Naturally, you’re naturally nervous to try something new. So you look for guidance. Advice. Opinions. Perspectives.

You listen and weigh and evaluate.

But you never start. 

Sure, seeking input before making a big decision makes sense. We’re encouraged to run our ideas by other people.

And sometimes that approach even works… but not when you need to make a huge decision.

That’s when the power of the group works against you — because group thinking almost always leads to the middle ground. Groups grind away edges and sharp corners. Groups strip away outlier opinions.  Input, feedback, and especially (however well-intentioned) devil’s advocacy results in safe, secure… and similar.

Plus, group decisions give you an out. Other people can be at least partly responsible. Other people can be wrong.

When you make the decision, everything rests on you: Your vision, your passion, your motivation, and your sense of responsibility.

So you’ll try harder if only to prove others wrong. You’ll fight through every obstacle and roadblock, if only to prove yourself right.

You will do everything possible to make it happen.

Which is why, if you want your life to be different, the only opinion that truly matters is yours.

Need to make a huge decision? Here’s how you can still get input and benefit from different opinions… while still making sure you, and only you, make the final decision.

Start with your “crazy” idea. 

Choose something you believe in late at night… but in the cold light of day feel is impossible.

Or choose an idea you’ve been told will never work.

(I once thought being asked to giving a TED Talk would be impossible for someone like me. Turns out I was wrong.)

Look for data, not opinions. 

Input from other people is useful, but only if you view that input as data.

Opinions carry extra weight, like the weight of credibility (“She’s really smart, so I’m sure she’s right”), the weight of guilt (“If it turns out he’s right, I’ll never hear the end of it”), or the weight of safety (“He’s probably right; I’m sure there’s a reason no one has tried this before”).

“I think you’re crazy to open a restaurant in this town,” is an opinion. It may be accurate. It may not be accurate. It’s just an opinion.

If you value the person’s perspective, ask how they arrived at their conclusion. Get the data behind the decision.

Ignore everything that isn’t data — warnings, cautionary tales, and well-intentioned but poorly founded advice  — since you already know all those things.

Evaluate the data. 

Data analysis is easy when opinions and “authority” are stripped away.

Make a pros and cons list. Apply sensitivities. Be objective. Be smart.

You know how.

Decide how strongly you believe… 

Analysis will only take you so far, since critical thinking tends to steer decisions towards conventional wisdom.

An innovative product only looks like a sure thing in hindsight. The emergence of a new industry only seems inevitable after it has emerged.

At some point, someone believed when others didn’t.

…then decide if that someone is you.

If you believe when others don’t — and a major portion of that belief is based on analysis, not gut feel — then go for it. Start a business. Sell a business. Enter a new market. Take a chance on a new product.

Or change careers. Or train for a marathon. Or whatever it is you’ve always wanted to do, but other people told you were crazy to try.

Trust that you’ll work harder, and faster, and longer… because the decision was made by the only person that really matters.


Originally published on Inc.

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