How to make a decision when you are uncertain of what to do, Ben Franklin style

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I will keep this stratagem in mind, the next time I cast my eye upon a link of internet, and wonder whither would I.


That’s an interesting, and simpler way than I’ve used before. I’ll try it out. The two things that struck me most were the luxury of having days to make a decision which seems wildly idyllic to me Now. I would love to live my life that deliberately. I’m sure it’s Only my own fault that I don’t. Also the nearly arbitrary capitalization made me want to search for secret messages in his text. But it’s Probably just some Eccentricity of writing conventions from that period.


But how do I decide whether or not to use this decision method?


I was puzzled by the capitalization as well… def a cipher of some kind
look for repeating phrases Ben Franklin might have used like “french tickler” and “blowjob” and “party”


On the other hand, as Douglas Adams wrote in “Dirk Gently’s Detective Agency”

‘You see there have already been several programs written that help you to arrive at decisions by properly ordering and analysing all the relevant facts so that they then point naturally towards the right decision. The drawback with these is that the decision which all the properly ordered and analysed facts point to is not necessarily the one you want.’
‘Yeeeess…’ said Reg’s voice from the kitchen.
‘Well, Gordon’s great insight was to design a program which allowed you to specify in advance what decision you wished it to reach, and only then to give it all the facts. The program’s task, which it was able to accomplish with consummate ease, was simply to construct a plausible series of logical-sounding steps to connect the premises with the conclusion’.


I learned a wonderful fact of decision making while working as a robotics team mentor:

The closer two choices are to being equally good, the longer you will agonize over the decision, for what is zero benefit, since both paths are equally good.

Therefore, it’s time to flip a coin.


I always advise people to flip a coin if it’s really hard. The thing is that even if it gets it wrong it seems to crystallize the right solution. You are choosing between A and B, the coin comes up A and suddenly you are filled with dread that you’ve made the wrong choice, so choose B.


And I’m sure that the fact that Shelburne’s governess, and nanny to his sons, was hot as a firecracker had nothing to do with it.


“Yeah, but Ben, what if there are pro and con reasons that I shouldn’t be writing down…”


I say: wait just a little bit, and often you will find that what you perceived to be a choice was just an illusion and you only really ever had one option.


You start a list to weigh the pros and cons of writing those things down on your first list.


I like Feynman’s way to reach a decision:
“After reading the salary, I’ve decided that I must refuse. The reason I have to refuse a salary like that is I would be able to do what I’ve always wanted to do- -get a wonderful mistress, put her up in an apartment, buy her nice things… . With the salary you have offered, I could actually do that, and I know what would happen to me. I’d worry about her, what she’s doing; I’d get into arguments when I come home, and so on. All this bother would make me uncomfortable and unhappy. I wouldn’t be able to do physics well, and it would be a big mess! What I’ve always wanted to do would be bad for me, so I’ve decided that I can’t accept your offer.”


Another method that can (at least tangentially) involve Ben Franklin:

  • Tell yourself (convincingly) that you will abide a coin toss for your decision.
  • When you flip the coin, observe your emotional reaction to the result, and use that info to help you understand a new dimension of the decision you are making.

Now, if you select a silver half-dollar coin that was minted between 1948 and 1963 for the toss, it will have Ben on the face.

…but seriously, the coin toss method (if you believe it is your decision when you do it) will bring hidden information to the surface.


TIL, “some writers [in the 118th century] began using a capital for any noun that they felt to be important”


Yeah I’ve done this for years on anything I truly can’t decide on. I just flip a coin and then it becomes pretty clear how I feel about it.


Glad to see someone of importance
held in High Esteem
Also uses Capitol Letters


Pick up a book from the 17th, 18th or even 19th century and you’ll find the capitalization thing was pretty common.


I’m in good company, then!?
It’s a bad habit, looks ignorant
As Hell too.

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