Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How to make a decision

I'm currently reading a book by an economist about how to make medical decisions. She wrote the book because she had a medical condition that caused her to receive a lot of rules instead of a lot of information. She was less able to make decisions because the rules were handed to her as edicts and because she couldn't access the information behind those rules. Just the introduction is enlightening and it has sparked me to write this post about a decision I just made and why I made it and why you might make a different one.

Ok, so according to this economist, here is how you make a decision : Collect all of the data. Confirm the pluses and minuses or the cost and benefits. Input your personal feelings. Make the decision. She uses this in an introductory class for MBA students regarding buying businesses. Figure out the cost of the business, what it will make, what else you could do with the money you'll use for buying the business, weigh in your personal feelings, make the decision. What I love is that she emphasizes both the objective; data and also the subjective; feelings. She admits that a decision for one person might be right and for another might be wrong, but that making decisions this way is the correct way to make a decision no matter the outcome. To use another example : If you want to buy a house and you've figured out its market value, you can decide to offer that market value because that is what the house is worth. But maybe this house is your dream style with the perfect lawn in the best neighborhood and so you want to offer slightly more than market value because it's so great for you. Conversely, maybe you feel market value is too much, because market value is determined by what other people are willing to pay, so you offer less.

This felt like such an A-HA! moment, reading that...and also so great because that is how I make decisions.

For her, regarding the medical issue, she realized that when faced with a medical decision, she wasn't always able to access the data. Her doctor couldn't or wouldn't give her statistics and even looking them up in reputable sources, she found more rules and not more data. Finding actual studies behind the rules, and finding actual data...that was difficult. Which leads me to something I want to tell you about making decisions...

Data isn't what someone else tells you, even if that someone else is a doctor. Data is numbers. It's statistics and it's studies. Data matters HOW THEY DID THE STUDIES, not just what the results were. You are probably not actually getting the data you think you're getting, and you're probably not making decisions correctly.

I know you're like, "But Fenna, MY DOCTOR SAYS...and my doctor IS A DOCTOR." Sure, but how are doctors trained? Here is the thing that I might know that you don't because I took statistics and social science research, so I had to study just how they do studies, methodology and data collection and then how to process and interpret that...your doctor might not have taken those classes. I did, so I know things. Your doctor might really know a lot about the human body, but not about statistics and it's likely that your doctor received information from someone with a similar education gap.

And honestly, don't even get me started on newspapers and news tv shows and everything you can read on the internet. Trust me : You probably don't actually have all the data.

So let me tell you about why I decided to stop doing the work for the two classes I'm currently taking and why I'm going to fail those classes and why it doesn't matter for me, but some of my friends think it would matter for them.

First, I calculated my GPA with the 0 for those two Fs I'm going to receive. I discovered that would leave my GPA at a solidly respectable 3.0.

Secondly, I'm not going to graduate from the college where I'm taking these two classes. This college is incredibly unethical, does not care about its students, and actively discourages creative thinking...also, they pay my professors a ridiculous 11-ish dollars per hour. Someone with a PhD should make more than what I can make at McDonalds. It's a problem that my college doesn't value me but it's an even bigger problem that they don't value my professors.

Thirdly, I considered what it would cost to retake these classes at another institution, if necessary. Yes, that number doesn't make me happy, BUT...

Fourth, I considered what it costs me to continue taking these classes. I took four weeks of the classes while waiting for the financial aid refund I needed, which is the entire reason I took the classes. (The refund was three times the amount of the cost of classes, so it was a no brainer to sign up for them. The question was if I could stand them and since my GPA wouldn't take too much of a hit by failing them, it made sense to sign up so I could get that refund.) Taking these classes for four weeks I learned several things : 1. My professors aren't as smart as me and aren't actually teaching me anything. Incredibly arrogant, I suppose, but it's true. One is a survey religion class that looks exactly like something I took my freshman year in high school, so much so, that I can pass the weekly quizzes without reading any material at all. On top of that, the professor regularly deducts points for my content, which is exemplary AND he discourages me from actually exploring religion, forcing me only to study the main religions of the world. It's so boring and teaching me absolutely nothing. I have no questions and every answer is a quick Google search away anyway. 2. Since my professors aren't teaching me anything, is there anything I'm gaining from the material? Again, the answer is no. The material is subpar and some of it is incredibly inappropriate. I disagree with the curriculum, so why am I wasting time "learning" it. 3. I'm not going to continue as an Anthropology major wherever I go next. I thought I liked this major of study, but I have since learned that current prevailing thought is not in keeping with the science behind the field and I'm not interested in spending any more time fighting prevailing thought just to receive Bs because my professors haven't evolved yet. In twenty years, everyone will be thinking what I'm already thinking and I can't wait around for that to change.

Finally, I realized, with the help of a good friend, the I need to let go and stop engaging in these classes and get those two Fs. (My mom suggest withdrawal, which would have a more positive effect on my GPA...but then I'd have to deal with the administration and that is a hearty FUCK NO!) My friend said, "I mean if you're not getting anything out of the class, you're not learning, you're not enjoying it, you don't need it for whatever your ultimate goal is, and it won't be in your way if you quit that class, then I'd say fuck it". And she is SO FUCKING RIGHT! Taking the paradigm of correct decision making and my friend's input, the decision is totally clear...

Failing the classes does not harm my ability to transfer and does not impede my future degree plans, though it does cost me money if I have to replace these credits with other classes. However, it gained me money in the short term. Taking these classes is incredibly detrimental to my spirit and poses no benefit to my education. The best answer is to close down that fucking window, delete all this work from my Google Drive, and let that fucking college disappear in my rear view mirror (of life).

To recap here is the only way to make a decision : Collect all the data (data is numbers, not something you hear or read from someone else), figure out the cost benefits, weigh in your personal feelings, make the decision that is right for you. So easy to write out, much harder to follow through on, but that economist is totally right, it is the correct way!

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