Making Tough Decisions

At one point or the other in our lives we will be faced with difficult, life-changing decisions. These decisions, if taken, would alter the course of our lives either positively or negatively and they are always laced with uncertainties of dire consequences. These decisions also entail leaving our places of comfort and assured security to a new place of discomfort and insecurity. Can you relate with this? These momentous times are defining times in our lives and we scarce not miss the opportunity to grow. To me, it usually follows the ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ mantra and I believe every man has got at least one of such opportunities in his life. In fear, ninety percent of us prefer the sure, conventional way because common sense dictates so. But common sense does not mean best sense. We see confirmation in the following well-accepted, global phrases which when interpreted mean – be careful, hold onto what you have;

‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’

or is it ‘the devil you know is better than the angel you don’t know’

or ‘half a loaf of bread is better than none.’

These are proverbs for ordinary men and unfortunately, the world was carved by extraordinary decisions. This article seeks to x-ray six lives that encountered such moments and made the right choices despite damning consequences. We have Carles Rexach, Mary Kay Ash, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Robert R Livingston and David Ben-Gurion. They may have done this in consonance with some other people but as always one man stands out.

Carles Rexach

I guess a lot of us have never heard of Carles Rexach? Same here until two weeks ago. What about Lionel Andres Messi? You have of course. When Messi was just a sick- looking, thirteen-year old, he was brought to the attention of Carles Rexach who was the sporting director of Barcelona Football Club. The club had just lost Luis Figo and were desperately looking for a world class striker as replacement. Messi was fantastic with the ball and he was okay to play in the attacking position but he was just thirteen and not only that he was suffering from a growth deficiency and needed treatment costing $900 monthly. His home club in Argentina, River Plate could no longer foot the bill and had to let him go. I guess that is a decision they will be regretting till date. Other conditions were that the family (father, mother and two sisters) of the young prodigy would be migrated to Spain to enable him settle down easily but more urgently the father needed an answer now or else he would look elsewhere. The management of Barcelona Football Club could not understand what Mr. Rexach was doing trying to convince them to sign on a liability at a critical time in their club history. When Jorge Messi (Lionel Messi’s father) insisted on a written commitment from Carles Rexach, he looked around for a paper and when he couldn’t find one he picked up a napkin and wrote Lionel Messi’s first agreement on it. Imagine writing the agreement of one of the world’s greatest footballers on a napkin! FC Barcelona later changed their minds and a formal agreement was written. The rest, as they say, is history now. That little boy has grown to break all the goal-scoring records of the club except all-time highest goal scorer which being twenty four he would certainly break. He has helped the club win three champions league and five Spanish league titles, two FIFA world cups among others. He has been crowned as the world best for four consecutive years and has beaten his next opponent with the widest margin yet. The list goes on. And all these are attributable to the foresight of Carles Rexach.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was the co-founder of Apple Computers and a major driving force of its success. He was accused of being erratic and temperamental always holding meetings late into the night and resuming again first thing the next morning. He typified the word ‘slave driver’. The company was not comfortable with his style of leadership and the fomenting leadership tussle between him and John Sculley (then Apple’s CEO) so in a board meeting held on May 24, 1985, Apple Board of Directors relieved Steve from his duties as head of the recently introduced mackintosh division. This decision culminated in his resignation from the company five months later to found another. Funny how a man gets dumped out of the company he co-founded by a man he personally recruited with the words ‘come with me and change the world.’ How many people would agree to lose out of their company now that there was a silver lining in the horizon? There is always that zeal to start up a company and the Edison’s zeal to try even after failing so many times. But very few people have the zeal to opt out of their successful company and start a new one. Even Steve Jobs acknowledged the importance of that decision to the overall success of his life when he was quoted saying ‘I am pretty sure none of these (his numerous achievements) would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was an awful-tasting medicine but I guess the patient needed it.’ He resigned to re-invent himself. Although, he began the company with a start-up capital of $7m, he was out begging for Venture Angels to bail him out when he was running out of cash. I wonder what would have been running through his mind then.

What transpired after that decision were more than what did before he resigned. Apple later bought the company he founded (NeXT Inc) after billionaire Ross Perot came to his rescue. Steve Jobs went forward to become CEO, and later before his death, Chairman of Apple. He revolutionalised the company tripling profits.

Mary Kay

I guess we should have a woman in this elite list and here comes Mary Kay Ash. Entrepreneur, billionaire, beauty consultant, saleswoman and most notably mother. How did she get all these? She defied an odd that many of us would have encountered and backed down from, picked up the gauntlet and like she wanted, changed the feminine world. In 1963, at the middle age of 45, she was a grandmother who had retired from sales. Mary Kay Ash decided to start her own company. She didn’t have a college (university) education, because she dropped out of her self-enrolled evening school and neither did she have enough money although she would always say she had enough enthusiasm to supplement her deficiencies. A month before she was to open her company, her financial administrator who incidentally was her husband was busy reading some figures to her on the breakfast table when he had a heart attack and died. The company was in jeopardy before start up. She sought the opinion of her attorney and he gave her a candid advice, ‘liquidate the company now and recoup what you can.’ Her Accountant gave her another professional advice, ‘the commission line you are advocating will not work, Mark Kay cosmetics will run into bankruptcy.’ But despite these advices from professionals, Mary Kay Ash defied them and against all odds started what she labelled her ideal company.

Bill Gates

Our next icon is nobody but the legendary William Gates III. After having 1590 out of 1600 in SAT scores, Bill Gates entered the famous Harvard College. He kept in touch with his longtime school mate and friend Paul Allen and together they formed their own software company in 1974. In 1975, after reading a magazine – popular electronics – that demonstrated a new invention by MITS (acronym for Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems) Altair 8800. MITS were the inventors of the new micro computers. Bill Gates contacted and informed them that his company was already in the process of having a BASIC interpreter for the platform. Ed Roberts, MITS president agreed to see a demo in two weeks time. The duo took their chance and developed the Altair emulator. The demo was successful and so Bill Gates took leave of absence from school and joined Paul Allen and their newly renamed company Micro-soft to develop a better programming. It is on record that he never went back to Harvard. I believe the high point of his life was when he left school and decided to concentrate on what he believed in. Examples abound of men and women who left school to plough the world for their Golden Fleece but Bill Gates stands tall among them because he ventured into a world that though he was seeing glimpses of success by the world’s standard but he needed to let every encumbrance go to be able to achieve all.

David Ben-Gurion

In May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion announced to the Israel people and to the world that a new nation has been born; Israel. This was a day before the British Mandate was to expire for their independence. It was a weighty decision, which announcement everybody knew would not be taken lightly in some quarters. Within one week the United States, the USSR and a host of other nations had acknowledged and accepted the new state of Israel but the hawks of war were already gathering. David Ben-Gurion was not the sole proponent for the creation of an Israel nation but he was regarded as the father of modern Israel. He was also a major factor behind the Yishuv’s (Jewish living in Palestine prior to 1948) military power (See David Ben-Gurion) which in no small measure aided their ability to defend themselves shortly after independence. That singular decision and announcement changed the politics of the Middle East forever. Half a century later the battle still rages on but the people of Israel now have a place they can call their own.

Robert R. Livingston

The Louisiana Purchase, a milestone achievement of Thomas Jefferson administration, comprises fifteen U.S and two Canadian provinces. The buy was 23% of the United States land size measuring 828 sq miles as at 1803 and it divided the United States into two. The United States paid $15m which, as at then, was less than 3 cents per acre. The value of the purchase as at 2011 was valued at $219m (less than 42 cents per acre.) What then was the tough decision that was made? Here enters Robert R. Livingston. The Louisiana Territory was a piece of property that had changed hands countless times. It originally was Spain’s then France’s then Spain’s again after the seven days war then France’s as at the time of purchase which was 1803. James Monroe and Robert Livingston were sent to Paris to negotiate the purchase of New Orleans only and the surrounding ports. They were given a maximum purchasing wallet of $10m. Napoleon Bonaparte didn’t want to sell New Orleans, he wanted to sell the whole Louisiana Territory and for $15m! He wanted to sell it because it was useless to him, he needed money to wage war against Britain and he did not even know if the property was truly France’s. Livingston had to make a decision. There were no telegrams, telephone lines, jet planes or fast means of communication and Robert Livingston was afraid that Napoleon would change his mind if he made the journey of weeks to get Thomas Jefferson’s and of course Congress’s approval. He took the decision and agreed.

This decision counts as one of the top ten decisions ever made by a U.S government official but unfortunately one of the most vilified and resisted then. Reasons for its opposition abound because the sale was controversial. Even Jefferson disliked buying the whole territory from the French as it would corroborate their ownership. Also it was argued that even a US president didn’t have the right to make such a purchase. The opposition preferred closer ties with Britain to France and Napoleon needed the money to wage war against Britain. Furthermore, buying it was like declaring war with Spain who afterwards claimed some portions of the land as theirs. The purchase also left the U.S with the problem of what to do with the Spanish and French citizens already settled there. Another fall-out of the purchase was the civil war that was later to be fought. Louisiana contributed in no small measure because it was slave-owning and helped grow the culture of slavery in America.

In this discourse, we have seen what tough decisions yield. They are hard to make but produce great results. Have you got such decisions to make today? Send us a mail and let us reason it together.

Send your comments and articles to or follow me on twitter @iikhidero

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2 thoughts on “Making Tough Decisions

  1. You can certainly see your expertise within the article
    you write. The sector hopes for more passionate writers
    such as you who are not afraid to say how they believe.
    Always follow your heart.


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