How To Make Good Decisions As An Entrepreneur

Today I'm going to look at how to make good decisions as an entrepreneur.

Julia Galef's TED Talk

Credit for the background material goes to Julia Galef on the TED Talk below.

It's only an 11 minute video and well worth a watch.

For the “time-challenged” Julia Galef explores why we think we're right even when we're wrong.

Alfred Dreyfus

She tells the nineteenth century story of Alfred Dreyfus a French Officer of Jewish background.

Dreyfus was unjustly convicted of spying for the German Army, based on the suspicions of other officers, probably fuelled by anti-Semitism. Despite there being no corroborating evidence, fellow officers were completely convinced of his guilt and Dreyfus spent years in prison, protesting his innocence.

Finally he was exonerated when fellow officer Colonel Picquart (originally convinced of Dreyfus' guilt) started to ask “What if we're wrong?”.

How could the decision to imprison an officer with an exemplary record have been made, without evidence?

The Decision Mindsetsoldier-px-250

Julia Galef proposes that there are two distinct mindsets:

Soldier: his role is defending the position at all costs, adrenalin fuelled, acting on reflex, tribalistic

Scout: instead his role is to map out the terrain, gather information, gain understanding and foresee the obstacles

Both are vital roles – but to make good decisions in a non-combat situation, it's better to be in the “scout” mindset.

Motivated Reasoning

The “soldier” mindset passionately wants one idea to “win” while others “lose”.

While this can been seen in soldiers fighting wars, there are many examples in day-to-day life:

Relationships – “Love is blind” – someone may be completely blinkered about faults of a new partner that are glaringly obvious to everyone else

Health – The harmful effects of smoking are beyond doubt but – not only do the addicts cling to the habit, new smokers seem undeterred from starting

Sports – If a decision is awarded against his team, the die-hard fan will protest it strongly and want action replays, but if your team benefits from the decision – well, let's move on quickly. It was a good call!

Politics – I have to confess that in the run-up to the recent EU Referendum here in the UK, I became aware that (after I'd considered both sides and made my decision) I was only reading articles and watching reports that supported my own “side”!

Unconscious Process

Although I became aware of my own “motivated reasoning”, it's mostly a process that happens completely unconsciously. You THINK you're being objective, but you're probably not, because you're making your decisions based on emotion rather than on facts.

scout-px-375The “scout” is:

  • Trained to see what's really there, even if it's unpleasant or inconvenient
  • Curious – itching to solve a puzzle and get the right answer
  • Open to being wrong, and not afraid to change his mind
  • Grounded – his feelings of self-worth do not depend on being right all the time
  • Proud of spotting a mistake or pitfall and avoiding it

How To Make Good Decisions As An Entrepreneur

Clearly you should aim to be in “scout” mindset when you're making a buying choice. This is particularly important for solopreneurs who may not have the luxury of considering other people's opinions. (Not that “other people” helped Albert Dreyfus at all!)

mistakes to avoid in online businessSo for instance if you're choosing a new networking business, it's easy to get swayed by the excitement of a new product and a new plan – while forgetting the last venture that you quit after 3 months when you couldn't make enough sales for the auto-ships. And neither could your team, so they all quit too.

There's no need to throw MLM / networking out of the window as a possible business. Instead just learn from your previous poor decisions and choose a better compensation plan that removes what you found as obstacles in the past.

Making Good Decisions As A Purchaser

It's not just business decisions where you need to get into “scout mode”. On my recent holiday I bought a lovely print of a dog (what else?) completely ignoring the fact that I have no room to display it. Matt – charged with hanging it on his recent visit – was not amused when I asked his help.

“Exactly where can you hang this?” he asked. I finally sacrificed two other smaller pictures, and my new “Top Dog” has pride of place – err with three other dogs in the same room.

A little “scout” mentality would not have gone amiss before I bought the new picture. But, there again, I like it and it gives me a little smile every time I pass it now.

So… I bought on emotion – as many sales-training courses predict.

As A Vendor

The dilemma for small business owners is that we need to be in “scout” mode when purchasing – but when selling, we need to take our purchasers into the “soldier”, adrenalin fuelled state to motivate them to “BuyBUY NOW Now”.

Or do we?

The “Buy Now” mentality doesn't sit well with the philosophy that people buy from people they “know, like and trust”. “Buy Now” might get you a quick sale, but it's not building a trusting relationship where people will make repeat purchases.

I struggle with sales pages and adverts. I know the theory of “Sell Benefits not Features”, and “Sell The Sizzle Not The Sausage” but I tend to go into logic mode rather than emotion mode.

That's because I'm realistic enough to know that while my prospect may be yearning to “Retire with your cash-generating blog within 30 days” it's extremely unlikely to happen, so I can't bring myself to promote that message.

A Happy Medium

Because I know that “selling” is my weakness I've outsourced it, by promoting a Private Members Club networking business where the marketing materials are already provided. This means the business I am promoting takes the “sizzle selling” off my hands.

Do You Make Good Decisions?

As a buyer? Were you aware of Motivated Reasoning before listening to Julia Galef's TED Talk? Will you now change your mindset?

And, as an advertiser? Do you sell the sizzle or the sausage? Have you tried both? Which have you found worked best for you?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Joy Healey

I left it too late to plan for a financially secure retirement. Don't make my mistake. Start building an extra income with a part-time (or full-time) business online. Think you don't have time? Can't afford the start-up cost? Can't meet sales targets? Contact me for free advice (no obligation) on the best fit for your circumstances. Exciting retirement business opportunities here.

Francis Quarshie - July 26, 2016

Hi Joy,

First time here. And I’m already enjoying every bit of what I’m seeing on your blog.

Let’s get to business:

The tough thing in life I’ve grown to master is decision making. But there is always room for improvement.

I use to suffer so much when in a dilemma.

My approach is something many might not agree to.

It’s spiritual.

I wouldn’t go further. But all I’ll say is after using this proven “Scout” mindset, listen to your spirit.

The Scout mindset is what every reasonable decision maker would use. That’s what I think.

Your approach to this topic is matured. And has revealed to me how to decide better.

Great post.



    Joy Healey - July 26, 2016

    Hi Francis

    Welcome to my blog, and I’m pleased you’ve found it helpful.

    I too go “round and round” when trying to make decisions, so if you find a spiritual approach helpful I wouldn’t disagree with you.

    Thinking like a scout will help me in future I’m sure, and I’m pleased you think it will help you make better decisions.

    Joy – Blogging After Dark

Chery Schmidt - July 27, 2016

Hello Joy, I really enjoyed Julia Galef’s video, she is quite the speaker HUH?
I also like the Scout mindset, as she has stated it is always good to see the facts as objectively as possible!! I believe it is all about taking responsibility..

Great share my friend.
Chery :))

    Joy Healey - July 27, 2016

    Hi Chery,

    Yeah – wish I could speak like Julia Galef does. A really entertaining and important message without taking too long to tell the story. Valuable talent that.

    Taking responsibility for your decisions is an important point, and decisions made from a “scout” mindset will probably be easier to take responsibility for – because they should be better decisions.

    Thanks for taking time out of your holiday to visit my blog 🙂

    Joy – Blogging After Dark

Edward Thorpe - July 27, 2016

Hi Joy,

Good post with a balanced look at an activity some of us have difficulty doing. (My Wife comes to mind 😉

People, or relationships, wise, I try to make decisions from my heart, without interfering with other lives.

The older I get, and I’m pretty damn old!, I worry less about the effects my decisions ‘could’ have upon myself, and more about the fallout from the spreading ripples on the pond.

Happy you mentioned selling as many people think ‘sell’ is 4 letter word. Well, it is, but only if you’re doing it wrong. Sincerely trying to ‘help’, not coerce someone into actions they’re not ready for, is honorable, thoughtful and fun!

Oh, solider vs. scout – smart metaphor – but, as you know, it’s a more complicated process… Does promote insights into human nature though.

Good post with a great sales letter lurking about!

    Joy Healey - July 27, 2016

    Hi Edward,

    Perhaps some women (me included!) have difficulty with decision making because we’re more “scout” than “soldier”.

    I must confess my decision making process (on certain matters – probably the personal/family ones) is VERY convoluted. What will Matt and Russ and their partners think? What will my Dad and my sister think? And of course within just those 6 people there’s probably at least 4 completely contradictory opinions.

    Put like that…. why on earth do I bother considering what they think?

    Of course it’s not as simple as just ignoring them and doing what I want (which I sometimes do) because they all have intelligent opinions that I would be dumb to totally dismiss. “Scout” Matt is probably the one I listen to the most because he tells me what I think, then listens to what I think. He probably has the best record of anyone for being right, and there are many times when I wish I had followed his advice rather than done my own thing.

    Interesting point about decision making changing as you get older and will have less effect on yourself.

    On a very trivial level I bought some light bulbs the other day and they were expensive – very expensive. Because they were “guaranteed for 27 years”.

    At the price they were, I nearly didn’t buy them, because I don’t honestly expect to be even on this earth, let alone this house in 27 years time!! But the optimist in me took over and I bought them and clearly labelled the pack showing exactly where I had installed them – and told Matt, so he can claim his refund if they go before 27 years. Heehee!

    Yes – the selling question. I’m not a natural sales-person, and much more into helping people make the right choice for their circumstances. That’s why I prefer people to get in touch to discuss whether they’re appropriate for them. Because for some people on my “list” they’re NOT appropriate, whereas others would benefit massively.

    Although I shouldn’t let my own opinions interfere with what people decide to do, I would hate to think I’d “talked someone into” something that’s not right for them. It’s not “me” at all.

    Enjoy the rest of the week.

    Joy – Blogging After Dark

Arpit Roy - July 27, 2016

Hi Joy,

Love the whole ‘scout mindset’ portrayel. I have watched the video earlier and it’s very insightful.

I have more or a ‘soldier mindset’. Let’s take the example of football. I support Chelsea F.C. and get totally pissed off if a decision is given against us. While, it’s ok to move on if we benefit. Mistakes happen, right? Even Refs are humans 🙂

Of course, we must be reasonable in whatever we do in life. I recently attended a seminar where they emphasised the power of negotiation to solve an issue – without someone winning or loosing.

In the end, making a good decision is what matters the most.

Thanks for the excellent post Joy. Have a good one!

~ Arpit Roy

    Joy Healey - July 27, 2016

    Hi Roy,

    I have some friends who are Chelsea fans – and, yeah, know what you mean 🙂

    I guess there’s a soldier and a scout in all of us, and whichever one emerges varies from situation to situation.

    Negotiating is a very good way to resolve any dispute. Aiming to have a win-win outcome can only be good. Thanks for adding this to the decision making tools.

    Joy – Blogging After Dark

Donna Merrill - July 29, 2016

Hi Joy,

What a great guide of how to make good decisions as an entrepreneur! I like the way you used the “Scout” and the “soldier” as metaphors.

We have to rely on that “scout” to gather all the information we need as entrepreneurs. Then sift through what we really need as opposed to all those shiny objects that is not necessary. Those things that take us off our path, are costly both with our time and our money. Then make that decision of what is needed to continue on our path.

The ‘soldier” – the take action part of us. The part that has the training of winning. Winning doesn’t mean taking the road of luxury, rather putting everything we have into the road chosen. Knowing that there will be bumps (mistakes) and learning from them like a wise woman instead of giving power to that mistake.

Get these two together in our mindset and we can all be successful entrepreneurs.

Awesome post.


    Joy Healey - July 29, 2016

    Hi Donna,

    Thanks for persisting with your comment! So sorry you had problems (as did one or two others). My theme developer has looked at them and – fingers crossed – fixed it now!

    It’s a good point you make about combining the “scout” and “soldier” mindsets. So we scout before we make a decision, and then implement with the winning mindset of the soldier. As a one-woman band it’s tough to combine the two. It would be great to have a “David” in the same industry to discuss things with 🙂

    I think I must be the Edison of the online business world – an expert in finding out what doesn’t work! But I bounce back from my mistakes, learn from them and move on – hopefully sharing my experiences here, while I get closer to that final goal.

    Joy – Blogging After Dark

Ravi Roshan Jaiswal - July 30, 2016

Hi Joy, Good decisions play wonderful role to be successful in our life. But, I think there is a lack of making good decision in many person that causes their business and daily routine to founder.

Making good decision in difficult circumstances helps people to get stay away from further difficulties.

Glad to read about two distinct mindsets ie. soldiers and scout. You are absolutely right that a soldier is addicted to winning always. Your post on making a good and effective decision is useful because it’s necessary to have making good decision quality to every entrepreneurs.

Making a good decision determines the possibilities of our winning and losing.

Thanks for sharing nice post on making good decision. It’s really worth for me.

Have a good day.
– Ravi.

    Joy Healey - July 30, 2016

    Hi Ravi,

    Yes, sometimes making a good decision when you’re in difficulties can stop things getting worse. So perhaps if you have spent time and money on something that hasn’t really worked out it’s better to decide to “cut your losses” rather than “throwing good money after bad”.

    Glad you found it helpful, and enjoy your weekend.

    Joy – Blogging After Dark

Saurav Kumar Nayak - August 2, 2016

Hi Joy,

I love reading your post very much.
I like the idea of segmenting your post into different categories such as for entrepreneur, for vendor and purchasers. In this way user can easily navigate for the information they are looking.
For an Entrepreneur there may be several opportunities which can be turned as business but from his/her experience and feasibility analysis he/she has to choose best opportunity.
I think this is most difficult stage for an entrepreneur because most of the time he/she is completely blank of ideas to implement that.
In the early phase of start-up how the owner responses to situation decide the future of that start-up.
Thanks for wonderful ideas and relating it to other situation to make it more clear.
With regards,

    Joy Healey - August 3, 2016

    Hi Saurav,

    Good point – our decision making strategies can change at different times of our business career. So when we’ve mastered one technique, then it may be time to move on and look at another one that we wouldn’t have considered earlier on.

    I’m glad you like the way I split up my posts. Because they are quite long there may be a tendency for people to skim read them until they get to the relevant section for them. I use a free WordPress plugin to generate the Table of Contents.

    Thanks for visiting,

    Joy – Blogging After Dark

Jeff - August 3, 2016

Relationships are more important than we think, and surrounding ourselves with the right people can make all the difference. Thanks for sharing!

    Joy Healey - August 3, 2016

    Hi Jeff,

    Yes – we all like the people who are important to us to agree with our decisions.

    Joy – Blogging After Dark

Kim Willis - August 10, 2016

Hi Joy

Fascinating topic. I reckon I’m a hybrid, both a Scout and Soldier.

But as Donna has said, it’s about helping us make better decisions. When I had a traditional business, I used a system to evaluate people. The idea was to use the system to help me choose better quality people to work for me.

Of course, some people would rather do anything than make a decision. They’re petrified of making a mistake so choose inertia instead.

Ah decisions, decisions

Think I’ll sleep on it first


    Joy Healey - August 12, 2016

    Hi Kim,

    As so often happens, I learned such a lot from what people said in the comments here. Particularly Donna, about “making better decision”.

    Ooh – I’d love to read about your evaluation system to choose better people to work with. Hope that might appear on your blog sometime in the future? It could eliminate a lot of wasted time.

    A light-hearted example of evaluating people was when we were interviewing for a programmer’s post in our software company. One potential employee turned up, late, and with a half-eaten bar of chocolate in his hand. Didn’t need a complicated system to evaluate him; and he was out of the door as soon as any legal niceties had been satisfied. I mean, really! Do people not THINK?

    My own decision making style needs working on. Perhaps a little more inertia (aka focus) wouldn’t go amiss.

    Glad you found it an interesting topic.

    Joy – Blogging After Dark

Mary Sloane - August 14, 2016

Hi Joy Long time no speak! Your blog is looking great!

What a wonderful topic and what a speech! I’ve heard from someone who actually did a TED talk that the help they give you when they want your topic is pretty incredible.

But the soldier scout analogy is so apt especially online as it often feels like your under siege.

I am learning to make better decisions I think but it is still way to easy to convince myself that something will be really helpful when in fact I never get to it and months later it sits unused.

Price I have discovered is a very powerful weapon… #37/month or $297 lifetime, man who can resist the lifetime option… Like I said it’s a war out there for your money.

To great success


    Joy Healey - August 14, 2016

    Hi Mary,

    It really is a war to hide from all the convincing offers. And you’re certainly not the only one to have bought something and never used it. I stand guilty as charged, I’m afraid.

    A trick I use these days is to keep the “Thanks for you purchase” email marked as “unread” so I have to see it every time I go into my in-box.

    And yes, the temptation of the lifetime purchase. However, that did work in my favor a couple of times recently because something I bought ages ago came up with a revised version and in both instances I have been able to avail myself of the new upgrade at no extra cost.

    Lets keep winning the war 🙂

    Thanks for noticing the changes to my blog 🙂

    Joy – Blogging After Dark

Amaka Adindu - August 20, 2016

Great post Joy. I never thought about your definition of the different mindsets. We all have all of them in us, knowing when to use which is very helpful in making decision.

The scout mind and the soldier mind as you said “Both are vital roles – but to make good decisions in a non-combat situation, it’s better to be in the “scout” mindset.”

I think by default we tend to fall into the scout mind.

Following my first instinct comes handy on a lot of decisions. Paying attention to cost and value.

    Joy Healey - August 20, 2016

    Hi Amaka,

    Glad you enjoyed the post – although I’m afraid I can’t take the credit for the idea 🙂

    I seem to vary as to whether I’m a scout or a soldier. In fact I’m working on becoming more scout as I can be over-impulsive.

    Have a great weekend. Joy – Blogging After Dark

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