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Is The Upside Worth The Downside?

When I first heard the quote “Is the upside worth the downside?” I was struck by what a great piece of advice it offers.

Think about it. When you are evaluating whether to do something, you ask yourself, “Are the benefits I will gain MORE than what I am likely to lose?”

In fact, as I look back on the last week, I can tell you it was the single biggest help in making three significant decisions:

  1. We had made plans to travel to Virginia many months ago to visit family for the holidays, which meant we would have been traveling last Monday through Thursday. With the Omicron variant starting to surge, and my partner Jack’s cancer infusion coming up on Monday January 3, we decided two days before Christmas to cancel/delay our trip. The upside (seeing family) was not worth the downside (risking getting COVID, and having to miss his cancer treatment).
  2. For New Year’s Eve, we had made reservations at our favorite local restaurant—an early dinner by ourselves. Because it was so cold outside, we chose to make our reservations for inside the restaurant. But, when we woke up on New Year’s Eve, we decided to cancel the reservations and stay home alone and have a home-cooked meal and a very nice bottle of wine. Again, the upside (going out to celebrate the New Year) was not worth the downside (being exposed to a bunch of unmasked people in an enclosed, small restaurant). We sent a video to close friends and family in place of being able to gather in person — you can view it on Jack’s Facebook page here.
  3. Last week at my office, we were interviewing many candidates for a variety of open positions. Our practice is to have at least three or four people interview every serious candidate, and then we meet afterward to debrief and discuss the candidate. We had an excellent candidate for a certain position and this person received fairly high marks from all after the individual interviews. However, because we ask for plusses and minuses and make the time for a robust discussion of each candidate, quite a few “red flags” came up in the discussion. And although this candidate had the qualifications for the position (and the position has been open for a significant amount of time), in the end, the group agreed that the upside was not worth the downside.

Finally, speaking of New Year’s Eve, we got up at 5:00 a.m. that morning and made the one-hour drive to a Southern California landmark—Potato Chip Rock in Ramona—and hiked two miles to the top of the mountain. The whole point of hiking up there is to jump out to stand on “the Chip” and take photos. There was not a crowd that morning (probably because it was sub-50 degrees), so the conditions were perfect. But, as Jack got ready to scale the last rock for the photo, his foot kept slipping due to the recent rains. After a few tries, he proclaimed, “The upside (being on the chip) is NOT worth the downside (slipping and falling).” So, we took this photo from another, less treacherous rock.


As you move into the new year, and have both personal and professional decisions to make, I hope you will pause and consider: Is the upside worth the downside?  Perhaps it will be about attending a social gathering, taking a new job, changing your physical workout routine, or going to bed early to get more rest, vs. watching your favorite show. Or another decision or habit.  It is a great exercise to ask yourself that question.

Hope you did something fun to welcome in the new year. Cheers to a fantastic 2022!


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