EMAIL #104 - 17TH, JANUARY, 2021 - RIGHT & WRONG

Hi Team,

Having time at the end of a year to reflect and deliberate on what went right and what went wrong during the previous year can be very valuable before setting goals and aspirations for the coming year ahead. 2020 was challenging and stressful for all of us in so many ways and it is great to be able to put this year behind us and move on to a new year that is full of hope and positivity.

However, before I launch into the new year I feel I need to apply some advice from Naval Ravi Kant,
(Prominent American entrepreneur and one of my favourite authors last year) who said "wisdom is knowing the long term consequences of your actions." After some reflection, I admit that I have personally made some poor decisions in 2020 that will have significant long-term consequences for myself and my business and to not acknowledge and learn from these poor decisions would be to squander an opportunity and not learn from one of life's lessons.

I strongly believe that we all generally know what is right and wrong in any given circumstance. My judgement and moral compass have generally always "stood me in good stead" and have helped me to avoid serious disputes throughout my 35-year building career. However, real life is often not straight forward or black and white and making the right decision and doing the right thing often gets compromised by a myriad of conflicting circumstances. 

The most common reason we make poor decisions and end up doing the wrong thing, is when we make decisions to avoid conflict and to avoid short term pain. But making decisions to avoid short term pain often ends up causing long term pain. I am currently suffering significant long-term pain due to some poor decisions made earlier in 2020 to avoid conflict with a previous client and trying to avoid some short-term pain.

"You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality."  Ayn Rand

Late 2019 and early 2020 I became aware of several building defects that had been reported by a previous client in their 6-year-old townhouse. Over the following 3 or 4 months Lyle, Joel + Mark (two of DDB's carpenters) attended the property on numerous occasions and carried out building and maintenance repair works, but a couple of the main building problems continued to be unresolved. I attended the property twice during this initial period, but largely left Lyle to deal with the clients and the building problems. Although we were in the middle of the first COVID-19 lockdown, in hindsight I made some poor decisions by not allocating sufficient resources and manpower to the clients concerns and I allowed the main problems to be unresolved for several months. As a result of my lack of decisive action the property owners became very angry and frustrated and engaged a solicitor to handle the matter. Now, a further 9 months on, this dispute has grown into a very complex and lengthy legal battle with several lawyers, two insurance companies and 7 building experts involved in the case. The most likely eventual outcome will be a VCAT hearing lasting several days and a financial settlement costing me/DDB a substantial sum of money. These initial poor decisions will also create 18 months of stress and beating myself up, because I now realise that this legal dispute could and should have been avoided. It is now very obvious to me that I made decisions to avoid conflict and short-term pain that are now causing me a huge amount of long-term pain.

Making the "right decision" can at times be very difficult and is often clouded by numerous conflicting influences. In the example above, I was on the back foot from the start due to previous bad experiences with this particular client and I therefore acted in defence mode. Add to this, my predisposition to avoid conflict and my decision making in this instance was well and truly tainted and was almost guaranteed to create long term pain. I was simply unable to see the reality of the situation.

"Anxiety is created by avoiding reality." Steve Maraboli

Although this dispute is still ongoing, I feel I have learnt some hard lessons. In future, whenever dealing with previous clients, I will try to focus on the possible long term effects of my decisions by asking myself "does this feel right or wrong?".
I will also try to avoid making quick decisions in the heat of the moment and if I am struggling to make a decision due to my fear of conflict, I will seek advice from a trusted adviser before committing to a particular response.

Thanks for reading,
Stay safe and decisive.

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