What is this leading me closer to?

Last month, I applied for a role in the Product team at my company. It had been on my mind for months to explore this space since I have always had a knack for creating things and wanted to experience it at an enterprise level.

What excited me the most was the scale of opportunity and the ability to develop structured problem-solving thinking.

Well, that’s what I told myself, at least.

But do I really care if I have these skills? I have always been facing problems like everyone else and have managed to wriggle my way out on most occasions. Sometimes bruised, sometimes unscathed, sometimes wiser. Moreover, challenges outside of work have always had more breadth to deal with. Then, why do I suddenly care about ‘scale’ and ‘structured problem solving’. Even if I do well in my new role (btw, what should even be a success metric here!?), does that necessarily make me a better person? Maybe it does, maybe it does not.

Whatever stage of life, there will always be decisions to be made.

That got me thinking for some reason. I went back to the trusted ‘Why, Why, Why,….’ in hope of getting to the bottom of my motives. After some thinking, I could think of two reasons:

  1. It will bring me closer to the outside job market (since Product Management is hot right now)
  2. Earning more is better than earning less

Both the above points are debatable because of the number of alternatives available for each but these were my personal reasons : )

What I concluded is both of these are deterministically positive reasons and hence if I had any doubts on whether I should continue to explore my current role (PnL Management of one of the biggest geographies for the company), I now have an answer.

In the end, I accepted the position.

When I had finished the entire process (applying for the role, going through the interview process and aligning stakeholders on timelines), I started to reflect back on what should have been THE QUESTION that could have saved me time while giving a clear winner.

After a few days, there was one I could be convinced about:

What is this leading me closer to?

All of my thinking can start from and end at this question:

a. if I clearly know the answer to this question, I instantly get intuited whether it is leading me in the direction I want my life to progress, or

b. if I do not have a clear answer to this, I need to delve deeper. It only implies I don’t even know what’s on the table – always a dangerous (not adventurous) path to follow.

Not only career choices, this question can unravel many of our other subconscious thoughts that need streamlining. If I ask myself this question while having a bitterballen with beer, the answer would mostly be: Another week of intense work to shed that last layer of lower belly fat and the number of weeks would only increase with the number of bitterballen.

While I agree this can kill the joy of small things (as in the example above), this is an extremely powerful question to ask if you value something – such as your career, health or relationships.

I’d recommend finding areas of life where this could act as an anchor – things that you care about. It could be the three main goals for the year, reducing/growing interactions with certain types of people, buying a house or making a choice between certain types of it, etc. 

The moment you fit this question into the equation, you would also realise what are you displacing (or giving up) to make way for this decision. Things will become clearer and you will be left with an almost measurable trade-off between the thing in hand and the potential upside the choice would bring. Sure, you would still need to back your decisions with effort and discipline to achieve the outcome (maybe a post for another day!), but at least the path would lay out the possible landings it can give.

So, what are you going to use this question for going forward and what are other powerful questions you could ask to expedite decision making? 

It is not often that I get to sit down and think like this, so let’s spar : )

Cheers!

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