CategoriesThought of The Day

A Pandemic of Poor Decision-Making

During this life-defining time – when what we do during these weeks may define our lives – I have noticed, in a variety of arenas, people making the most absurd of decisions. Decisions which in ordinary times they wouldn’t make.

This begs two questions, the second of which is more important than the first.

First, in these threatening times, why has the ability to make simple decisions based on evidence fallen away? The answer is likely to be decision fatigue. When we have to make countless additional decisions each day, then the quality of our decisions inevitably deteriorates. Studies of Israeli parole boards evidence that decisions later in the day are markedly poorer than those made in the morning. As a result of these findings, tech entrepreneurs have taken to wearing black t-shirts everyday so as to remove one decision from their mornings.

Second, regardless of the current state of affairs, how can we improve our judgment – a skill arguably more important than intellect? High intellect does not of course guarantee outstanding judgment.

Can a young person display better judgment than an older person? Certainly, though with advancing years, with accumulated experience, judgment often improves. But if this was a never-ending trajectory, then the oldest amongst us would usually have optimum judgment, but this isn’t so.

Therefore, this indicates that life experience – what people have done and learned – may answer how judgment is developed. Given that it is difficult to improve one’s intellectual levels, and we can’t accelerate age, if you want to improve your judgment, how best should we go about it?

Perhaps the answer is to work in many roles and sectors. At home, we should widen our interests, learning what we can from exemplars – in person, books, videos and podcasts. But more importantly, we should introduce a process to consolidate what we have learned and to reflect on it. A diary might help. This blog is my attempt, as my diary is more of a list of what has happened.

These thoughts take me to the book which I have been struggling through – Range by David Epstein. The premise is a simple one: although those who specialise in a field straight after university, building on their degree, usually earn more in the short time after university (if they do go to uni), they often get stuck, and get overtaken by generalists who use their breadth of experience to make some radical, positive leaps forward. If in a field of specialism there is an insolvable problem, so the Range theory goes, get someone from another field to use their orthoganol approach. Problem solved.

One way to improve judgment is to use a peer review system, such as The Alternative Board, which I have attended for 18 months. On our board, it’s simply mind-boggling how each member approaches a given problem in such a different and unexpected way. The skill, then, is to choose the best advice, using your judgment.

In addition to being a generalist, using a peer review system and learning as much as you can, I recommend a dose of Stoic philosophy as the schema to run all decisions through. I will write about Stoicism shortly!

If you’re in the decision-making business, where your judgment is key, it’s incumbent upon you to make the best possible decisions, and therefore to discover how best you can do it. There are plenty of life and business coaches: what we are missing are judgment coaches.


You must be kidding, right?

With the UK set to have the highest death rate in Europe – currently we have the third highest death rate in the world – any sane, dispassionate, thinking person would presume that whichever Government presided over such a disaster would be getting hammered by the electorate. But you would be wrong. Welcome to the UK.

In terms of the polls, at the end of January, Reckless Boris had a net approval rating of– 1 per cent. By April 13, with the country reeling, the PM’s ratings had increased by 41 per cent! This paragraph is worth re-reading.

Additionally, during this same period of time, the proportion of people likely to consider voting Tory at the next general election rose from 41 to 45 per cent.

Now let’s take a fair look at what the Government has done well and what it hasn’t.

What has gone well

  • Some of the economic measures, notably furlough, VAT payment cessations, and business rates rebates, which have secured, as much as they could, the lifeblood of capitalism: confidence.
  • Some of the public health broadcasts have been fine.
  • The NHS hasn’t collapsed.
  • The nationalisation of the railways.

What has gone badly wrong

  • Thousands of unnecessary deaths.
  • PPE shortages.
  • First and second versions of the CBIL scheme were disastrous.
  • The PM shook hands with Covid patients on 3 March, whilst other countries were locked down.
  • Cheltenham Festival and other events were allowed to continue.
  • Very limited testing.
  • Under-funding of the NHS for a decade.
  • Social care on its knees.
  • Initially, the bonkers idea of herd immunity.

With our impressive National Health Service, the additional weeks for preparation, our island advantage and as the 6th richest country, our death rates are simply staggering. Lest we forget that Reckless Boris missed five COBRA meetings. Lest we forget that Captain Tom felt compelled to raise money for NHS charities, so starved of funding the NHS has been. Lest we forget that Reckless Boris succeeded in his mad mission to catch Covid, when his umpteenth partner was heavily pregnant with his umpteenth child. With all that, surely the public must be dismayed with his handling, but no.

What can explain such defective thinking by so many?

Though a lobotomy would be needed to think in such a flawed way, perhaps the electorate who voted for Reckless Boris in December knew that they had elected a charlatan, but he was their charlatan. They knew that he didn’t know all his children, knew that he had been sacked multiple times for bending the truth, but he was better than “terrorist-sympathiser” Corbyn. Confirmation bias as much to answer for.

But why are there new converts to cause Johnson, given the mounting evidence that his actions and omissions will have killed their loved ones? To hazard a guess, the fear of Covid is so awful, so all-consuming, that to add to the woe the realisation that we couldn’t have a worse leader at such a crucial time would make the Covid stupor even more unbearable. So, don’t think about it. Presume faith in Dear Leader. Suspend intellect.

And we shouldn’t forget Reckless Boris’ gift for politicking. Britain’s identity is wrapped up in our obsession with World War Two. Once Reckless Boris took Covid seriously, he whipped the country into war mode, with him playing Churchill. It’s heresy to question Churchill’s decisions, though there were many hair-brained Churchillian calamities. Brainwashing of millions now complete. But Boris is no Churchill, he’s like a First World War general, sending his men over the top.

CategoriesThought of The Day

In the spotlight  

Yesterday, as Starmer took on Raab for the first time at a mostly virtual PMQs, the Yorkshire Post printed my essay – featured in this blog – regarding the pros and cons of having a solicitor as de facto PM. After that, the paper requested another article about the failing Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan – a scheme which will go down in infamy.

Here is the printed version and here is the link.


As pleasing as it is, to have a well-known media outlet publish my essay, it does not make the content any more valid. A Stoic philosophy obsessive like me shouldn’t welcome praise when it was not deserved, nor feel lousy when unfairly criticised. Most of these blogs will not be printed elsewhere, but you – the reader – should judge them on their own merits.


RIP The British Economy: murdered by bureaucracy         

As a small business owner, and as someone who interviews business owners for the The Harrogate Podcast, I fear for our SMEs. Most have been clobbered by COVID. My best guess is that 1 million businesses will perish in the next few weeks – all caused by British bureaucracy and presided over by this incompetent Government.

Regular readers to my blog will note my fury at the lack of preparedness and foresight displayed by this Government, particularly when it comes to matters of health. Just remember the debacle over ventilators (see my post here) as well as the disgraceful absence of PPE.

However, I welcomed the Chancellor’s semi-blank cheque to businesses and to workers. I welcome the Chancellor’s proclamation that this is not the time for ideology (code for: our right-wing economics will fail here, as it failed with austerity). And I praise the Chancellor for essentially introducing universal basic income in the form of the furlough scheme for employees and the £2,500 available to the self-employed. Praise where praise is due. The Chancellor started this crisis well.

But as all business owners know, cash is king. Hopeless zombie businesses can survive for years when money is plentiful. Although the concept of Government-supported loans for SMEs is to be applauded, the schoolboy Chancellor should have realised just how impossible it would be for the banks to provide the lending and to do so at pace and scale.

Two weeks ago, I had the misfortune to telephone my business bank. After 102 minutes, my call was answered. I was told that I could get a call-back in two weeks’ time! Businesses will be going under as I type because of the predictable difficulties of transferring billions of pounds from banks to businesses, whilst obtaining approval from the British Business Bank – an institution that I bet you hadn’t heard about before this crisis.

The first iteration of this loan scheme had to be scrapped because it demanded that businesses could only obtain funding if they first applied for commercial lending – at a time when it takes 102 minutes for the phone to be answered! In addition, the scheme required business owners to accept personal guarantees. Why would a business owner accept personal guarantees up to £250k if they didn’t know how long the lockdown would last, nor whether there would be future demand for their services? Pre-Covid, most SME owners moaned about their banks. Any business owner could have told the Chancellor that his first scheme was doomed to failure. Our Chancellor, who is married to a billionaire’s daughter and who has only worked in city hedge funds, couldn’t possibly know what it is like to run an SME. Why would he?

Am I being harsh on our Government? Let’s contrast how our system is working compared to Switzerland. This article appeared in The Times several days ago. The author, Tyle Brule, a Canadian entrepreneur working in Switzerland, described the Swiss scheme as follows:

“Fill out a form with six basic questions, send it to your bank and, all being well, you would receive a loan covering up to 10% of your turnover, with a ceiling of 500,000 francs, within 24 hours — zero interest, no penalties, repayable in five years and a jail term to match for wrong answers.

As Switzerland is home base for my businesses, I tried it out. Would they come good on the snappy turnaround? Could they really make a decision that quickly? Just 18 hours later I had my answer: 500,000 francs was in my account at UBS in St Moritz. My partner sent in an application at 11am on Tuesday and the funds were with him three hours later.”

Businesses will survive in Switzerland, but they will not here. Prudently managed businesses, run by caring competent owners, are going to the wall, leaving a trail of destruction and a negative economic tornado. This is all entirely preventable. Using data from Companies House, the Government could transfer 10% of last year’s turnover to the nominated bank account which pays Corporation Tax or VAT. Moreover, as humans cannot make the lending decisions fast enough, particularly when so many are poorly and/or caring for children at home, technology could have saved the day.

Clearly, it is better for the economy – for people – that most businesses receive some financial support and that there is some abuse, rather than the current farce which prevents abuse, but leads to SME insolvency en masse.

If businesses are to survive – and therefore the economy is not to tank – loans need to be paid to businesses now. There is no time for due diligence. This is the time for rapid action.

RIP to the economy as we knew it.

CategoriesThought of The Day

Then The Earth Healed

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still.

And listened more deeply.

Some meditated, some prayed, some danced.

Some met their shadows.

And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed.

And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

Kitty O’Meara

I hope you will agree, this poem is a must-share, in these times.

With the speculation surrounding just how many people COV-19 will take from us, it is right that we remember that according to the World Health Organisation findings, pollution kills around 7 million people annually, with some 40,000 Brits per year. And with our pre-pandemic roads fit-to-bursting, we lose circa 2,500 to road deaths, with thousands of others dying needlessly on the roads.

Whilst the earth heals, due to a significant drop in pollution caused by this pandemic, it might well be that the world’s population will finish this year higher than it would have been. Is this a cause for celebration?

How blinkered we are as a species! We respond with devastating alacrity to acute problems like pandemics, but we find it near-impossible to handle the larger threats to the human species – pollution and climate change. We need a longer lens. It’s time that we press reset on what is important to us as a species.