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The Big Importance of Small Decisions


Every day, we make a million small decisions. What we'll eat for lunch, who to ask a question at the office, which route to take home, whether we should pick up takeout or cook dinner, if we want to take a walk, who will drive the kids to practice, and when to go to bed.

None of these things seems overly important, but sometimes the small decisions can have big effects. Sometimes they don't really matter, and sometimes they can be the difference whether you live or die.

When you're in one of those life or death situations, you must have the ability to quickly come up with the options, figure out what could go wrong, and decide which holds less risk.

Here's an example.

Recently, I had a business trip to New York City. My daughters wanted to come so we opted to take a couple of days to see the sights. (I know, I know, you would never take your kids to the city and you think I'm a terrible mom.  But this isn't the point of the article.)

We had a great time, and on our last evening there, we decided to stop for ice cream in a beautiful public square in front of Macy's at 33rd Street. As we were hanging out, eating our ice cream, I noticed a few cops wearing shirts that identified them as part of the NYPD counterterrorism unit. Of course, I immediately began paying close attention.

At the same time, I got a notification on my phone from a business that monitors DHS and other anti-terrorism organizations. It stated that New York and other cities were checking out some public places "out of an abundance of caution" because the US had just bombed Syria and they were concerned about potential retaliation. (Several people have asked about the service I was using. It's a paid subscription and worth every penny:

I honestly seemed to be the only person in the entire area who noticed that these officers were checking planters and trash cans for I can only assume were possible explosive devices. Everybody else was too glued to their phones to notice. I actually saw a woman in her 20s be asked to move so they could check the planter she was sitting on and she did so without ever looking up, making eye contact, or assessing the situation.

So, on alert, as I was, I had to make a decision that normally would have been of little import. I had to decide how to quickly and safely get us back to New Jersey and our hotel room.

So I had a small decision to make.

Here were my options along with the details.

Option1: Take the subway, which had a stop a couple of blocks from our hotel.

The subway would take 15 minutes to get us back

But did we want to be stuck in train underground in the event of a terror attack?

Option 2: Take a cab, but the cab would have taken us through the Holland tunnel.

The cab ride would likely be 40 minutes.

This would take us not only underground, but also under the waters of the Hudson River.

I opted for speed. We walked briskly to the subway and were safely in our rooms within half an hour.

Obviously, nothing happened, so this was not an "important" decision. But it had the potential to be.