When you should trust your gut and when you shouldn’t


One thing that always bothered me about legal research was knowing when to quit. How do you know when you have enough citations or enough arguments to win?

If you are exhaustive, you risk turning off your reader. If that reader is a judge (or law professor if you’re still in school), you’ll hurt your cause instead of helping it.

How much is enough but not “too much”?

Unless there are rules dictating the length of a document, you don’t know for certain. All you can do is use your best estimate. Fortunately, that usually works. Your instincts and experience tell you when you have enough and usually restrain you from including too much.

Why don’t we have that same Spidey Sense when it comes to making important decisions?

Decisions about marketing, managing, and building our practice. Financial and health decisions. Decisions about the direction of our life.

Instead of using our best estimate, we often procrastinate. We tell ourselves we need more information because we’re afraid of making a mistake.

But we often do have enough information. We don’t need to be 90% certain. According to Jeff Bezos (in a 2016 letter to Shareholders), 70% is enough:

“Most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably being slow. Plus, either way, you need to be good at quickly recognizing and correcting bad decisions. If you’re good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure.”

In an article referencing Bezos’ comments, it was noted that Colin Powell also weighed in on the subject:

“You should make a decision when you have between 40% and 70% of the possible information… Once the information is in the 40 to 70 range, go with your gut.”

Powell said that if you have less than that, you’re likely to make the wrong decision. But he agrees with Bezos: “If you wait until you have more than 70%, by the time you make the decision, it will be so late that you will have missed the opportunity.”

How about that? Actual numbers.

Now, if we could just figure out how much 70% is.

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