My first business was a personal chef service that I started after dropping out of a community college culinary program. I learned a lot about how to start and run a business and I learned that cooking was not a passion I liked doing as a career. I closed the business after a few years, having made no real profit.
Was that business a good idea or a bad idea?
On Friday, Theresa and I got flu shots. Neither of us are thrilled about the fact that getting the shot means supporting the pharmaceutical megaliths and animal testing, and yet we’re both glad to be less likely to have the flu this season and, even more so, we’re both glad to be less likely to spread the flu virus to others, especially the elderly folks with whom we’re both in regular contact.
Was getting the flu shot a good idea or a bad idea?
I once had a meeting with a local artist about co-creating a picture book for adults about healthy, happy marriages. We were both charmed by the idea because we were both in healthy, happy marriages at the time. I wrote a little copy, he played with some image ideas but we never got past that phase. A couple of years ago, we ran back into each other only to discover that we are both now divorced.
Was that book a good idea or a bad idea?
While you might have some strong opinions about the above scenarios and see right or wrong, good or bad, you responses truly have more to do with your perspective, your life history, and your values than an objective reality.
In fact, I’m guessing if you try the thought experiment that Theresa and I ran while we ate brunch this Sunday – an experiment to come up with truly, deeply, inarguably bad ideas – you would discover, as we did, a whole lot more nuance than certainty.
In our daily lives, we go into decisions with limited information and nothing but best guesses about how those ideas might play out in the future. The lack of certainty can, indeed, be paralyzing and yet…
…might we find more freedom to decide, more space to breathe, if we could remember that there are no perfect ideas, no guarantees of ideal outcomes, and no infallible litmus tests to uncover bad ideas?
Rather, there are ideas and paths and decisions, each of which brings its own array of opportunities and challenges.
Instead of asking yourself, “Is this idea good or bad?” you might instead ask, “Are the opportunities and challenges that I can imagine might arise if I pursue this idea ones that I’m interested in taking on? What about the opportunities and challenges associated with letting this idea go?”
We crave certainty and what we get is best guesses and the chance to learn and regroup from there.
Happily, you’ve got a lifetime of experience doing just that. Continue on!