Making hard choices

Over the holidays, I had a chance to reflect and consider my future. I found myself unsatisfied with my daily work. Somewhat serendipitously, I stumbled across a TED Talk from philosopher Ruth Chang. Chang helped me decide to leave Microsoft and take a job at Amazon. I start on Monday, January 25.

Dr. Chang’s research focuses on the nature of hard choices. She argues that hard choices are hard because we tend to try to resolve them by using quantitative techniques. For example, adding up all the pros and cons of each choice theoretically should indicate the superior choice. But it doesn’t, in practice, because human experience is not quantitative.

Instead, Chang tells us, we should see competing choices as “on par” or “in the same neighborhood” as each other. From there, how do you decide? Chang urges us, in all existentialist glory, to embrace a choice for what it represents. Choose a job that declares who you are, she says. Move to the country because you declare you are “for the country.” Make a decision that symbolizes the self you want to be. And embrace that hard choice!

So I have done exactly that. I am choosing to be urban (Amazon is a 40-minute walk from my home). I’m choosing to be a little bit chaotic. I’m choosing crazy unknowns (I have no idea what I’ll be working on). I’m choosing to jump with both feet.

I was not unhappy at Microsoft; I just wasn’t growing. So above all, I am declaring myself in favor of growth. I am choosing new.

DO you have a hard choice? Chang tells us to welcome it:

“Let us not resolve to work harder at being the selves we already are. Instead, let’s resolve to make ourselves into the selves we can commit to being.”