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Decision Paralysis

Matt Fish
Aug 10, 2021

When I was in high school, I took all the sciences and math courses as electives, not because I loved science or math, nor because I was particularly good at them.

I took them because they gave me the most optionality when it came to choosing a university program later on - I could do an history degree having taken physics and calculus, but I couldn't do an engineering degree haven taken history courses.

When it came time to choose what to take in university, I actually took a year off because I wasn't sure what direction was right for me. At the end of the year off, I again optimized for optionality - I chose a program that was a double degree in computer science and business, two fairly broad categories in their own right that were highly employable, and in theory would allow me to discover something that I loved.

In internships it was more of the same, I chose jobs at startups and organizations that allowed me to wear as many hats as possible. I took on roles in operations, in marketing, as a software developer, and a product manager, all in search of that elusive "passion". I feared putting myself in one specific area, lest I find out that I didn't enjoy it as much as I once did and regretted putting all my eggs in one basket. I gained a set of diverse, yet shallow skills.

Optimizing your statistics

I always like to think of this akin to the video game NBA 2K's create-a-player mode, where you're given a limited number of stat points to distribute amongst a number of skill categories. Most people will choose to level up a few key areas in order to become superstars in their specific domain. I always felt that if I committed too many of my skill points to one area, I'd end up regretting it. This led to me distributing my skill points evenly across all the different fields, becoming the embodiment of "jack of all trades, master of none". This optimization for breadth is great if you're trying to win a trivia night, but it's generally not what employers, grad schools, or clients look for.

Decision Paralysis

This leads me to the crux of what I want to talk about, or rather rant about today - the inability to commit your time and effort to a subset of your talents in order to reap the benefits, simply because you are unsure if thats what you should be focusing your time on. This is the concept I call decision paralysis.

The hope in breadth

  • Come up with strategies to fix it
  • H
Matt Fish
Matt is a product manager and photographer based out of Waterloo, Canada

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