making it happen

February 10, 2022

I was never much of a Motley Crue fan. I was never into hair bands and could never relate to the 80s metal lifestyle. Though Too Fast for Love is a guilty pleasure (I'm listening to it now as I write this), seeing Smokin' in the Boys Room on MTV's heavy rotation back in high school made my eyes roll.

Still, what I know about the band's origin story is pretty interesting.

Apparently, Nikki Sixx sucked at music. According to one documentary, Sixx, before founding Motley Crue, was keen on playing for another band. So, he shoplifted a guitar and showed up at that band's practice, ready to convince the guys to take him in as their bass player. But Sixx, in his ignorance, didn't shoplift a bass guitar, which the members of that band pointed out to him. Needless to say, he didn't get the gig.

When he finally got down to learning the bass, he wasn’t great at it, according to those who knew him. There was little if any indication that he had the talent to make it as a musician, much less a rock star.

But there was also little if any indication that Nikki Sixx gave a crap. He knew he wanted to start an epic band like no one had ever seen. And he did.

Maybe he had a unique force of will. Maybe he pushed through his doubts, worked hard, and made his dreams come true. But I like to think that he had something else going on, a mindset that made reaching his goals more possible. I like to imagine that Sixx, rather than asking, "Should I do this or not?" instead asked, "Under what conditions would I be able to pull this off?"

Framing your decision in terms conditions can get you further than if you look for a simple yes-or-no answer. A talentless wanna-be musician shouldn't try to be rock star. That's a no-brainer. But maybe, under certain conditions...? Maybe then it could happen.

For example, Sixx realized that to make the band work, he'd have to surround himself with people who didn't suck at music (which he did). He also knew that he had to appeal to an audience that didn't care about musical technique as much as they cared about partying (which they did). He also figured that to appeal to that audience, his band would have to stand out in other, non-musical ways - so, he insisted on a big-hair glam look, a loud sound, and crazy pyrotechnics.

He identified the conditions for success, then made them happen.

Thinking about conditions sets you up for better decision making by shifting focus away from your final decision (should I/ shouldn't I) and onto information-gathering. This is important, because most of us rush through our decisions without enough information, which doesn't give our choices a chance. Once you identify the conditions under which your options would be possible, you feel compelled to figure out how likely those conditions are. And then you start learning more of what you need to make the right choices.

For example, should you homeschool your kids? Let's reframe that question: under what conditions would homeschooling work? And then, can you make those conditions happen? This line of questioning gets you to engage in information-gathering. Maybe a condition of successful homeschooling is to provide your kids with socialization outside the home, so they're not isolated. How likely is it that you can make this happen? Or... maybe success means that while they're getting their education at home, you're able to perform your own work uninterrupted. What would have to happen for this to be possible, and how possible is it?

The same types of questions work for most decisions. Should you stay in your relationship or dump your partner? Well... what conditions are necessary for a successful relationship with your partner (whatever success means to you)? And... how possible is it that you could bring those conditions about?

Or, should you quit your job? Under what conditions would your job actually work out for you, and how likely is it that those conditions could exist?

Sometimes, framing your decision in terms of conditions is enough to get you unstuck.

Even if you don’t like Motley Crue, it’s hard to disagree with the fact that they've been successful. They may have never happened if Sixx had settled on a “yes or no” question rather than asking, “what do I need to do to make this possible?” Your challenges aren't too much different. Don’t dive in, don't give up too soon, and don't spin your wheels. Ask the right questions, and you could get much closer to making the right decision.

That is all.


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