President Barack Obama has the highest profile job in the world. The administration surrounding him is a juggernaut of a system that runs the paramount power on Earth. While his administration may not always be the most well-oiled operation (which to be fair is what virtually always happens in a large and complex enough system), the operation in which the President manages himself is. Let’s look at three things Obama does to make sure he makes good decisions.
There are three possible conclusions for every memo requiring Obama’s attention.
Decision fatigue is a fascinating phenomenon in human psychology. The more decisions a person makes throughout the day, the worse a person’s decision making ability becomes. Basically, your brain only has so much stamina before it becomes a mewling puddle of spaghetti.
Obama has his decision flow locked down. He has over 100 folks on his staff that have a title something along the lines of “Assistant to the President.” He doesn’t decide what he eats. He doesn’t decide what he wears. His life routine and calendar is almost completely off-loaded to others. He’s like a big baby. But in a good way, because he can now completely focus his brain of matters of statecraft and governance. In fact, an early 2012 The New Yorker article details that the ‘decision’ memos that hit his desk always conclude with three checkboxes: agree, disagree or discuss. By reducing the quantity and the scope of the decisions he makes, Obama is able to maintain peak decision making ability.
Folks today are bombarded by the 24 hour social media and cable news cycles. Political junkies can debate every nuance of every policy twiddle for every waking moment of their lives. On top of ubiquity, media outlets have become increasingly polar in an effort to titillate and capture audiences. So imagine being at the heart of that maelstrom!
To focus on getting things done, Obama sets one cardinal rule: “We don’t watch CNN, the news, or MSNBC. We watch SportsCenter and argue about that.” So we can learn from the President: when you’re in execution mode, ignore the talkers and the haters. Don’t be pulled and spun around by the noise around you. This is not to discount reflection and self-analysis, but save that post-mortem for when the task at hand is done.
In 2010, some observers stirred up a story on a note in Obama’s medical exam: “Jet lag/time zone management, direct physician prescribed program, occasional medication use.” Folks speculated that Obama’s physician, Navy Captain Jeffrey Kuhlman, prescribed a drug called “modafinil,” a drug used as an off-label upper. It’s popular with long-distance truckers, fighter pilots, and students pulling all-nighters. So at first glance, you might be a little sketched out.
But at a deeper level, I say more power to the POTUS for embracing modernity to supplement as needed to make sure he’s in the right mind to make the right call. Modern advancements afford improvements to be taken advantage of. Just as no one complains about how our favorite athletes today have biomechanically rigorous training systems and nutritional programs far beyond our ancestors, why should we nitpick at our leaders for doing the cognitive analogue? In that light, it’d be foolish, if not downright negligent, to not optimize (supplements or otherwise) for sound decision making.
These 3 tactics are good enough for the President, so consider applying these principles to your life. Maybe by doing so, you’ll one day get a chance to preside over the Oval Office.
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