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6 reasons girls should not go to college

In a recent column, a religious blogger asserted that daughters should be shunned from going to college. We dissect his points and offer counterpoints.

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Parents should not encourage girls to go to college

Recently, a religious blogger penned a thoughtful piece about the role of a university education on the formation of families. Raylan Alleman and fellow Catholic writers at Fix The Family are not official representatives of the Catholic church, rather concerned married couples seeking to remind their readers through written word of the pillars that create a strong family.

In a piece entitled “6 reasons not to send your daughter to college,” Alleman outlined several reasons he believes young girls should not be encouraged to go to college, and even tackles common objections to his thesis.

Alleman responds to five common objections to his position (I’m summarizing, not quoting):

  1. College does not provide an education, it provides training to be a professional.
  2. Homemaking is not oppression and should not be denigrated.
  3. Degrees trap young women into a career making motherhood an impossibility.
  4. Homeschooling is the best use of a woman’s God-given talents.
  5. Life insurance is something responsible families have in the event the provider (man) dies.

Further, he offers eight (originally six) reasons girls should not go to college (words in bold are Alleman’s words, otherwise, my summary):

  1. She’ll attract the wrong types of men. She’ll attract lazy men looking for mother figures who want to rely on her income so they don’t have to work.
  2. She’ll be in a near occasion of sin. She’ll be in a sexually charged, unsupervised situation, and when sexually active, she chemically cannot see faults in men.
  3. She will not learn to be a wife and mother. Homemaking skills are not taught in college, and college trains for the masculine role of a profession leading to an inner conflict later when a woman considers motherhood.
  4. The cost of a degree is becoming difficult to recoup.
  5. You don’t have to prove anything to the world. The price of parents pushes kids, proving they did a good job.
  6. It could be a near occasion of sin for the parents. The cost of college leads parents to use contraception to avoid having more children.
  7. She will regret it. Juggling a career and parenthood leads women to experience regret, having bypassed a meaningful life to gain the approval of feminists.
  8. It could interfere with a religious vocation. Candidates for the vocation that have substantial unpaid debt are rejected.

In comments, Alleman revealed that the bloggers believe girls should stay at home and be supported by their parents financially until they meet their future husband whose responsibility it is to then care for the wife and future children.

Foreword to an opposing view

Most people, in reading Alleman’s controversial piece, jump to the comments to tell him how ignorant he is or that he’s a misogynist. I don’t find that to be the case, necessarily, but Alleman did say in his piece, “after looking at the issue we raise, we would challenge anyone to convince us that college for girls is not a near occasion of sin.”

Challenge accepted. Respectfully, I will respond to each of Alleman’s points. The caveat is that I have a college degree, and I am a married conservative Catholic mother who most would not consider a feminist. Like Alleman, I am not an official representative of the Church.

For those unfamiliar, Catholics refer to the Catechism and the Vatican’s word. Alleman’s position is partially in line with the teachings of the Church. Christ does teach three things that are at the root of this position: (1) motherhood is the holiest of jobs, even above priests, and (2) that in a marriage, the male is the leadership figure (but the modern Church asserts that husbands and wives are partners, equally yoked, but ultimately the man is responsible for the wellbeing of the family unit). (3) Lastly, giving up worldly things and focusing on Christ’s teachings, even when a secular culture rejects them, is honorable and what Catholics are called to do.

Some will disagree with these tenets, but understanding those three teachings can help you to fully understand Alleman’s position, along with my rebuttal.

Contradicting from a point of common background

I’d like to take this point by point to clarify why I believe that based on the core teachings of the Catholic faith and the three core tenets outlined above, women that want to go to college should.

Pertaining to the objections Alleman attempts to overcome, I have to point out that either he has not been to college himself, he had a bad experience, or it’s been 100 years, because claiming that college does not provide an education rather trains you for the masculine task of being a professional is ludicrous – trust me, there is little professional development there, as no one is teaching you interview skills, rather theories you may or may not end up using in the real world.

This editorial is written from the point of view of sadness, not anger, as I trust in the Lord as the Church teaches Alleman and I to do. I understand and trust that He has a plan for us, predetermined before birth, as do our daughters, no matter our views.

1,000,001 reasons girls should go to college

While I completely agree that homemaking is not oppression, in fact, some of the most amazing people I know are stay at home moms (and dads, hello!), degrees do not trap women into a career – millions of women have hit the pause button and gone back when it was right for the family. The majority of studies I’m familiar with support the idea that women going back to work does not harm children, and in my view, it teaches them to persevere and to be independent thinkers, making mom a true leader.

Also, I assure you that the Catechism and Bible do not assert that it is irresponsible to not have life insurance because your uneducated wife can’t fend for herself should you die. This is one of the more offensive points Alleman makes. Lastly, he says homeschooling is the best use of a woman’s God-given talents, but if a woman is not as educated as possible, how does that make her a quality educator? Homeschooling is a fantastic route for some people, but honestly, most people are simply not equipped, nor do they desire to keep their children separate and unsocial. Denying a possible career, to me, is denying the talents God has bestowed upon you. These objections are not taught in the Church, rather are just his opinion.

1. She’ll attract the wrong kind of men.
Next spring, I will celebrate 10 years of happy marriage with my husband and 12 years as inseparable love birds. I happened to meet him while I was in college, and he’s not a lazy man looking for my income, so I take exception to the overarching allegation that not only was I incapable of discerning the right kind of guy from the wrong because I was pursuing higher education, but that my husband, or any man who married an educated girl, is a user whose only wish is to play video games and suck on the teat of a woman’s welfare.

College students are, by nature, competitive achievers, so the assumption that college guys are looking for a mother figure and that college girls are too dumb to see it is not a theory I can get on board with.

Alleman also quotes a doctor who notes that when a girl becomes sexually active, the chemicals in her brain make it to where she can’t see faults in men. I most certainly don’t agree, and if this was the only point I disagreed with, I’d seek out dozens of doctors that disagree, so I will agree to disagree with the lone doc.

Finally, the idea that all women are going to college in search of their “MRS” degree is insanely offensive. Higher education is intended to educate, not make love connections. Sometimes it happens, but in today’s world, it is increasingly less likely, and keeping women sheltered in daddy’s home isn’t going to improve that statistic, rather nurturing our children and teaching them values will preserve the family.

2. She’ll be in a near occasion of sin.
Alleman is right – college is a sexually charged and highly unsupervised environment, as is any high school party where adults aren’t present, as is the treehouse behind any parent’s house, as is the basement of the church, and so on.

It is my belief that if you’ve taught your children to respect themselves and follow the teachings of Christ, they will make the right decisions regardless of the level of supervision or sexual tension. Believing that your child will be in a near occasion of sin equates to their giving in to that sin speaks more to your own lack of faith in your parenting than anything. Teach your kids right from wrong, trust them, and if they make a mistake, that’s between them and the Church (which has absolved billions of Catholics for infractions like college trists, by the way).

3. She will not learn to be a wife and mother.
First, I would note that keeping your daughter in your house until they move in with their spouse is more handicapping than sending a child off into the world. When I went to college, I had to figure out how to pay the bills, how to put together a grocery list, how to clean when no one was holding me accountable, how to get enough sleep to keep my body running (even when no one told me to turn off the lights), how to take care of a broken down car, how to sew on a button when it fell off because Dad wasn’t there to do it and I couldn’t afford a new shirt, I learned how to take care of an ill best friend who may not have been a toddler, but sure acted like one when she had alcohol poisoning several times. Learning independence didn’t make me a defiant wife, it made me capable of making decisions while at home alone with our children or when doing general wifely and motherly duties.

I took classes that taught me endlessly about becoming a wife and a mother, but it was hidden in textbooks for me to uncover myself as I learned to think critically. In sociology, I learned about the social norms of different family models so I could pick and choose the best model for my own future family rather than only knowing how to mirror my own parents. In economics, I learned about earning power and how global financial systems work, which makes keeping a family’s books in order a breeze. In dozens of English classes, I read so much that my very identity was formed as I incorporated a bit of each writer into my heart. In geology, I learned rock formation types, which I now point out to my own children in an effort to help their own intellectual development. I can go on, but you get the point.

Girls’ identities are still forming into their 20s, so keeping them trapped in a house without a job or education holds them back from becoming powerful and critical thinkers, obtaining a more advanced world view, and making the best possible decisions for themselves and their families.

If it were the Church’s mission to shun girls from going to college, there would be no co-ed Catholic universities, higher education institutes wouldn’t have educated women as Fellows, and Jesuits like Pope Francis would refuse to teach women. Nowhere in Christ’s teachings does it say women should not be educated. Nowhere.

4. The cost of a degree is becoming difficult to recoup.
In the modern American world, living on a single income has become an unrealistic proposition for most families, and many things have become extremely expensive.

Millions of homeowners remain underwater, but that does not mean homeownership should be abolished.

Cars have become expensive and financing tight, but that doesn’t mean families are more responsible for riding the bus from the suburbs into town, especially a father who misses out on hours a day with the family Alleman is seeking to protect.

Alleman is right – a college education is expensive and there is no guarantee that many students will ever even end up in the field in which they studied, but that’s an illogical reason to bypass higher education. More people argue today that college is a rip off, a joke, but not based on perversions of religious teachings, rather the persistently high unemployment rates and competitiveness of the workforce wherein without a college education, even for menial jobs, your resume is never even considered.

5. You don’t have to prove anything to the world.
This is one of the only points I can find common ground with Alleman on. Many parents do push their children towards college so they can have bragging rights. This is just as ridiculous as pushing them away so you can call yourself humble and worldly for clinging to a fringe view of God’s will.

6. It could be a near occasion of sin for the parents.
Alleman makes the claim that parents are driven to using contraceptives to avoid having more children, because college is too expensive. Not only is no evidence offered to back this wild notion up, I just don’t believe it. Yes, the use of contraceptives is against Catholic teachings, and many families fall into sin by using them, but this is just reaching that college costs are the reason.

Additionally, if this thesis were true, you should shun sons from attending college as well. Seriously, this one is out of the park inaccurate. Some may be tempted to sin, but this is not the norm, and Alleman cannot offer any anecdotes to support this line of thinking.

My family helped me through the first half of college, but then due to unforeseen circumstances, no longer could, so I had to put myself through the second half. We’ve taught our daughter to be independent and as a junior, she is already becoming aware of financial aid options and scholarships so she doesn’t have to rely on anyone, rather come to us when she is in a pickle, or when we help her it is the icing on top or she can pay back those cumbersome loans early.

Rather than assume the cost of college is prohibitive, educate yourself (unless you’re the lady of the house, of course) on options for your children, and encourage them to do the same. Then, let them make the decision based on their own cost analysis.

No one pops pills because they’re scared of their daughter costing them an arm and a leg, because let’s face it – supporting her financially until maybe her 30s without her getting a job will cost more.

7. She will regret it.
Alleman alleges that juggling a career and parenthood leads women to experience regret, having bypassed a meaningful life to gain the approval of feminists.

Poppycock. I can assure you that I wasn’t considering the feelings of the feminists at age 10 when I decided I wanted to go to the University of Texas, worked my tail off for my entire life to get there, then walked across the stage at graduation with thousands of bright men and women, with a family (and future husband) supporting me in that endeavor.

The truth is that I believe the Church’s teachings, including that motherhood is the holiest of professions. I believe strongly that being a stay at home mom is just as challenging and rewarding as a career. Alleman, what you have failed to acknowledge (besides the obvious fact that some women are gay and not husband hunting) is that some women cannot physically have children – this does not make them sinners, nor does it make them less valuable. God does not intend for all women to be mothers or even wives.

I have two stepchildren and a stillborn son, and on top of that, I am educated. No part of me regrets my college years, I’ve had an extremely meaningful life filled with more than just the joys of motherhood, but of charity and educating others. I never even considered what bra burning extremists thought of me; I learned how to think critically in college, and to be independent – values every child should possess.

8. It could interfere with a religious vocation.
Candidates for the vocation that have substantial unpaid debt are rejected. I agree with Alleman on this one, but must also assert that if you’ve taught your children financial responsibility, even if they have no support, they should be able to manage debt better than a girl who graduated high school and never got a job, rather cleaned Dad’s house until she accidentally bumped into Mr. Right at church (who was super impressed with her ability to hold an adult conversation, think on his level, and show ambition and passion, I’m sure… no wait, that doesn’t sound right).

The bottom line

God’s greatest gift (and challenge) of all is that we have free will. If our daughters want to graduate high school, marry their high school sweetheart and get pregnant by 18, so be it. But if they want to go to college, none of the aforementioned reasons carry enough weight to dissuade them from doing so, and the workforce should not be limited to men – every study supports diversity in the workplace, especially gender diversity. If your daughter is an amazing designer, why hide that under a bushel?

Fear of change and fear of your children growing up is not reason enough to handicap them and keep them at home, and not trusting your own parenting to have given them the skills and moral compass they need speaks more about your own shortcomings than the higher education system’s. The family is not threatened by college, it is enhanced by the beauty of education and asserting that only daughters have challenges in adulthood alienates your sons’ realities.

Alleman, I hope you pray on these concepts and ideas, as I’ve respectfully taken your challenge to try to convince you that our daughters should go to college. But only if that is their calling. Otherwise, may they be the most amazing homemakers this world has ever seen. May we trust in His plan, not ours.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Tinu

    September 24, 2013 at 11:09 am

    This is just brilliant. Just. Brilliant. I especially appreciate that you decided not to try to do one of those “fake objectivity” type of rebuttals that tried to squeeze religion out of the discussion.

    It’s so much better to hear from someone who most people would think is the choir they are preaching to – just because some of us are Christian or Catholic or conservative doesn’t mean we agree with everything our peers say.

  2. Eric Proulx

    September 24, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    As I said on my post on Facebook, it’s one thing to get riled up over something you read on the internet and it’s a totally different thing to break down everything that was wrong with his argument. Easily one of the most enjoyable things I have read in a long time.

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Opinion Editorials

Follow these steps to change a negative mindset into something of value

(EDITORIAL) Once you’re an expert, it’s easy to get caught in the know-it-all-trap, but expertise and cynicism age like fine wine, and can actually benefit you/others if communicated effectively.

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Man on couch drawing on ipad representative of change to the negative mindset.

In conversation with our friend John Steinmetz, he shared some thoughts with me that have really stuck with us.

He has expanded on these thoughts for you below, in his own words, and we truly believe that any individual can benefit from this perspective:

Over the last few years I have realized a few things about myself. I used to be trouble, always the dissenting opinion, always had to be on the opposite side of everyone else.

Then, I started reading everything I could get my hands on dealing with “how to change your attitude,” “how to be a better team player,” etc.

Over the course of that time I realized something. I realized that there was nothing wrong with me, only something wrong with how I communicate.

Unfortunately, once someone sets the context of who you are, they will never see you as anything else. I was labeled a troublemaker by those who didn’t want to “rock the boat” and that was that.

In my readings of books and articles by some of the most prominent technical leaders, they all had something in common. Paraphrasing of course, they all said “you can’t innovate and change the world by doing the same thing as everyone else.” So, in actuality, it wasn’t me, it was my communication style. For that reason, you have to say it out loud – “I will make waves.”

Physics

There are two things I reference in physics about making waves.

  • “A ship moving over the surface of undisturbed water sets up waves emanating from the bow and stern of the ship.”
  • “The steady transmission of a localized disturbance through an elastic medium is common to many forms of wave motion.”

You need motion to create waves. How big were the waves when the internet was created? Facebook? Just think about the natural world and there are examples everywhere that follow the innovation pattern.

You see it in the slow evolution of DNA and then, BAM, mutations disrupt the natural order and profoundly impact that change.

Communication

Where I was going wrong was, ironically, the focus of my career which is now Data. For those who do not know me, I am a product director, primarily in the analytics and data space.

More simply: For the data generated or consumed by an organization, I build products and services that leverage that data to generate revenue, directly or indirectly through the effectiveness of the same.

I was making the mistake of arguing without data because “I knew everything.” Sound familiar?

Another ironic thing about what I do is that if you work with data long enough, you realize you know nothing. You have educated guesses based on data that, if applied, give you a greater chance of determining the next step in the path.

To bring this full circle, arguing without data is like not knowing how to swim. You make waves, go nowhere, and eventually sink. But add data to your arguments and you create inertia in some direction and you move forward (or backward, we will get to this in a min).

So, how do you argue effectively?

First, make sure that you actually care about the subject. Don’t get involved or create discussions if you don’t care about the impact or change.

As a product manager, when I speak to engineering, one of my favorite questions is “Why do I care?” That one question alone can have the most impact on an organization. If I am told there are business reasons for a certain decision and I don’t agree with the decision, let’s argue it out. Wait, what? You want to argue?

So, back to communication and understanding. “Argue” is one of those words with a negative connotation. When quite simply it could be defined as giving reasons or citing evidence in support of an idea, action, or theory, typically with the aim of persuading others to share one’s view.

Words matter

As many times as I have persuaded others to my point of view, I have been persuaded to change mine.

That is where my biggest change has occurred.

I now come into these situations with an open mind and data. If someone has a persuasive argument, I’m sold. It is now about the decision, not me. No pride.

Moving forward or backward is still progress (failure IS an option).

The common thought is that you have to always be perfect and always be moving forward. “Failure is not an option.”

When I hear that, I laugh inside because I consider myself a master of controlled failure. I have had the pleasure to work in some larger, more tech-savvy companies and they all used controlled experimentation to make better, faster decisions.

Making waves is a way of engaging the business to step out of their comfort zone and some of the most impactful decisions are born from dissenting opinions. There is nothing wrong with going with the flow but the occasional idea that goes against the mainstream opinion can be enough to create innovation and understand your business.

And it is okay to be wrong.

I am sure many of you have heard Thomas Edison’s take on the effort to create the first lightbulb. He learned so much more from the failures than he did from success.

”I didn’t fail. I just found 2,000 ways not to make a lightbulb; I only needed to find one way to make it work.” – Thomas Edison

It is important to test what you think will not work. Those small failures can be more insightful, especially when you are dealing with human behaviors. Humans are unpredictable at the individual level but groups of humans can be great tools for understanding.

Don’t be afraid

Turn your negative behavior into something of value. Follow these steps and you will benefit.

    1. Reset the context of your behavior (apologize for previous interactions, miscommunications) and for the love of all that is holy, be positive.
    2. State your intentions to move forward and turn interactions into safe places of discussion.
    3. Learn to communicate alternative opinions and engage in conversation.
    4. Listen to alternative opinions with an open mind.
    5. Always be sure to provide evidence to back up your thoughts and suggestions.
    6. Rock the boat. Talk to more people. Be happy.

A special thank you to John Steinmetz for sharing these thoughts with The American Genius audience.

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Opinion Editorials

Millennial jokes they let slide, but ‘Ok Boomer’ can get you fired

(EDITORIAL) The law says age-based clapbacks are illegal when aimed at some groups but not others. Pfft. Okay, Boomer.

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Boomer sad

A brand new meme is out and about, and it’s looking like it’ll have the staying power of ‘Fleek’ and ‘Yeet!’

Yessiree, ‘Okay, Boomer’ as related to exiting a go-nowhere conversation with out-of-pocket elders has legitimate sticky potential, but not everyone is as elated as I am. Yes, the Boomer generation themselves (and the pick-me’s in my age group who must have a CRAZY good Werther’s Original hookup), are pushing back against the latest multi-use hashtag, which was to be expected.

The same people happy to lump anyone born after 1975 in with kids born in 2005 as lazy, tech-obsessed, and entitled, were awfully quick to yell ‘SLUR’ at the latest turn of phrase, and I was happy to laugh at it.

But it turns out federal law is on their side when it comes to the workplace.

Because “Boomer” applies to folks now in their mid 50’s and up, workplace discrimination laws based on age can allow anyone feeling slighted by being referred to as such to retaliate with serious consequences.

However for “You Millenials…” no such protections exist. Age-based discrimination laws protect people over 40, not the other way around. That means all the ‘Whatever, kid’s a fresh 23-year-old graduate hire’ can expect from an office of folks in their 40s doesn’t carry any legal weight at the federal level.

And what’s really got my eyes rolling is the fact that the law here is so easy to skirt!

You’ve heard the sentiment behind #okayboomer before.

It’s the same one in: ‘Alright, sweetheart’ or ‘Okay hun’ or ‘Bless your heart.’

You could get across the same point by subbing in literally anything.

‘Okay, Boomer’ is now “Okay, Cheryl” or “Okay, khakis” or “Okay, Dad.”

You can’t do that with the n-word, the g-word (either of them), the c-word (any of them), and so on through the alphabet of horrible things you’re absolutely not to call people—despite the aunt you no longer speak to saying there’s a 1:1 comparison to be made.

Look, I’m not blind to age-based discrimination. It absolutely can be a problem on your team. Just because there aren’t a bunch of 30-somethings bullying a 65 year old in your immediate sphere doesn’t mean it isn’t happening somewhere, or that you can afford to discount it if that somewhere is right under your nose.

But dangit, if it’s between pulling out a PowerPoint to showcase how ‘pounding the pavement’ isn’t how you find digital jobs in large cities, dumping stacks of books showing how inflation, wages, and rents didn’t all rise at the same rate or defending not wanting or needing the latest Dr. Oz detox… don’t blame anyone for pulling a “classic lazy snowflake” move, dropping two words, and seeing their way out of being dumped on.

The short solution here is – don’t hire jerks – and it won’t be an issue. The longer-term solution is… just wait until we’re your age.

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Opinion Editorials

Decision-making when between procrastination and desperation

(EDITORIAL) Sometimes making a decision in business can loom so large over us that we delay making them until it’s absolutely necessary. Why?

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decision-making between procrastination and desperation

I need to confess something to you

So, a little confession’s good for the soul, right? I feel like I need to confess something to you, dear reader, before we jump right into this article. What follows is an article that I pitched to our editor some months back, and was approved then, but I’ve had the hardest time getting started. It’s not writer’s block, per se; I’ve written scores of other articles here since then, so I can’t use that as an excuse.

It’s become a bit of a punch line around the office, too; I was asked if I was delaying the article about knowing the sweet spot in decision making between procrastination and desperation as some sort of hipster meta joke.

Which would be funny, were it to be true, but it’s not. I just became wrapped up in thinking about where this article was headed and didn’t put words to paper. Until now.

Analysis by paralysis

“Thinking about something—thinking and thinking and thinking—without having an answer is when you get analysis by paralysis,” said St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Matt Bowman, speaking to Fangraphs.

“That’s what happened… I was trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, or if I was doing anything wrong. I had no idea.” It happens to us all: the decisions we have to make in business loom so large over us, that we delay making them until it’s absolutely necessary.

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Worse still are the times that we delay them until after such a time as when making the decision no longer matters because the opportunity or market’s already moved on. So we try to find the avenues for ourselves that will give us the answers we seek, and try to use those answers in a timely fashion. Jim Kaat, the former All-Star pitcher said it well: “If you think long, you think wrong.”

Dumpster Diving in Data

In making a decision, we’re provided an opportunity to answer three basic questions: What? So what? And now what?

The data that you use to inform your decision-making process should ideally help you answer the first two of those three questions. But where do you get it from, and how much is enough?

Like many of us, I’m a collector when it comes to decision making. The more data I get to inform my decision, and the sufficient time that I invest to analyze that data, I feel helps me make a better decision.

And while that sounds prudent, and no one would suggest the other alternative of making a decision without data or analysis would be better, it can lead to the pitfall of knowing how much is enough. When looking for data sources to inform your decision-making, it’s not necessarily quantity, but an appropriate blend between quantity and quality that will be most useful.

You don’t get brownie points for wading through a ton of data of marginal quality or from the most arcane places you can find them when you’re trying to make an informed decision. The results of your ultimate decision will speak for themselves.

“Effective people,” said Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, “know when to stop assessing and make a tough call, even without total information.”

Great. How do I do that?

So, by what factors should you include (and more importantly, exclude) data in your decision-making?

Your specific business sector will tell you which data sources most of your competitors use already, as well as the ones that your industry disruptors use to try to gain the edge on you.

Ideally, your data sources should be timely and meaningful to you. Using overly historical data, unless you’re needing that level of support for a trend line prediction, often falls into “That’s neat, but…” land. Also, if you’re wading into data sets that you don’t understand, find ways to either improve (and thus speed) your analysis of them, or find better data sources.

While you should be aware of outliers in the data sets, don’t become so enamored of them and the stories that they may tell that you base your decision-making process around the outlier, rather than the most likely scenarios.

And don’t fall into this trap

Another trap with data analysis is the temptation to find meaning where it may not exist. Anyone who’s been through a statistics class is familiar with the axiom correlation doesn’t imply causation. But it’s oh so tempting, isn’t it? To find those patterns where no one saw them before?

There’s nothing wrong with doing your homework and finding real connections, but relying on two data points and then creating the story of their interconnectedness in the vacuum will lead you astray.

Such artificial causations are humorous to see; Tyler Vigen’s work highlights many of them.

My personal favorite is the “correlation” between the U.S. per capita consumption of cheese and people who died after becoming entangled in their bed sheets. Funny, but unrelated.

So, as you gather information, be certain that you can support your action or non-action with recent, accurate, and relevant data, and gather enough to be thorough, but not so enamored of the details that you start to drown in the collection phase.

Trust issues

For many of us, delegation is an opportunity for growth. General Robert E. Lee had many generals under his command during the American Civil War, but none was so beloved to him as Stonewall Jackson.

Upon Jackson’s death in 1863, Lee commented that Jackson had lost his left arm, but that he, Lee, had lost his right. Part of this affection for Jackson was the ability to trust that Jackson would faithfully carry out Lee’s orders. In preparing for the Battle of Chancellorsville, Jackson approached Lee with a plan for battle:

Lee, Jackson’s boss, opened the conversation: “What do you propose to do?”

Jackson, who was well prepared for the conversation based on his scout’s reports, replied. “I propose to go right around there,” tracing the line on the map between them.

“How many troops will you take?” Lee queried.

“My whole command,” said Jackson.

“What will you leave me here with?” asked Lee.

Jackson responded with the names of the divisions he was leaving behind. Lee paused for a moment, but just a moment, before replying, “Well, go ahead.”

And after three questions in the span of less than five minutes, over 30,000 men were moved towards battle.

The takeaway is that Lee trusted Jackson implicitly. It wasn’t a blind trust that Lee had; Jackson had earned it by his preparation and execution, time after time. Lee didn’t see Jackson as perfect, either. He knew the shortcomings that he had and worked to hone his talents towards making sure those shortcomings were minimized.

Making trust pay off for you

We all deserve to have people around us in the workplace that we can develop into such a trust. When making decisions, large or small, having colleagues that you can rely on to let you know the reality of the situation, provide a valuable alternative perspective, or ask questions that let you know the idea needs more deliberation are invaluable assets.

Finding and cultivating those relationships is a deliberate choice and one that needs considerable and constant investments in your human capital to keep.Click To Tweet

Chris Oberbeck at Entrepreneur identifies five keys to making that investment in trust pay off for you: make authentic connections with those in your employ and on your team, make promises to your staff sparingly, and keep every one of them that you make, set clear expectations about behaviors, communication, and output, be vulnerable enough to say “I don’t know” and professional enough to then find the right answers, and invest your trust in your employees first, so that they feel comfortable reciprocating.

Beyond developing a relationship of trust between those who work alongside you, let’s talk about trusting yourself.

For many, the paralysis of analysis comes not from their perceived lack of data, but their lack of confidence in themselves to make the right decision. “If I choose incorrectly,” they think, “it’s possible that I might ________.” Everyone’s blank is different.

For some, it’s a fear of criticism, either due or undue. For others, it’s a fear of failure and what that may mean. Even in the face of compelling research about the power of a growth mindset, in which mistakes and shortcomings can be seen as opportunities for improvement rather than labels of failure, it’s not uncommon for many of us to have those “tapes” in our head, set to autoplay upon a miscue, that remind us that we’ve failed and how that labels us.

“Risk” isn’t just a board game

An uncomfortable fact of life is that, in business, you can do everything right, and yet still fail. All of the research can come back, the trend lines of data suggest the appropriate course of action, your team can bless the decision, and you feel comfortable with it, so action is taken! And it doesn’t work at all. A perfect example of this is the abject failure of New Coke to be accepted by the consumer in 1985.

Not only was it a failure to revive lagging sales, but public outrage was so vehement that the company was forced to backtrack and recall the product from the market. Sometimes things just don’t work out the way they’re supposed to.

You have to be comfortable with your corporate and individual levels of risk when making a decision and taking action. How much risk and how much failure costs you, both in fiscal and emotional terms, is a uniquely personal decision, suited to your circumstances and your predilections. It’s also likely a varying level, too; some decisions are more critical to success and the perceptions of success than others, and will likely cause you more pause than the small decisions we make day-to-day.

In the end, success and failure hinge on the smallest of factors at times, and the temptation is to slow down the decision making process to ensure that nothing’s left to chance.

Go too slowly, however, and you’ve become the captain of a rudderless ship, left aimlessly to float, with decisions never coming, or coming far too late to meet the needs of the market, much less be innovative. Collect the information, work with your team to figure out what it means, and answer the third question of the series (the “what”) by taking action.

#TakeAction

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