Be Decisive, Stick to your Decisions, Except when you Shouldn’t – a lesson from the Yom Kippur War (from Charles Duhigg)

Smarter Better FasterPut differently, an instinct for decisiveness is great—until it’s not. When people rush toward decisions simply because it makes them feel like they are getting something done, missteps are more likely to occur.
Charles HuHigg, Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business


I’m just about finished reading Smarter Faster Better. Charles Duhigg is a Pulitzer prize winning journalist, and he knows how to tell a story really well. And he also knows how to provide much and needed context for his stories.

And this book is a terrific read. (As was his first book, The Power of Habit).

In his chapter on Goals — GOAL SETTING: Smart Goals, Stretch Goals, and the Yom Kippur War — he describes the horribly disastrous bad decision made by the leader of military intelligence of Israel, Eli Zeira. Mr. Zeira had developed a simple test which boiled down to two elements: there would be no attack on Israel unless the attacking country (countries) had scud missiles that could reach Tel Aviv and have an air force that could protect their troops from the Israeli Air Force. He ignored all other signals that there might be an attack. This simple test had worked really well…until it didn’t.

Thus, when Israel finally decided to mobilize against the impending attack that became the Yom Kippur War, 1973, they had only two hours. They lost territory, many lives, and a lot of confidence and sense of security. Though they did win the war and regained the territory, the losses were massive.

This chapter on Goal Setting describes the danger of relying on a decisiveness that blinds one from “unseen” threats (literally, they are not “seen”), and closes one off from new possibilities. And the quote above is so pointed:

…an instinct for decisiveness is great—until it’s not.

In other words, make decisions, stick to them, except when you need to broaden your view and abandon them.

Here’s a thought. The best business books do not provide simplistic answers. The best business books help us deal with a world where “the one answer” formula is no longer dominant; a world with ever-changing circumstances and problems and solutions. It’s the “Complexity” in the VUCA formula.

Chalres Duhigg is a writer who is helping me understand this more clearly.

A best seller for quite some time!

I am presenting my synopsis of Smarter Faster Better at the May 6 First Friday Book Synopsis.  And, you can purchase my synopsis of The Power of Habit, with my handout and the audio recording of my presentation, from our companion site,



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