Amos Yee

How to Make Good Decisions

Common Mistakes in Decision-Making

Confirmation bias - we always tend to hear opinions that already justify our existing ones. For example, American Talent Contestants are often shocked when judges hate their singing, because their family always told them they were good. They had never received honest feedback in their life.

Short-Term Emotion - the heat of a particular moment (small failures at work, an intense argument with a friend) often sways you to be irrational.

Overconfidence about the future - we tend to focus on recent situations, then make conclusions on the future based on those cases. Studies show that when doctors thought a diagnosis was completely certain, they were 40% wrong. When students said they only had a 1% chance of being wrong, they were wrong 27% of the time.

Contrary to the advice of Benjamin Franklin, a pros and cons list is a terrible decision-making tool, because they limit you to only 2 alternatives.

How to make Good Decisions

Step 1: Attain distance

Let a major decision sit for a few days to lessen short-term emotion.

A very important question: What advice would I give to a friend?

Step 2: Widen your options

Pretend a genie wiped off your 2 available options completely, and you have to think of a 3rd option.

Fully understand and consider the opposite opinion.

And if you're still unsure....

Step 3: Test

Try making small experiments before making big decisions.

For example: Before deciding to move to another state, rent an airbnb in the area for 2 weeks, and try experiencing the area (buying groceries, hanging out, etc.)

Before taking a 4-year university course, try out a 1-2 month internship to see if the job you're studying for suits you.

Don't Rely on Your Gut

Generally, good decisions are logical and cold. Society often follows their gut and makes wrong decisions (there's a perfect applicant for your job, but you don't hire him because he doesn't speak or look the way your group does.

Many times people look at 1 or 2 negative traits of a person and inaccurately view it as a whole.

There's an autopilot system (gut) and an intentional system (thinking rationally to prevent cognitive biases).

However there are times when you should rely on your gut. Like if you know someone for years and he's acting strange, your gut could be trying to tell you that the person is lying or hiding something. In this instance your gut feeling should be taken into account.

Best Time of Day For Decision-Making

Even for night owls, the best time to make decisions is in the morning, 1-3 hours after waking up.

The worst time of the day for decision-making is right at the start of your day (just when you wake up), and at night.

Studies analysed chess matches from both morning larks and night owls, and found that all players had consistent quality of performance, they played the best in the morning, and decided faster and less accurately as the day progressed. The only difference was larks played more games in the morning, while night owls at night.

Maximisers vs Satisficers

A maximiser is someone who tirelessly considers all options before making a decision. While a satisficer though he still does some research, is content with 'just good enough'.

Don't be a maximiser, the small gains of being a perfectionist is not worth the additional mental stress.

Research shows satisficers are generally happier, and less likely to experience regrets than maximisers.


Chapter 1 of Decisive (Book)

Book summary Of 'Decisive'

Don't Rely On Your Guts Article

Best Time Of Day To Make Decisions

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