to start a startup right out of college and it tanks, you’ll end up at 23 broke and a lot smarter. Which, if you think about it, is roughly what you hope to get from a graduate program.”

If your situation is at all related to these ideas, I highly recommend you read the essay.

Allie's avatar

Haven’t we already talked about this, P?

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