Today's Reading


THIS BOOK IS INTENDED to make your life better.

You make hundreds of decisions—some small, some significant—that mark your life. How you make those decisions is critical to your future.

The following pages capture vignettes about twenty-three individuals who made decisions that shaped the world, and whose stories stretch over time, from 218 B.C. to today.

Each chapter offers practical thinking on how these men and women made decisions. You can use their guidance in your daily life.

You will know these men and women. I selected them because (a) you will recognize them; and (b) they made decisions from which you and I can learn.

Most of you will know well the outcomes of the decisions made by these men and women. This book is intended to punctuate those results and to give you the context in which these actions were taken. Then you can take their lessons and ideas to make your daily life more productive and better.

Your life may become more enjoyable, too. I have noticed that many people dislike making decisions. They dread knowing that there are decisions to be faced. These people either avoid decisions entirely, or they are indecisive. This common behavior leads nowhere.

By reading the profiles in this book and absorbing and practicing the lessons they offer, you will have the tools you need to enjoy the decision-making process. When you enjoy doing something, you want to do it well. You want to keep doing it well and will constantly improve how you do it.

If you can make better decisions, your life will be better. And that is the reason I wrote this book, to offer you new ways to think about what you decide to do.

Every individual profiled sat alone—truly alone—and made their decisions. At the end of the day you are always alone when you make your decision, whether it is going for a job, spending your money, or the many other decisions that will shape your life.

Many of the decisions you take are easy and obvious. But some will not be. Some will change your life. And making the right decision will be of enormous value to you.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both . . .
—Robert Frost

So, like Robert Frost's narrator, I stood in my own yellow wood as I began writing this book about decisions. What should I do?

In my life (and my career), I have seen the importance of being able to make good, better, and even best decisions. I wanted to share the knowledge I have gained and the courage I have developed along the way, to help you improve your life and encourage others to do the same.

My goal is simple. But what direction should my book take to get there? There is much to learn about decision-making. From art and literature, certainly. (What decision do you think Rodin's Thinker was trying to make? And besides Frost's narrator, what about such famous ditherers as Hamlet and The Graduate's Benjamin?) Philosophy, psychology, business (decision trees), world religions (the Jesuit method of discernment), academia, and popular culture—all offer valuable perspectives. And if in doubt, there's always tossing a coin or reading tea leaves.

I have stood in this yellow wood before. I have written many books on business, communications, and careers, including two specifically on decision-making in those settings. Those books all reflected my experiences and my beliefs.

But this book is more personal.

Like you, I love history and try to learn from it. I also see how history is repeating itself in today's events and that being able to make good decisions is more crucial than ever.

So, because history has so much to teach us—and because history is formed by fellow human beings—I tell the stories of people because their decisions changed the world. These people were as real and as interesting as any of us, and their lives and decisions offer lessons to each one of us.

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