Several years ago, I was lost. It was night, and we were somewhere in the Al Anbar province of Iraq. My team’s radio was broken, and for some reason, so was our Humvee.
Just a few hours earlier we found out our normal route was under surveillance and dedicated for ‘on-call’ mortar fire. We would either have to wait where we were until morning, or try a different route. For some reason, we chose the latter.
Now we were stuck a few miles from the Syrian border, and we couldn’t find our way home. Everyone was stressed; everyone was tired. Finally we stopped, and an angry Sergeant came over to my position.
“Whitehead, where are we?” he shouted.
“I don’t know, Sergeant,” I answered. “My GPS needs to load.” (Our older GPS’s couldn’t locate satellites from inside the Humvees, so we’d have to pull over and wait for our coordinates to load).
We waited awhile for the GPS to load, until finally the Sergeant threw up his hands, stormed away, and shouted, “forget it, I’ll find it myself!”
We did eventually find our way home, but if we had waited another sixty seconds we would have known our position with certainty. We could have saved time, stress, and avoided unnecessary risk.
Now that I am a decision maker, I often look back to that night in the desert. Am I patient? Or, do I let other factors (stress, fear, doubt, etc) force my hand? Too often, I’m afraid, it’s the latter.
What is your decision making process? How do you balance speed and patience?