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Economic Development is . . . (increasing the flow) of capital through the community and reducing its leakage.

The Last Parachute

A doctor, a lawyer, a little boy and a priest were out for a Sunday afternoon flight on a small private plane. Suddenly, the plane developed engine trouble. In spite of the best efforts of the pilot, the plane started to go down. Finally, the pilot grabbed a parachute and yelled to the passengers that they better jump, and he himself bailed out.

Unfortunately, there were only three parachutes remaining.

The doctor grabbed one and said “I’m a doctor, I save lives, so I must live,” and jumped out.

The lawyer then said, “I’m a lawyer and lawyers are the smartest people in the world. I deserve to live.” He also grabbed a parachute and jumped.

The priest looked at the little boy and said, “My son, I’ve lived a long and full life. You are young and have your whole life ahead of you. Take the last parachute and live in peace.”

The little boy handed the parachute back to the priest and said, “Not to worry Father. The smartest man in the world just took off with my back pack.”

Starting something new is one of the biggest challenges in life, whether it’s moving to a new place, changing a career, deciding to expand your business or launching a new business. The one resource that is required above all else is simple in concept but difficult in practice: the courage to make decisions.

This topic of where humans get the courage to make decisions has always fascinated me. In 2005 one of my favorite authors Malcom Gladwell released Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.  In the book he describes “thin-slicing”: our ability to use limited information from a very narrow period of experience to come to a conclusion. This idea suggests that spontaneous decisions are often as good as—or even better than—carefully researched and thoughtfully considered ones.

Gladwell explains that sometimes having too much information can interfere with the accuracy of a judgment, or a doctor’s diagnosis. In what Gladwell contends is an age of information overload, he finds that experts often make better decisions with snap judgments than they do with volumes of analysis. This is commonly called “Analysis paralysis.” The challenge is to sift through and focus on only the most critical information. The other information may be irrelevant and confusing. Collecting more information, in most cases, may reinforce our judgment but does not help make it more accurate. Gladwell explains that better judgments can be executed from simplicity and frugality of information. If the big picture is clear enough to decide, then decide from this without using a magnifying glass.

Gladwell’s concept when you relate it to people deciding to take a risk and expand or start a business is seen virtually everywhere every day. Logically given enough time, data and information, virtually everyone— even the most risk averse person in the world hesitates and not risks the unknown. Lucky for us there are a few people left in our country that have the courage to make a decision that seems crazy.

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