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One-Way vs. Two-Way Doors

Some people have a really hard time making decisions. When it comes time to decide, they belabor every possible option endlessly and often never even actually make a decision. You see this all the way from people trying to choose a career path down to something as simple as choosing what to eat for lunch.

Making decisions is hard and takes up energy. Cue the Steve Jobs same clothing every day decision fatigue story. So if that's true, then before you even spend the time & energy to run through a decision, it's worth first asking if you even need to make a decision.

A way to think about this is to use the idea of one-way vs. two-way doors. Jeff Bezos has previously mentioned this concept in one of his shareholder letters:

Some decisions are consequential & irreversible or nearly irreversible – one-way doors – and these decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly, with great deliberation and consultation. If you walk through and don’t like what you see on the other side, you can’t get back to where you were before. We can call these Type 1 decisions.

But most decisions aren’t like that – they are changeable, reversible – they’re two-way doors. If you’ve made a suboptimal Type 2 decision, you don’t have to live with the consequences for that long. You can reopen the door and go back through. Type 2 decisions can and should be made quickly by high judgment individuals or small groups.

It's a simple idea that is beautiful in how clarifying it is. If you approach any decision, first ask yourself if it's a one-way or a two-way door. If it's a two-way door, don't overthink it and just pick something, you'll learn more from actually turning the card over than debating what is on the other side.

However, if you're facing what you think is a one-way door, then you should take a bit more time to think it through and weigh the options. There probably aren't that many one-way door decision in life so you don't have to overly fret, but when you see one you should really give it the time it deserves.