Tim Bilecki at the Global Business Leader Summit

Good afternoon. My name is Tim Bilecki. I’m the Managing Partner of the law firm of Bilecki & Tipon. Every day I see kids, I see my clients, they come to me and they make really poor decisions before they ever get to my office. So, I was thinking about today and presenting to you is this process of decision making. One decision we don’t make in life is where we’re born, the color of our skin, our socio-economics, whether we’re born in the United States or born in Thailand. But from that moment, we have the ability to make choices, to make decisions. And if you want to live a worthwhile life, it’s up to you to make decisions to enable you to have a worthwhile and a meaningful life. The research says that we make about 25 to 50,000 decisions every single day. Those are often micro decisions, decisions we don’t even think about, the decision to step forward when I’m talking to you, the decision to step back, the decision to drink a Red Bull beforehand, and a lot of decisions we don’t even think about. But the bigger decisions, those decisions which have such great impact on our life, those decisions we look back and think about are often difficult to make.

We often procrastinate when making those decisions, we don’t think through those decisions or have trouble making them. So, what I’d like to do is just give you a couple of ideas about how to get through that and to make good, quality decisions in your life. You know, being a decision maker or being around people that are very good at making tough decisions, you see a couple of things, you learn a
couple different things. Number one, good decision makers and leaders always have a code of ethics. I tell this to juries, I tell this to clients, I tell this to my kids, but integrity is either a character trait or it is a character flaw. You must always, and I mean always live with integrity in your ethics. So when you’re making decisions about whatever decision that’s going to be, the fundamental basis for that is have integrity. And I mean, integrity in everything that you do. The second most important thing is to actually make a decision,
you actually have to make a decision, to make a good or a bad decision.

 So, once you think about that integrity in your beliefs, actually make the decision, because you can’t procrastinate, you must actually make a decision, overcome the fear of making the decision. Because when you don’t make a decision, someone makes that for you. Now think about that, that decision will be made. Are you going to make it? Are you going to let someone else make it? Then after you make that decision, I’m going to take a phrase from a lot of the Marines I work with, they always say, “Sir, adapt, improvise and overcome.” And I love that saying. In the Marine Corps, they say adapt, improvise and overcome. And after you make a decision, right,

wrong or indifferent, adapt, improvise and overcome to hit that particular goal. That is what good leaders do. That is what good decision makers do. Now, this idea of procrastination, people that don’t always make good decisions or have trouble getting through
decisions, there are really three reasons or three main reasons I think about to help get through decisions, or why people don’t. One of them is information overload.

I mean, everyone here, you’re in High Point University, what do you study? Do you study economics? Do you study finance? Do you study accounting? Do you study basket weaving? Do you study left-handed puppetry, German polka history? What do I study? I have no idea, there’s so many decisions, I don’t know what to study. It’s no different than we go to a place, it’s a little place in Kailua, Hawaii, where I’m from, where you get shaved ice. It’s amazing, it’s like the snow cone. But there’s like 60 different flavors, and you’ll go in there and you’ll say, “I have no idea what flavor I want, it’s information overload.” And you’re sitting there like, “I just wish you just had three, wished I just had four.” The key when you have information overload, is just narrow it down to five, narrowed it down to five, and then go from there. Don’t overthink it, figure out what you want to do, and just narrow that decision making down to five, and then you can do what’s called a course of action analysis and just kind of think through each five, and go from there. It will greatly help you to focus and make decisions when you have this massive information overload, you just bring it down to a lower level and just pick through those things and cut out the excess. The second thing is this issue of permanent stress. Permanent stress is real. And permanent stress, you’ve got a term paper due, your parents want you to call them, you’re waking up, you’re texting all night. There’s things going on in your entire life, that’s at the university or at your level, maybe at another level. If you’re a CEO of a company, there can be a million things going on. Yesterday I flew in here from Tokyo, Japan taking a deposition yesterday, I landed last night, and I had to present in here today.

We live in an information overload world, where there’s so much stress, that it’s hard to make good decisions in stress. When we’re having a stressful situation, the brain pumps in cortisol, and it pumps in this cortisol, and it kind of gives you this very stressful feeling. And one thing you have to do is train yourself to be able to make decisions while under stress. Now, the military does this
extraordinarily well. If you look at Navy SEAL training, if you look at Ranger training, if you even look at just regular basic training, they put trainees through an extraordinary amount of stress and make them execute decisions while under high stress load. Why do they do that? So their body adapts to stress. So their body adapts to change. And so, they can make important decisions while under a stress load. If you look at people in these high stress situations, they’re cool, they’re calm, they’re collected, and they don’t play on their emotions when they’re in high stress situations. Now you don’t have to leave High Point University and go join the Marine Corps, or join the army to get that type of training, you can do something as basic as stepping out of your comfort zone. Just step out of your comfort zone and do that on a day to day basis. Find people you don’t normally interact with interact and interact with them. Find a club that you don’t think you’d be interested in, and do that. Do something different each day and learn to be comfortable outside of your comfort zone, because that is actually training your brain and training you for how to get used to being uncomfortable.

And believe it or not, there are scientific research which shows this type of training will help you make good decisions in high stress environments. No different than they do in military training. No different than you can do in your day to day life. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. That way when you have to make the tough decision, such as you’re on a plane and NCIS calls your client with a warrant at 3:00 in the morning, and they call you and you’re getting ready, you can answer the call and give the right answer. Be comfortable being uncomfortable, and it will allow you to make better decisions. The third enemy of good decision making is perfection, perfection. I think it was Stephen Covey that said, “Perfection is the enemy of good decisions.” We all want everything to be perfect. 

Maybe you’re dating someone, maybe you’re in a relationship with someone, you want it to be perfect. So you decide, you’re not going to get engaged because she’s not perfect. You’re not going to get married because she’s not perfect. Well, listen, perfection doesn’t exist. It just does not exist. I’m telling you right now, and starting to maybe disappoint everyone, but it doesn’t exist, at least not in this world. If you want to start a business, you want to wait. Do I need to have cash? Do I need to have the right revenue? It needs to be the right time. The market needs to be in the right conditions. I need the right, blah, blah, blah. It’s never going to be right. It’s never going to be perfect. If you wait for perfection, you’re going to be waiting forever. There are those people, you know them. They’re probably in your classes, they’re probably friends of yours, they’re probably people that didn’t make it into High Point that wanted everything to be perfect, so they did nothing. So what you need to do is get that 80% or 85% solution. I’m not saying dive in with nothing, get the 80%, 85% solution. Make sure it’s what you want to do, know your vision, get that 80% solution and execute, and move forward. And if you do that, then you can adapt, improvise and overcome and move forward, because you don’t make any progress if you don’t take any steps. Eighty percent, 85% solution, and move forward.

If you can do those, if you can get through those things, train your brain to get through stress, don’t give into decision overload, and actually take action. Even if things aren’t perfect, you’re going to be in a position to make much better decisions, to hit much higher goals, and frankly, just to live a much better life, because that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? We’re all here to live a much better life. Now again, the reality is, we didn’t choose where we were born. We didn’t choose who we are or when we were born. Perhaps that’s the biggest gift of life we were ever given. But given that gift, I believe we all have an obligation to ourselves, to the community, to the world around us to make your life worthwhile. And the only way you make your life worthwhile is that is a choice, it is a decision that you must make, day in, day out, over and over. Please live a worthwhile life. Thank you.

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