70/30 vs. 51/49 decisions

I listened to this great podcast the other day in which seed investor Mike Maples is interviewed by James Beshara. James’ podcast Below The Line aims to uncover the true stories of founders’ journeys before they were successful, including honest recollections of all of the ups and downs along the way. Most successful people tend to only share the surface level highlights of their stories, and as such, that is all that most people get to hear. James’ podcast is refreshingly real and I recommend it strongly to anyone who is interested in learning about the true journeys of entrepeneurs.

In the episode that I mentioned, Mike offered a useful framework for decision-making that I had never heard before. He said that most decisions are either 70/30 or 51/49 in terms of right/wrong.

If we feel we are dealing with a 70/30 decision, then we feel we know which decision is the right one. Unfortunately, we often hesitate to make the right decision even when we know it is the right decision. Worse than that, we often make the wrong decision even when we know it is the wrong one. This is an important point to recognize. We can all work as hard as we want to improve our decision-making abilities, but if we do not make the right decisions when we are confident they are right, it is all for naught. With 70/30 decisions, Mike says that people should just make the right decision and make it quickly. Time is a valuable resource and any time spent dwelling further on a 70/30 decision is a waste of time and a disservice to self.

51/49 decisions comprise most of the rest of them. These are the decisions in which we do not feel confident either way. The trick here is to feel equally confident both ways. If it is a 51/49 decision, it will be very hard to argue that either way is right or wrong. Same as with 70/30 decisions, we should move forward quickly without dwelling on 51/49 decisions, not because we know the right decision, but precisely because we do not know it. I have written about the ambiguity between right and wrong and good and bad here and here in the past and it is a core principle that I rely on a lot.

The 70/30 vs. 51/49 framework for decision-making is intended to help us make more good decisions faster. Combined with a sound approach to analyzing those decisions in the first place, this should lead to a better path as directed by these good decisions.

Maybe you can make a 70/30 decision right now.