Tough Choices


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In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.
 —Eleanor Roosevelt

Every day we face numerous choices. Some are big; some are small. Some affect only ourselves and some may affect many people. We don’t always know what the outcome will be from our decisions, and that’s often what makes them so difficult. But we know we need to make the decisions, so we do our best and deal with the consequences as they come. For the most part, it’s not a big deal. We make adjustments as necessary, and we move forward. This is a process we go through in all aspects of our lives.

The shop environment is no different in this regard. Decisions need to be made from the front office to the shop floor, from personnel to feeds and speeds. What machines will be purchased? How should a job be quoted or scheduled? When is the optimal time to replace an insert?

For many of these decisions, we rely on our training and experience. Along the way, we’ve learned some general guidelines about what makes a good employee, the time and resources required for certain kinds of jobs, and other significant wisdom that guides us through our decision making. But often our choices are not clear cut enough to be able to rely solely on the application of previous experience. In these cases, we either do further research by talking to others who have faced a similar challenge, or we go with our instincts.

At an early stage in life we learn about trial and error. We need to make use of this learning method when we’re young because we have little to no personal experience on which to base our decisions. It can be frustrating at times as we may make the wrong choices quite often, but this is how we gain experience. And the bigger the failure, the more likely we are to learn our lessons.

As adults, we still need to rely on trial and error sometimes. But it’s important to remember the lessons we’ve learned and apply our wisdom as best we can. Decisions I might struggle most with involve prioritization of work projects. Similar to scheduling jobs on the shop floor, I need to determine what work needs to get done first, what will take the longest, and what will fit best into the available time. Shops can take advantage of shop management software to help with this planning. I wish I had such a product to help in my prioritization struggles.

Usually, my experience is enough to guide me into sufficient planning. Many times, though, I feel forced into hasty decisions that may not have been the best. The learning process never ends, though, so I continue to move forward and try to get better at the decision-making process.

As we approach another important election day, many people feel that the selection of our next president presents us with another difficult choice. It’s not my job to suggest any particular candidate, but I do think it’s worth mentioning the importance of preparation and the need to draw from our own personal experience in this process. As with the entire ballot, we need to be well educated about the candidates and how their positions on the various issues will affect us. Only then can we make a well informed and smart decision about a proper vote. And it’s our responsibility to be educated about these candidates and do our part in the placement of our president and other elected officials.

I’m not a great decision maker. Part of me says I’m in no position to be giving advice on such a topic. But I do believe I know what my weaknesses are, and I’ve certainly learned the hard way what can happen when decisions are not taken seriously. For this year’s presidential election, I’ve done a lot of research, and I’ve sifted through unbelievable amounts of commentary, biased or not. I think I’ve kept an open mind and plan to vote for who I believe is the best candidate, as soon as I can figure out who that is.