In the 2002 movie Unfaithful, Connie Summer (played by Diane Lane) is frazzled searching for a taxi in the SoHo neighborhood of New York. She slips on the sidewalk and scrapes her knee. An attractive man sees her fall and invites her into his apartment. As she contemplates whether or not to accept his help, a cab comes around the corner. She lets it pass and instead follows the man to his apartment.
A SUD is a seemingly unimportant decision, just like the one Connie made when she decided to accept a stranger’s help instead of getting into the cab. It was this seemingly unimportant decision that eventually led to the stranger’s murder by Connie’s husband.
In Russia this week, Oleg Sokolov, a well known professor of Russian and French history, was fished out of a river. He had two severed arms in his backpack belonging to a 24-year-old female student who lived with him. At the writing of this blog, he is currently appearing in court where the larger backstory will soon come to light, however, we may hypothesize that he is a sociopath who was able to keep his evil behavior under wraps for 50 plus years. Another hypothesis is that Sokolov had a more acute psychotic break. However, it’s suspected that he made a series of seemingly unimportant decisions that lead to a behavior that he could have never imagined himself doing when he first met this woman.
I struggled to write this article because the SUDs behind many failed companies are not clear. Additionally, I cannot write in detail about the SUDs made by our clients for obvious confidentiality reasons. However, as trusted advisors for our clients, we’ve witnessed many instances in which good people with positive intentions were derailed by a series of SUDs. Unfortunately, we are usually called in after the damage is done. One client described just such an experience using the following well-known analogy: “If you put a frog in a pot of warm water and turn the heat up slowly to a boiling temperature, it does not sense the subtle increases in danger and therefore does not react to escape it. Each poor decision that I made lead to one that was worse”.
How do we protect ourselves from disasters that begin with SUDs?
We can protect ourselves from the life altering consequences associated with SUDs. Here are a few tips:
- Work with a coach to understand the areas of your life that are vulnerable and pay more attention in related situations. Consider utilizing assessments. When used with the right professional, they may be able to identify areas of susceptibility.
- Reject the thought that a path beginning with a SUD cannot be undone. Usually there is a short term cost associated with unwinding a decision, but this cost may be well worth it in avoiding the long term consequences. A professional coach works well in this instance.
- Occasionally review your decisions using the following tests:
- The Legal Test: Does this decision break the law?
- The Gut Test: Does this decision make your stomach feel queasy?
- The Facebook/Instagram Test: How would you feel if your decision in that moment showed up tomorrow morning on your social media feed?
- The Philotimo Test: If your parent or a leader in your community knew about the decision, would they say your decision represented them well?
- When a SUD yields an undesired result, take a moment to reflect on the small narratives you tell yourself to justify your actions. In other words, learn from previous SUDs.
We believe that SUDs are the number one reason why good people end up doing bad things. Don’t let SUDs wash out your business, career, or life.