When “I don’t know” is not an option.

Growing up, I was always taught that if you don’t know something to ask someone else. Ask your parents, ask your teachers, or just google it – someone on google always has the answer! Even as I moved into my first few job roles, there was always someone more senior to make decisions on my behalf. Nothing was my fault unless I didn’t do what was asked of me.

Don’t get me wrong – I like making decisions. Making decisions means I get to be autonomous and also get to be in control of the situation. By having foresight, I can somewhat dictate what happens in the future (not bearing my occasional bouts of existential dread – see previous post – when I’m so numbed by the fact that nothing I do has any meaning I completely wonder what the point of living actually is).

How I make decisions:

1. What outcome do I want?
2. What outcome do the other parties involved want?
3. What available options are there?
4. If there are too many options, what are the 3 best ones?
5. Choose the option that will satisfy 1 & 2 the most.

There is always some internal dilemma when 1 and 2 differ. In some cases, it’s easy for me to choose myself. Yet in other cases, I find myself favoring the other party. Overall – I try to keep enough of a balance so that I can still consider myself a ‘good person’ at the end of the day, and also not derail my long term goals.

Sometimes I help other people make decisions for themselves (using the same metric I use). They ask me for advice, and I run through my metric.

I see others get stuck by being paralyzed by step 3. “There are so many options, how can I possibly choose?” When really, indecision is a decision in itself – often a bad one.

You often don’t get the luxury of knowing all the available information. But knowing what you know, narrow it down to the top 3 available to you and then decide. Why 3? Because 2 options can make it hard to see the big picture, the deciding traits become polar opposites and impasses often occur. You get distracted by perceived loss and it becomes a win-lose scenario. By adding a 3rd option into the mix, you can consider a more well-rounded approach, considering multiple factors – this prevents close-mindedness while still affording efficiency.

Of course, this is an overly simplistic way to approach decision making, but the above metric has helped me make 85% of my decisions in life. Whether it comes to work, or relationships, school, or personal.


Somewhere along the line, decision-making got a lot more complicated. You don’t have a lot of information, but neither does anyone else. Things become time-sensitive, so even information gathering is limited. What you want is not feasible and the only options are uncertain at best. But you still have to choose. Sometimes you don’t even know what the question is – but you still need an answer. It’s one thing to decide for yourself (what do I wanna be when I grow up? should I break up my relationship?) but it’s a whole other thing when your decision will affect others. (should I move across the country and relocate my kid for a career?)

There’s an expectation for you to be right when you make the decision. Even though others may shirk the responsibility of making it, they will still sneer and blame you if your decision backfires. In many senses, making decisions is a thankless job with only room for failure.

No one has ever thanked me for being decisive. Yet a lot of people have begrudgingly disagreed (whether to me or to someone else about me) about decisions I’ve made. Not to compare myself to assholes, but all of a sudden I have more sympathy for Donald Trump and the CEO of United Airlines.

Sometimes, I just want to say honestly: “I don’t know.” I want someone else to make the decision, and to bear the responsibility if it goes wrong.’

Way to be a fuck-up, Tracy:

At work recently, someone made a mistake. I caught the mistake first, and I corrected it right away. I decided not to point out the mistake, because in my opinion, no damage had been done, I fixed it. No one needs to get in trouble.

But then it turned out that the original source’s opinion was given more weight due to their perceived expertise, and my opinion was supplementary. Therefore, I had delayed the correct response getting to the relevant parties by not blatantly waving my hands in the air and crying, “But wait! Theirs is wrong! Don’t read it, read mine!”

If I hadn’t caught the mistake or fixed it, all the blame would’ve been on the original party. I wouldn’t even have been involved. Yet because I intervened, made what I believed was a good decision for all parties, I am now partially at fault.

I had no idea I was making an important decision at the time that I did, but the outcome seems to have affected all parties negatively instead of just one. Had I pointed out the mistake from the get-go, only the original party would be at fault. But because I didn’t, now information was delayed, I’m partially at fault, and the original party is still at fault.  Everyone lost because of me.

Little things like this pile up in my mind. I start to second guess myself and my involvement. Even in a scenario where I was probably the most competent party (for catching and fixing the original mistake), I still wonder if I should’ve just kept myself out of it.

Then there are those decisions that will yield shitty outcomes, and it’s really just a matter of choosing the ‘least bad option’. Sort of like choosing whether to let a venomous bite seep through your entire body or to amputate that toe. Both choices lead to an undesirable outcome, but which one will hurt you less in the long run? Cut off your own toe? Or chance the fact that you might lose a foot, a leg, or even your life down the line? It’s not like your toe can see that by cutting off your toe, you’re actually saving the leg – so they end up pissed off at you anyways. “What a stupid decision,” they say.

My friend messaged me asking if there’s something she could do to help me. She said that I should ask for help when I am stressed out and need it.

I want nothing more than for some help, but how can I ask others to make my decisions for me? At the end of the day. I will still be responsible – and worse than making mistakes myself would be other people making mistakes for me.

Sometimes being an adult is really hard.


2 thoughts on “When “I don’t know” is not an option.

  1. See something, say something is the approach we use at work! Something my manager has implemented cause theres always so many sources of information no one is ever 100% right. Adulting is so hard


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