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If in doubt, DO it! (Most of the time…)

Hiker jumping over a gap.

I was talking to a friend the other day and she said she had learned just one life lesson from her father, and that was “If in doubt don’t do it.” She felt that this has stood her in good stead throughout her life.

But my motto is the opposite! “If in doubt, DO it!”

We know that the things people regret most in life are the things they DIDN’T do (“If only I’d invited that girl to the prom,” “If only I’d taken that job in Australia,” “If only I’d gone with my friends on their trip to India,”). This might be because we can see the things we missed when we didn’t do something, whereas when we DO choose to do something we’ll never know what other roads we might have gone down instead.

Anyway, for whatever reason, I prefer to think, “If in doubt, DO it!”     

But of course, there ARE some things that you shouldn’t do. For example if there is a serious risk attached—like diving off a cliff into water of unknown depth; I would definitely say, “If in doubt DON’T do that”—it’s known to be one of the most dangerous things you can do. It’s not called ‘Tomb-stoning’ in England for nothing.

So, for a bit of fun, here are my two lists. But what did I miss??

Man standing on sand dune in vast desert
This man is not properly attired to tackle a desert trek; he has also just run out of water. He blames Chris Croft.

If in doubt DO it…..

  • Look for another job if you are unhappy/bored/you’ve got a bad boss
  • Take a risk, if you’ve weighed up the odds and it’s roughly fifty-fifty or the odds are in your favour—as long as the downside won’t completely wipe you out. I’m thinking of things like accepting a difficult contract, going to a party where you know almost nobody, agreeing to go to LA to be filmed for a training website, standing up and volunteering…
  • Talk to a stranger, maybe on a train or in a queue at an airport
  • Learn something new (a language, a skill, go on a course)
  • Go to a party/social events, maybe when you don’t feel totally in the mood, perhaps you’re a bit tired or a bit short of time—do it anyway
  • Go the extra mile—giving great service to a customer, making it better than they were expecting, better than they have paid for
  • Negotiate—if you think you might be able to negotiate, even if you think you probably can’t, it’s always worth a try.  Even if only works half the time you’re still ahead
  • Travel abroad—broadens the mind like nothing else
  • Be honest—if someone’s performance has been disappointing and you’re not going to hire them again it’s better to tell them rather than to keep making excuses about having no work for them. Or if you don’t want to share a flat with a friend, just be honest and tell them why—maybe they’re already feeling the same about you!
  • Compliment people, even if you have no ulterior motive, PARTICULARLY when you have no ulterior motive, just make them feel good
  • Start paying into your pension, as soon as you can
  • Make a decision, ANY decision, rather than procrastination
  • Ask a question if you don’t understand – don’t worry about looking stupid, everyone else is probably wondering the same thing, and who cares even if they aren’t!
  • Tell the people that you love that you love them
Frustrated young man working on laptop at home
In a fit of caffeine-induced euphoria, Simon has just ordered another pair of outrageously overpriced cycling shoes, and is wondering how he will explain this purchase to his wife (in the background). Don’t be Simon. Don’t do it.

If in doubt DON’T do it

  • Acting when angry—it’s always better to sleep on it, and then in the morning decide not to do it. Don’t send that angry email!
  • Gamble (as in betting). Commercial decisions and risks are a form of gambling, but I’m talking about professional gambling here—roulette, horses, etc. The deck is stacked against you, even if you think you’ve got a system, just don’t do it
  • Making decisions when you’re tired (or drunk!)
  • Buying stuff—those extra pair of jeans that are slightly different to your other pairs, the fancy sunglasses, etc, we have so much stuff we don’t need, cluttering up our lives, and the planet.
  • Jump or dive into water of unknown depth, as mentioned above.
  • Criticise people—it just wastes your time and upsets the other person, and all you get is worse outcomes next time
  • Give people bad news that they don’t need to know—maybe they have a slight bald patch on the top of their head, maybe their partner is having an affair, maybe their personal blog is hard to read and boring; do YOU want to be the one to tell them and be unpopular? Would they have been happier not knowing? Of course if they ask, that’s different, or if they NEED to know because it’s costing them, (e.g. their company website is hard to read and boring) then perhaps you should be the brave friend who tells them the truth. But if it makes no difference to them, why upset them?
  • Judge people who are different to you

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