Career challenges often boil down to one thing: decisions. Today’s quote comes from the book, Decisive: How To Make Better Choices In Life And Work, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.
Heath and Heath say that pilots “are taught to pay careful attention to what are called ‘leemers,’ the feeling that something isn’t right… The flash of recognition – Oh, this s a leemer – causes a quick shift from autopilot to manual control, from unconscious to conscious behavior.”
A tripwire is a signal you set in advance to let you know that you need to pay attention to something. They cite an example that you may have heard about.
The band Van Halen required a complex backstage production to carry out their performances. They toured around the country. Much of the production had to be completed before the band arrived. And they didn’t have time to check out every single element of the backstage production.
Van Halen’s multi-page contract included a clause, buried in the middle, that seemed bizarre. They demanded a bowl of M&Ms with the brown ones removed. Rumors spread about the band’s lead singer David Lee Roth, who apparently went ballistic if he found just one brown M&M in the candy dish.
Was he being egotistical? Actually, no (although the story made good press).
The truth was, Roth needed to know if the venue management had read the contract in detail. If he saw a brown M&M, he knew something would not be working the way he wanted.
“Brown M&Ms” were a tripwire for Van Halen.
What are some good tripwires for careers?
Example 1: You’re trying to decide whether to stay with your current company or start looking elsewhere. You could set a trip wire by creating a deadline. “If I don’t reach certain goals in six months, it’s time to move.”
Example 2: You decide you’re going to try your new business idea, but you also decider o move in steps. You will invest $X now and $X in 3 months.
Example 3: You took your day job to bring in money while you set up your own business, worked on your art project, or spent more time with family. You set a deadline to review and decide whether you’ve sunk deeply into your day job – and forgot why you took it in the first place.
It’s important to set a tripwire because we tend to escalate commitments – throw good money and time after bad. This phenomenon has been well-documented by social psychologists. (Anyone remember Pete Seeger’s “The big fool said to push on?”) It’s why gamblers keep spending more and more at the gaming tables, unless they’ve set a tripwire: “After I lose $500, I stop.”
How are you using tripwires in your career and life? Comment below.
You can now download my most recent free ebook, 5 Toughest Career Decisions.
And if you’ve just hit a tripwire in your own career or business, let’s talk! Check out the Career Strategy Session and we’ll focus on making your next decision.