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What Uber and Taxis Can Teach You About Decision Making

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We spend a lot of our time making decisions. We make some choices on auto-pilot, like brushing our teeth in the morning; others are tougher, revolving around job opportunities, life partners or places where we’ll live. At work, managers and business leaders are always making decisions about new products, staffing or initiatives.

Sometimes the hardest part of decision-making is not the process; sometimes it’s merely making the best decisions that propel us forward and don’t cause a mess of other problems.

With every decision, there are always pros and cons. Everything comes at a price in life and business, and even an opportunity that appears excellent has some downside to it. That’s just the way it goes in life and work. There is no such thing as perfection, but that’s what helps keep us always striving for better.

The battle between Uber and the taxi industry is an excellent example of decision-making. Uber is valuated at around $60 billion, but the company, and its CEO, Travis Kalanick, have pushed it to a point where based on news reports you have to wonder what’s going to happen next––and not in a good way. We’ll see in the future if their decisions have been the best, both for Kalanick and Uber.

The Problems with Uber

A couple of years ago, Uber was all the rage. At the time, a medallion for one iconic yellow taxi cost $1.3 million. But, there was significant competition for the traditional cab as it seemed that everyone in Manhattan was calling an Uber taxi.

Last year as I was talking to a cabbie about the taxi industry and Uber, he informed me that some New York City taxi owners were trying to sell their medallions for $500,000. At the time, it sounded like the death knell was ringing for the old taxis.

As it turns out, not so fast.

Flash forward about another year, and yellow taxis have taken matters into their hands to compete against Uber. Their decision was kind of simple: let Uber crush them and destroy the traditional taxi business (still a possibility), or put up a challenge. In the meantime, Uber, the famed disrupter seems to face one problem after another.

First, a recap of how the New York taxi industry is dealing with Uber:

  • Fight fire with technology fire. There have been a handful of apps that have been used by the traditional taxi industry to compete with Uber. The apps have succeeded in fits and starts, but next time you’re in New York City and don’t want to take Uber, or hail a cab the old-fashioned way, take a look at Arro or GoCurb.
  • Compete on price. One of the reasons why Uber was initially so successful is because it used sophisticated algorithms to undercut taxi prices and then to use surge pricing when demand was high. The regular cabbie on the street, and the taxi industry for that matter, just couldn’t compete with the advanced technology of Uber. Traditional taxis took a beating, but they’re looking to compete on pricing.
  • Driver competition. If you speak to a cabbie in New York City, ask them how driving a yellow cab compares to Uber concerning earnings. Many drivers who went to Uber found themselves working more and earning less. It’s no news to learn that as the drivers see it Uber has not been terribly kind and, ultimately, they’ve made no secret of wanting to use driverless cars exclusively.

In an article posted on TheStreet, it was reported that Kalanick and Uber prided themselves on, “Nimble, creative decision-making.” It’s true that Uber is innovating and continually thinking out of the box to get ahead of its competition. However, there have definitely been challenges which have been detailed in news articles.

  • Does the business model work? Uber is not yet a public company with over $12 billion in investments, and one of the primary reasons is because it’s not yet fully confident that it’s able to provide its investors with a solid return on investment.
  • Drivers are not happy with Uber and to make matters worse, Travis Kalanick was caught on video telling an Uber driver that if he wasn’t making enough money, it was his fault.
  • Uber and ethical boundaries. Uber is a notoriously tough competitor, and its method is to not only disrupt but destroy. It’s reported that it used technology, called Greyball, to deceive legislative and regulatory officials in places where there’s been resistance to Uber.
  • Battle with Google. In the courts, a war of the tech titans is playing out as Waymo, which is owned by Google to develop the technology for self-driving cars, has sued Uber and its company, Otto, over stolen company technology secrets.

I can go on with Uber’s challenges at the present moment, but it’s clear that Uber is at some cross-roads. In the not-to-distant future, we can see Uber continue down a highly profitable road as the undisputed king of transportation (of course, ultimately without drivers). Alternately, we can see a company that is battered and continues to go from one problem to another until investors move on or the company and investors come up with a significantly alternate strategy to Kalanick’s playbook.

The reality for Uber is not that it’s not been making decisions.

It has.

The question with Uber is, is it making the most effective decisions?

So, in a world of options, how to do you make the right decisions? Or, perhaps a better question, is how do you make the best choice with the options, opportunities, and challenges you have at hand.

  1. The first place to begin is always with your values. In the case of Uber, as an outsider, it seems to value disruption, fierce competition and winning (at all costs). You can have good values, or you can have values that appear destructive to others, but whatever the case, decisions have to conform to values. Decisions are always better if they align with your values. You’ll find yourself more comfortable, and you’ll be rationalizing less, even in the face of challenges.
  2. Visualization of vision. In the past, I’ve sat in plenty of meetings where some manager tells the team to visualize financial success. Frankly, I always rolled my eyes. However, that’s not to say there isn’t truth to visualization and vision. When you’re in the process of making decisions, and you want to decide on the best course of option, you have to think through the end-results between options. For Uber, the company sees itself as the dominant global transportation company. That’s the visualization of vision.
  3. Paradox of choice. We live in a world where there can be too much choice. Too many options can keep us from making decisions, and we end up in a situation of inertia in the decision-making process. When you’re making an important choice, one of the things you want to do as fast as possible is to eliminate options quickly. If you have five opportunities for a decision, remove three as soon as possible. Then work on the remaining two.
  4. Situation guiding. Sometimes in life and business, you have events that happen that may or may not be in your control. The older you become and the more experience you have, you should use it to help inform your future. Even if you’ve had failures in the past, you have learned something. Keep going back to what those lessons have been. Use the lessons to inform your present situation. For the taxi industry in New York City, they relied for decades on their business model until it was impossible to continue. And now they’re fighting back with technology and trying to provide cabbies with better driver conditions. The situation Uber created has helped guide them as they try to beat back the completion.
  5. Someone asked me recently if I had to pick a single word for my life, which word would it be. That was easy: courage. Decisions take courage, especially when the challenges arise. No decision arrives without work. Even if you think everything is going to be fantastic with your life partner, the new job, city, business opportunity, etc., there’s always work to do––and sometimes it can be hard and painful. Courage in speaking about the inevitable challenges with those who are working with you, courage in moving forward when it’s easier to walk away and courage to make strategic adjustments will help you find validation and success in your decisions. In other words, stay the course and use the headwinds to your advantage.

I think it’s fair to say that the number of decisions that most of us make on a given day has multiplied. Technology and human advancement have provided us with enormous opportunity, but as the taxi industry, with unexpected challenges. However, any decision, even the toughest, can be made with focused and calm thinking. And, always bear in mind your values, the vision, choices elimination, the situation and courage despite the challenges that arise.

 

Please don’t forget to follow my blog at Living on Your Terms and like my Facebook Page.

Posted: May 23, 2017

© 2017 Savas Vikos all rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Savas Vikos with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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Mad About Life? Don’t Be. Yes, You!

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Do we really need to get bitter with life? All of us experience setbacks daily in our lives. Is it fair to say that everything that happens to us is somebody else’s fault and not ours? Not really. Maybe sometimes it can be someone else’s fault, but not always. It’s not nearly enough as we may think.

In the process of blaming others, we change. We do not trust others as we used to. We start to get colder. We blame life with expressions such as, “Life’s not fair.” Or, “I should have gotten X.” Or perhaps, “Why hasn’t anyone noticed me. Am I invisible?”

We get mad with ourselves. We get angry at those around us and feel trapped in what we call, “current conditions.” There are serious implications, which can spiral our life downwards if we don’t notice first.

Our relationship with loved ones can suffer. Our work can suffer, and of course, our health and financial situations too. How do we avoid this mess?

How Am I Doing?

First, you need to ask yourself how you’re doing with any given situation. How do you perceive the challenges? Be aware of the side affects such as irritability, general malaise, lack of patience or fun in your life.

We all tend to personalize what is happening in our lives. And yes, sometimes it is very personal. But how we perceive things and those challenges makes a difference. No matter how life seems, it doesn’t stop it from being absolutely beautiful. And, each day is meant to be lived as if it’s the last – because it’s that precious.

Enjoy the outdoors. The sun. The air. The water. Life is there, if you just stretch and reach out for it. Relationships. Friendships. Family.

Don’t take anything or anyone for granted. No one is guaranteeing us anything. That’s not how life works. You need to look for the joy in the challenges that will come your way.

Don’t get comfortable, because that’s when you stop reaching out and searching. That’s when you stop dreaming. Believe that anything is possible. Don’t listen to the naysayers. Don’t believe them. People will always criticize you. They won’t like your ways. It’s your dream. Your life. Claim what’s yours.

Don’t Close Down

We don’t need to close down to anticipate the punches. Actually, a boxer in the ring will always keep his eye on his opponent. He may guard himself and keep his arms and gloves in a defensive position, but he’s got his eye on his adversary.

Take life head on. Don’t forget your values. Being bitter is not a value that will benefit you. It is only toxicity.

Every day I see people who are not open to life. In business interactions, for example, many people want everything for themselves as if they were on a desert island and playing “Survivor”. That might be a winning strategy in the short-term, but ultimately, it is going to bite you. In business, as well as life, negotiation is the name of the game.

Life is about giving and taking.

Yes, life is full of human piranhas. They prey on the naive and look to take advantage. That’s a fact. They exist. So, keep your eye on your worthy opponent and don’t be eaten alive.

Forget the News

Life is to be enjoyed, no matter what is happening in the world. The news is terrible these days. You see stories of death, war and famine. But beyond that, you see commentary couched as “news”. Everything is negative and toxic. It doesn’t matter from which side of the aisle you get your so-called “news”.

Why not do a little experiment? Filter out the news. Or, don’t watch it at all. Ask your friends and colleagues to update you on anything important happening in the world. But, whatever you do, don’t listen or read the news for more than 15 minutes a day. It’s a waste of time and it actually works to anger or depress even the strongest minds.

Before the 24-hour news cycle, we only watched the news either in the morning for a few minutes or in the evening. Now, it’s on all the time. Seriously? Most of the time, nothing has happened from one hour to the next, or even day to the next. The story that is gripping and should warrant your attention for more than a few minutes happens few and far between.

Do Unto Others

Instead, live by the Golden Rule. Remember that one? “Do unto others every day, as you would have them do unto you.” We go about our lives and we tend to forget about those around us. Don’t.

Try to help wherever you can. Try to get away from not having the time to reach out because you’re so “busy”. It doesn’t take more than a few seconds to send a kind text or a few minutes to make a phone call. Putting it off until tomorrow or sometime in the future is only an excuse because it is never the “right” time.

There’s no better time than now.

As you know, you don’t always need money to help someone. Your time is a worthy and needed gift to someone who is alone or lonely.

Waking Up

Please don’t just wake up in the morning hating the day because of this or that. It sets the tone for your day, your month, your week and your life.

We all have issues we have to deal with. We can’t compare our lives to that of anyone else’s because we don’t know what others deal with behind closed doors. It’s safe to say, however, that we all deal with things.

I see young people who are already beaten by life. They have so much to live for, and yet they don’t see it. And then you look at older people and many have the energy to take on life – still with the smile and kindness that you wouldn’t expect from someone their age.

Life is to be cherished. If you don’t like the status quo of your life, change it! But, by all means, don’t become indifferent to it. That simply makes it more of a struggle than it has to be.

To better times!

Please don’t forget to follow my blog at Life on Your Terms and like my Facebook Page.

Posted: August 11, 2015

© 2015 Savas Vikos all rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Savas Vikos with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.