They say often the best ideas are the simplest. I recently learned of a clever but simple aid to decision-making.
I almost missed the "10-10-10 Rule" since it was in a book by Suzy Welch with a far from simple title: A Fast and Powerful Way to Get Unstuck in Love, at Work, and with Your Family.
The idea is when you face a conflict about a decision or action, in work or in your private life, you should take a moment to ask yourself three questions:
• How will I feel about it in 10 minutes?
• How will I feel about it in 10 months?
• How will I feel about it in 10 years?
The 10-10-10 method works to enable better decision-making by training your brain to think beyond short-term emotions.
The author says your brain can be taught to automatically analyse second and third-order consequences of different actions, rather than considering just the here and now.
It is often hard to maintain perspective when facing a thorny dilemma. We are often blinded by the particulars of the situation and can be caught in the grip of visceral emotion - anger, lust, greed or anxiety.
While such emotion fades, the consequences of our decisions don't. This is what lies beneath the wisdom that when making important decisions, we should sleep on it.
I can appreciate the benefit of applying the 10-10-10 rule to both personal and investment decisions.
In fact, I think I probably already apply a version of it. When discussing tattoos with my daughters, I've always cautioned them about the second order consequences - how will it look when you're my age? Will you still love it when it detracts from a beautiful outfit?
I'm sure I applied the 10-10-10 rule in my younger days when I decided to work immediately after university rather than travelling on overseas adventures. While the idea of OE was tempting then, I know with hindsight longer-term thinking paid off.
I can now travel whenever I like, and enjoy experiences of a standard I could not otherwise have afforded.
Similarly, in my investment decisions, I have applied a variation of the 10-10-10 rule, though I think this idea is superior.
I have always considered Warren Buffett's suggestion that you imagine the stock market will close for 10 years. Would you want to own this investment for 10 years, having no way of selling it in that time?
The 10-10-10 rule is better because even with a high quality crystal ball, the outlook over a decade is cloudy and a lot can happen in the medium term - somewhere between 10 minutes and 10 years!
The rule can also help once you've bought an investment. So often a share price will reflect short-term noise which can generate short-term emotion, to our detriment.
If a company announced an earnings shortfall which resulted in an immediate share price fall, we might be tempted to sell before the price fell further.
But, in pausing to ask how we might feel about this short-term earnings blip in 10 months' time, or 10 years' time, we might be more inclined to buy than to sell. Particularly if we stop to consider why earnings had fallen; perhaps it was to shore up future earnings.
To me, the magic of 10-10-10 is it allows perspective in any decision as to the insignificance of downsides and the potential size of upsides - a simple but powerful idea all can employ.