A black hole will swallow everything that gets too close to it – including light. The area around the center of the black hole where something disappears is called the event horizon. It’s the black part of the black hole – there’s stuff there, but you can’t see any of it.

photo credit here
Event horizons also happen with people and decisions — only instead of light and particles, it’s future consequences that that can’t be seen. Let me illustrate with a classic example – falling in love.You may remember a time when you were attending a party – at a frat house in college, weekend camp in high school, a networking social after business hours, whatever – and you meet someone. The SOME ONE. You hit it off and have a fantastic evening. You exchange phone numbers and promise to call to arrange a date. Which you do a few days later.

The last thing you are considering at this time is how to pay for children’s’ college tuition in 19-25 years. But you could be setting yourself on that pathway with your immediate decision –

 
because the date leads to a second and third,
and before too long you are discussing a life together,
then a ring and a date,
the ceremony, 
a honeymoon, 
merging two households together,
which eventually leads to your kid going to college 

and guess who is supposed to pay for that?

It’s not that you can’t think of the consequences – there are so many articles on the consequences of falling in love that it’s hard to complain that no one told you. I mean, my father-in-law’s only comment when I asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage was, “Well, you’ve seen her mother.”

But we usually don’t think about the consequences because our reason is clouded by emotions. If someone tries to bring up the potential consequences, we push downplay it or push the subject aside.

Seeing over the event horizon is important because it allows us to understand what the consequences will be of the decisions we are making today. Peter Drucker once pointed out that you can’t change the past or even the present, the only thing you can change is the future based on the decisions you make today.

I helped a church organization once understand the consequences that they had built into a disaster preparedness plan. I staged a table top exercise – a series of questions that the key players are asked to consider and decide what they would do. One of the many interesting details that emerged was that the top leader wasn’t able to perform his duties as outlined in the plan until he had traveled 20 miles to retrieve his special needs son and make arrangements for his care. Meanwhile, others were waiting for directions or permission which they weren’t getting.

For a business, typical decisions that can have a profound effect are who’s going to be your website hosting provider; the design of your flagship product, the structure of your customer service system; the policies you put in place – nearly everything you do will affect the nature of your business for years for success or failure. Anyone who has had to migrate a web site from one hosting company to another knows the trouble that it causes – and it always happens when you are in the midst of a major product launch or someone is hosting you on a national podcast!

The trick is to practice following the chain of events that will follow from your decision – What will happen late today, tomorrow, next week, next month, and so on.

So start today – what is one decision that you made today – what are the consequences that will follow from that decision by tonight? Next week? Next month? Next year? 10 years from now?

 
 

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.