A Short Course on Judgment

As investors, and preppers, we are called on, dozens of times per day to make decisions about whether to “hold ‘em or fold ‘em.” Or, in the prepping context, “What’s the next shoe to drop likely to be?”

What makes the difference between a successful survivor or investor and a loser of either stripe is as much about their judgment skills as it is about understanding “technical measures” of a given situation.

But how much time to most people spend learning what judgment is and how to improve it for their own advantage? I figure not many.

In fact, most people invest sophisticated lies to tell themselves to avoid “ownership” of outcomes. Or, they use transference in order to blame the wrong cause of judgment lapses. Or, a good portion of people turn to substance abuse (“the excuse-juice”) to tell themselves:

“My bad judgement is OK because_________”

Before we launch into a set of tools that may help you improve your “batting average” though, let’s consider the decision-making processes for what they are: “judgment” calls.

Every judgment you make shapes your personal future. Therefore, if you’re not happy with your present, be 100% totally assured it is due to bad judgment in your past.

Like the law in physics (for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction) all judgments make your future better, or worse.

When is a Decision a Judgement?

Judgments are based principally on facts or data.  Decisions can be based on anything, in particular, emotions.

Modern (“social media addicted”) media portray judgment as a bad thing. In 2009, a book came out with the paradoxical title “How to make Judgments without being Judgmental.” No, I didn’t buy that book; the premise in its title was (to me) quite absurd. Guilt-trip sounding; Losers make excuses.

I make mistakes all the time.  I own ’em, too.  But, I also brace the management concept of 3M, “fail faster.”  I screw up, I own in, I move ahead on course.

Let me suggest that social media has adopted and is marketing this BS and that you need to get clear of it…pronto!

If I seem “excessively judgmental” in views on things like cartels running black tar heroin across the former Mexico border, that’s not excessively judgmental. Our family lost a 26-year old to black tar.

“Excessive” is – in this example – a left wing, open-border apologist’s ploy to move an agenda.  Theirs,

It’s not a reasoned judgment based on facts. I have yet to meet an open-border apologist who’s lost kin to overdose (or violence) from clearly Mexican source.

“Excessively judgmental” is played like a harp by anti-American media before an audience of button-pressing apes – all guilt-tripping in unison. Lacking facts or personal “skin in the game” they will swallow anything; applying no decision-making skills. They lack judgment.

Let’s begin a little exercise: look-up of what judgmental means:

adjective: judgemental; adjective: judgmental
of or concerning the use of judgment.
“judgmental errors”
having or displaying an excessively critical point of view.”

See how the subtle dumbing-down of America is at work here? Even the dictionary (a linguistic flag blowing political winds) has gone soft-headed, too.

The giveaway is the linking of the phrase “excessively critical” to “errors.” That’s propagandist talk; not the art and skill of highly logical people. Where is the steel-trap mind?

To demonstrate this Big Lie, let’s go for a ride in a KC-135 jet. To make things interesting, we will load it up with nitro glycerin. Hmm…83,000 pounds enough? On the upper deck, let’s load in 37 members of your closest family and friends, too.

Now we’ll fly it up to Elmendorf Air Force Base – 19 gun shops, 21 liquor stores, 4 massage parlors, three topless bars, and 7 pawn shops up the street from Anchorage, Alaska.  Let’s make it dusk – the hardest time to judge altitude above the runway.

To add realism to our experiment. As if a four-engine jet with a cargo bay full of nitro (and 37 people sitting on top of it) isn’t enough “fuel for thought,” let’s bring in a terrible spring storm. Mighty gusty winds coming up Turnagain Arm. Then we’ll toss in a low overcast so the pilot won’t be able to see the touchdown point until he’s 5-seconds from impact, landing, or executing a missed approach.

Now, I ask you: Is there any possible circumstances where you (riding in the jump seat of this nightmare) can imagine the pilot’s view as being even remotely “excessively critical?”

I sure couldn’t, but then I’ve got a lot of jump seat time in commercial jets. 99% of pilots I know would agree: “The Company thinks they pay us to fly planes. But given a commercial jet, we’d fly them free – they are so frigging cool. What the Company does pay for – and through the nose – is 5-minutes a month of ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT JUDGMENT.” AFM, brothers and sisters of the sky.

I’m comfortable with excessively judgmental people because – if anyone takes the time to ask – most have first-hand, hair-raising tales that have improved their judgment. Not pushed over some left-wing political precipice.

Judgment doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s an art. Takes practice, review, correction, and lots of repetition. Exactly like “excessively critical judgment” which I heartily endorse.

When Elaine and I were doing a lot of flying, one of my FAA “WINGS” Program courses that drove this all home was titled “Aeronautical Decision-Making.” The more data you have to base decisions on, the better. But, you don’t have all day. You are required to order the data and assign it weighting so when it’s time to be life-savingly excessively judgmental you pull it off flawlessly and instantly.

Although not put into such direct language, that course is about Making Good Decisions 100-percent of the time. Because one percent of dead is…what? Dead.

In other words, get to be excessively critical of your flying and you will live. Gravity gives not a shit about political-correctness. (d’uh.) Neither should you.

Fail to be “excessively critical” and the details you overlook in your analysis will kill your ass.

There’s no “erring on the side of caution” penalty among seasoned pilots, A thousand hours or more and several transcon’s will help to develop your “excessively judgmental thinking.” Go for it. You’ll piss a lot of people off but it’s the cost of an error-free life.

That’s where hangar-talk sayings come from. Like: “I’d rather be DOWN HERE wishing I was UP THERE, than be UP THERE wishing I was DOWN HERE.”

I assume you know the saying “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots. But never any old Bold pilots. The ones who live tend to be “excessively judgmental” tend to collect Social Security.

8-Steps to Excellent Judgment

Here’s an example that comes up all the time. Someone wants to borrow a car from you.

1. What is the judgment? “Do I want to buy this stock?” “Should I lend so and so my car?” “Is this a safe flight plan?”  “Do I lend so and so an expensive tool?
2. Separate Facts and Fictions: When you make any decision, assemble as many pertinent facts as you can. Someone wants to borrow your car. Do you know their driving record?  Or, someone wants to borrow an expensive tool:  Do they know how to operate it safely?   Got a fresh route forecast before take-off? Get data if you don’t have it, then decide.
3. Project Your Judgment’s Results: All decisions (judgments) have consequences. When you make a judgment, don’t waste a lot of time considering all of the stake holders. Instead, make all decisions based on cost of error and outcome probability.  Collect facts and then make a judgment.
4. Bound Your Decision: Make it clear who is the ONE person who is responsible. The person who you have knowledge of, the one with the best flying record. The one person who brings tools back when borrowed. No one else.
5. Time the Decision: If a person borrows something, set a fixed date for its return. Flying an instrument approach, don’t push “decision height” – it’s there for a reason. When the time comes, act.
6. Reduce it to Writing. Even in stock trading, I will reduce a judgment to a “bail out point.” (E.G. sell xxx shares if my account balance goes below yyy dollars.) If a borrowed tool, write it down so there’s documentation if its broken. If you’re flying an approach, have the track to the alternate airport ready on the kneeboard. Because if you don’t pre-plan the future, you may not have time when you need the information.
7. Execute. Make the best decision you can then see it through. Second guess after you land, not while flying.
8. Defend Your Decisions. As you go through anything in life, people will attack your decisions. “That was excessively judgmental!” for example. Tell ‘em to take a hike. It was your (prepping/tool loaning/ flight planning) responsibility. You gathered facts, forecast a likely future outcome and acted in a manner most beneficial to all. Reduced to writing, review it later.

One of the surest paths to success in life is to operate your lief as though it were a business.  The tool rental joint won’t let you take a tool without paperwork, for example.

Be a mental hard-ass. People may think you over-confident, pompous prick. Let it be water off a duck. There’s no such a thing as “excessively judgmental.”

There are people who “get drifty” and lose their “edge” and part of good judgment is learning to spot those changes.

From personal observation, more than 80% of the time, people who wield such pap as “excessively judgmental”  are generally both inexperienced and/or incapable of making consistently great judgments in many areas of their lives.

People are like gardens:  Judge them by what they produce.

The FAA checks driving records because DWI’s tend to be statistically tied to fatal aircraft accidents, for example. People with bad judgment can’t (or don’t want) to see it in themselves. But it comes through in DMV records or after crash investigations.

What other people think of you is not your problem.  Takes a bitg of confidence to be a stellar decision-maker. Aviate, navigate, communicate.

And go easy on those Elmendorf landings, right?

Write when you get rich,