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On Choosing Your Future

This week I received a kind invitation to contribute to a useful book. My contribution (about 600 words total) might serve small and medium sized business owners, some who potentially could become clients. The small revenue from the book could eventually cover the initial (modest) investment. It would certainly add to my list of offerings on my book page on my website. It would be help the lead author, who said it may only take about two hours or so. The choice to contribute to the book seemed like an easy decision.

Yet, I declined.

My reason? Human limitations.

I was asked to make an immediate (ok, overnight, while I was sleeping) commitment. While I have great respect for the savvy businessperson who invited me, this gave little time to look into the track record of the publisher I’d never heard of, or check on any of the 99 contributing co-authors. Most of the book was written, and my topic would need to not duplicate others. I’d have three days, plus a weekend if I needed it, to meet the deadline.

The invitation would require prioritizing this writing over a schedule packed full of activities I had already chosen, including completing my 3,000 word chapter for another book with a June 30 deadline (more on this topic on an upcoming post), client meetings, my Vistage CEO Peer Advisory Group build work, prior commitments to myself, volunteer commitments to others, and plans for the weekend with family. Though the financial investment was modest, it wasn’t part of my business budget so saying yes would also require resetting carefully made financial plans.

The choice to reallocate time and resources always comes with opportunity costs. In this case, to me, these outweighed any possible benefits. I kept my commitment to get a clear answer to the main author first thing next morning. To spend two hours or more writing a contribution to a book of tips by 100 authors, plus the time and effort it would take to reset my schedule and finances, didn’t fit in my fishbowl.

What do I mean by fishbowl? Take a look at Barry Schwartz’s 2005 TED Talk about The Paradox of Choice. Yes to more is not always a good thing. Too many choices can wreck your future. Sometimes saying no to good opportunities, and limiting your choices, is best. Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs was known for wearing black turtlenecks, blue jeans and the same brand of sneakers. He knew he had a finite capacity to make decisions, so chose not to have to think about what to wear.

I’ve decided to turn down writing invites for compilations that don’t offer great revenue opportunities. Writing a weekly blog is one commitment to myself that I’m working on keeping.

I invited my friend to guest blog for me when the book comes out, it might be useful to some of my readers. I hope I can help by sharing space here, though I do know sometimes even good opportunities must be declined.

How do you choose? What choices can you eliminate? What will you give up to pursue your best yes?

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