Tag Archives: decision-making

Samuel Johnson

Sir, it is no matter what you teach [children] first, any more than what leg you shall put into your breeches first. Sir, you may stand disputing which is best to put in first, but in the mean time, your breech is bare. Sir, while you are considering which of two things you should teach your children, another boy has learnt them both.

Samuel Johnson, in James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, London, 1791, vol. 1, p. 245

Ramit Sethi

[Y]ou could spend hundreds of hours doing a detailed comparison of the total number of funds offered, frequency of mailings, and alternative-investment accounts available, but more is lost from indecision than bad decisions.

Ramit Sethi, I Will Teach You to Be Rich: No Guilt, No Excuses, Just a 6-week Program that Works, New York, 2009, p. 87

Benjamin Franklin

In the Affair of so much Importance to you, wherein you ask my Advice, I cannot for want of sufficient Premises, advise you what to determine, but if you please I will tell you how.

When these difficult Cases occur, they are difficult chiefly because while we have them under Consideration all the Reasons pro and con are not present to the Mind at the same time; but sometimes one Set present themselves, and at other times another, the first being out of Sight. Hence the various Purposes or Inclinations that alternately prevail, and the Uncertainty that perplexes us.

To get over this, my Way is, to divide half a Sheet of Paper by a Line into two Columns, writing over the one Pro, and over the other Con. Then during three or four Days Consideration I put down under the different Heads short Hints of the different Motives that at different Times occur to me for or against the Measure. When I have thus got them all together in one View, I endeavour to estimate their respective Weights; and where I find two, one on each side, that seem equal, I strike them both out: If I find a Reason pro equal to some two Reasons con, I strike out the three. If I judge some two Reasons con equal to some three Reasons pro, I strike out the five; and thus proceeding I find at length where the Ballance lies; and if after a Day or two of farther Consideration nothing new that is of Importance occurs on either side, I come to a Determination accordingly.

And tho’ the Weight of Reasons cannot be taken with the Precision of Algebraic Quantities, yet when each is thus considered separately and comparatively, and the whole lies before me, I think I can judge better, and am less likely to take a rash Step; and in fact I have found great Advantage from this kind of Equation, in what may be called Moral or Prudential Algebra.

Benjamin Franklin, letter to Joseph Priestley, September 19, 1772

Samuel Johnson

Life is not long, and too much of it must not pass in idle deliberation how it shall be spent; deliberation, which those who begin it by prudence, and continue it with subtilty, must, after long expence of thought, conclude by chance. To prefer one future mode of life to another, upon just reasons, requires faculties which it has not pleased our Creator to give us.

Samuel Johnson, in James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, London, 1791, vol. 1, p. 282