How to Make Better Decisions


What should I wear today?

What should I have for breakfast?

Should I take that job offer?

thinking man

Every day, we make countless decisions.

A lot of our decisions are instantaneous.

We don’t think too much before making them.

But some decisions are deliberate.

We take our time, weigh the pros and cons, before deciding on a course of action.

Decisions affect our happiness, health, relationships, and career.

Our future largely depends on the decisions we make today.

Yet, we rarely think about decision-making itself.

We don’t know why some of our decisions end up detrimental, even though we felt good when we made them.

We also don’t know why some decisions end up excellent, even though we felt horrible when we made them.

A few months ago, I stumbled on a decision-making process that helped me make better decisions.

I used this process to stop eating junk food and start saving consistently.

The process is called Second-Order Thinking.

It’s not the only helpful decision-making process.

There are other methods–and even apps–for decision making.

But I prefer Second-Order Thinking because it’s simple and effective.

Below is the article that introduced me to it.

Second-Order Thinking

Thinking process

When making decisions, how often do we choose long term gain at the cost of short term pain?

A good decision-making process reveals the future consequences of our decisions.

It solves problems in a manner that avoids unintentional and unforeseen outcomes.

Second-order thinking makes us go beyond what we know, to things we haven’t thought about.

It’s easy to make decisions that make us feel good in the short term without thinking about the potential negative impact of those decisions in the long-term.

Our experiences limit our ability to go beyond the available and seek hard truths by asking difficult questions, exploring unknown territories, and doubting what may seem like an obvious choice.

We stay inside a safety box that is easily accessible to us and guides us in making a large part of our decisions.

How we think and decide is largely shaped and constrained by this box.

Second-order thinking requires going out of our comfort zone to think outside this box.

It requires analyzing the potential impact of our decision into the future.

It requires asking these questions:

  • How can I make decisions with positive outcomes compounded in the future?
  • Is this decision attractive only because it has an immediate effect (first-order consequence) positive?
  • What can be the potential downside of this decision and its effect later?
  • How far can I look to determine how every subsequent decision creates a world of possibilities or limits the outcomes I can achieve?

Second-order thinking provides a framework to make decisions by learning the second-order consequences of our decisions and analyzing its impact in the near future.

Going beyond second-level thinking is difficult, but some people learn to expand their thinking to the third level, the fourth level and even higher levels by asking the same questions at each level.

Ray Dalio describes this very well in his book Principles:

“Failing to consider second and third-order consequences are the cause of a lot of painfully bad decisions, and it is especially deadly when the first inferior option confirms your own biases. Never seize on the first available option, no matter how good it seems, before you’ve asked questions and explored.”

First-Order Thinking vs. Second-Order Thinking 

Before we learn how to apply second-order thinking to tap into the unknown, let’s understand the difference between first-order and second-order thinking.


It’s important to differentiate between the two to make a conscious effort to shift from first-order to second-order thinking.

Inside the Box Thinking

inside the box thinking

First-order thinking looks for easy answers driven by our past experiences and beliefs.

It puts more weight on the immediate effect of our actions and ignores the subsequent impact.

When we seek instant gratification, our first order thinking is at play.

It’s activated by system1 thinking which is intuitive and fast (Source: Thinking Fast And Slow by Daniel Kahneman).

This form of thinking is effective when we need to make quick decisions without exerting effort.

A good part of our daily decisions falls into this category — what dress to wear to the office, where to meet a friend for dinner, and which turns to take while driving to work.

The conventional nature of first-order thinking confines us to get the same results as everyone else.

In summary, first-order thinking is safe, superficial, reactionary, obvious, fast, easy, and conventional with a focus on immediate impact.

Outside the Box Thinking

outside the box thinking

Second-order thinking is hard and looks beyond our current assumptions and beliefs.

It requires massive effort to dig out the potential impact of our decisions way into the future.

It involves system2 thinking which is deliberate and logical.

Going beyond intuition and seeking unconventional solutions by applying second-order thinking is what makes great thinkers.

How to Develop Second-Order Thinking: Template to Make Better Decisions

To develop second-order thinking skills, let’s learn to evaluate the impact of first-order effects by creating a template using these steps:
  1. Note down the first solution that comes to your mind with its immediate positives and negatives. This is your first-order thinking.
  2. Then ask “What will be the future consequences of this decision?” to evaluate the 2nd, 3rd level…nth level consequence. For each decision and level, write its corresponding positives and negatives.
  3. Ask more and more questions
    • What are my risks associated with this decision?
    • How does my decision impact others?
    • Why do I think my decision is right?
  4. Choose the decision where second and third-order consequences are positive even though first may not be positive (short term pain in favour of long term gain).
  5. Learn to recognize and apply the feedback loops. It may not help with your current decision, but over time it will enable you to make better decisions.

Once you adopt a second-order thinking mental model and start applying its template in your decision process, you will see the positive results of your efforts compound over time.

Howard Marks, a great American investor, shares his views on first order and second-order thinking,

“The difference in workload between first-level and second-level thinking is clearly massive, and the number of people capable of the latter is tiny compared to the number capable of the former. First-level thinkers look for simple formulas and easy answers. Second-level thinkers know that success in investing is the opposite of simple.”

Let’s learn examples of first-order and second-order thinking.

Example 1: Managing Crisis at Work or Avoiding One

When dealing with a crisis at work, a manager can adopt either first-order or second-order thinking.

First-Order Thinking:

I have done it in the past.

I know how to do it way better than anyone else in the team.

Let me take over and resolve it for now.

My team can learn later.

First-Order Thinking Consequence:

The manager needs to intervene every time there’s an issue since she never facilitated her team to solve problems on their own.

She is constantly busy dealing with crises and never finds time for team development.

The team does not feel empowered and people in the team do not grow, which results in low team morale.

Second-Order Thinking:

I have done this in the past.

I know how to do it way better than anyone else in the team.

But, if I continue solving it, I will never allow my team to step up and resolve issues on their own.

This is an excellent opportunity for my team to learn how to manage and deal with crises.

I will be available to guide them through the process.

Second-Order Thinking Consequence:

In the first few instances, the team may struggle and take slightly longer to resolve.

However, they will be better equipped to handle such issues on their own in the future.

It will free up the manager’s time to do effective planning that reduces the number of such crises.

The team also feels motivated and empowered to do more.

In this example, first-order thinking has short term benefits with long term negative impact.

Second-order thinking has a short term pain with multiple benefits in the long run.

Which one will you choose as a manager?

Example 2: Hiring for Now vs the Future

While making a hiring decision for a position that’s open for a long time, a hiring manager can either apply first-order or second-order thinking.

First-Order Thinking:

I need to fill this role.

Many projects will be delayed if I do not get someone to start immediately.

This person seems like the best fit for the current role.

She has certain gaps that may be challenging for my future needs.

But, we can attend to them when the time comes.

Let’s hire her.

First-Order Consequence:

The new hire can get the projects started.

As these projects increase in complexity, she starts facing challenges in providing direction and guidance to her team.

This leads to communication gaps, lack of clarity, and poor collaboration causing multiple project delays.

The culture of the organization also takes a hit as constructive arguments become destructive and employees start blaming other teams and functions for missing their deadlines and not achieving results.

Second-Order Thinking:

I need to fill this role.

Many projects will be delayed if I do not get someone to start immediately.

This person seems like the best fit for the current role.

But, she has gaps that will be challenging for the future demands of this position.

I need to hire someone who can meet my requirements for the future and not just my current needs.

While the next few months will be tough, the right thing to do will be to keep looking till we find someone suitable.

Second-Order Consequence:

Projects get to a slow start.

However, within the next few weeks, people in the team step up to take additional responsibilities.

Meanwhile, the hiring manager is also able to bring a strong leader with great potential and required qualities in line with future demands.

The new leader rallies the team through strong clarity, sense of purpose, and direction that motivates employees to put their best effort forward.

The team can make great progress under her direction and achieve substantial results.

This is a great example of why applying second-order thinking is crucial while making hiring decisions.

A deliberate attempt to apply second-order thinking can provide a huge advantage to individuals and organizations.

I hope you’ve been inspired to think differently and make that extra effort to visualize the future and reap its many benefits.

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My Twin Is Me Teaches Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is no longer a luxury.

In this COVID-19 era, it is necessary for business survival.

Ezigbo Nnamdi and Chiemezue Nnamdi, members of D.I.S.S Alumni, Class of 2016, and founders of My Twin Is Me Enterprise, explain 5 easy steps of digital marketing in a new video.

You can read a transcript of the video below.


Hello everyone, this is My Twin Is Me Enterprise and we offer (modelling services), as well as graphic design.

I hope you all know that brand and product modelling is a form of digital marketing.

Digital marketing is just a way to entice your clients to patronize (your products and services) using social media platforms.

Today, we will be telling you about 5 easy steps in digital marketing.

Create Content:

  • You can create content about your goods and services (with) comedy skits.
  • You can also use models, (especially) for those of you that are into hair and makeup services.
  • You can make videos to educate your clients. For example, if you’re a cook, you can teach your clients how to make a buffet.


  • Partner with someone who offers similar products and services. For example, if you’re a fashion designer, you can partner with someone that (sells) shoes online. You guys can come to an agreement that you (will) tag, comment and refer each other on various social media platforms.

Use Multiple Social Media

  • Don’t restrict yourself to one social media platform, like Instagram. You can use other platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, LinkedIn and Twitter. You can even create your own website, so that you can get a wider clientele base.


  • Advertising is not posting one thousand pairs of shoes on WhatsApp. You can pay for adverts on TV, radio or a talk show.

Use Influencers

  • You can pay influencers–popular people on social media–to use or publicize your product. You can also pay models, like us, to model with your products and post (the pictures) across social media to reach a wide audience.


My Twin Is Me can help you with digital marketing and the design of your posters, flyers, billboards, birthday cards, complimentary cards, ebook covers and company logos.

Follow us on Instagram



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How to Thrive in A Tough Economy

graph on global map

Do you know how many global businesses the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated?

In the United Kingdom, more than  800,000 businesses could collapse as a result of lockdown measures.

In the United States, big companies that recently filed for bankruptcy include

  • JCPenney, a department store chain with over 800 locations
  • Neiman Marcus, a luxury store chain
  • J.Crew, a fashion retailer
  • Hertz, a car rental company
  • Whiting Petroleum, an oil and gas company

In Nigeria, the pandemic shut down schools, airlines, hotels, cinemas, religious centres and highways.

The naira lost 10% of its value and the cost of living spiked.

COVID-19 has depressed the global economy.

There are fewer customers, jobs and business opportunities.

But you can take these steps to improve your financial standing.

Limit Spending:

picture of wallet and cash

We all have bad habits that drain money from our pockets.

It could be drinking bottles of cold beer regularly, smoking packs of cigarettes daily, snacking between meals or betting a few bucks at Bet9ja shops.

I have a habit of eating snacks whenever I’m working on my laptop.

It doesn’t matter if I’m hungry or not, once I’m in front of a laptop, I’m munching a snack.

So last month, I conducted an experiment.

I noted the cost of each doughnut, biscuit and ‘chin chin’ that I bought.

At the end of the month, I calculated that I had spent N8,350 on snacks that I didn’t need.

I could have used that money to buy internet data or fuel for my generator.

I could have deposited the money in micro-investing apps like PiggyVest and Bamboo.

Instead, I used it to keep my mouth busy.

No one knows when the economy will improve, so cut down on unnecessary expenses and impulsive buying.

Now is not the time to buy iPhone X  or a Louis Vuitton shoe.

Be prudent.

Learn Marketing

picture of a hand drawing marketing on a blackboard

Marketing is letting people know about your business.

It is getting your products, services and solutions into the hands of people who need them.

It is also a process of inquiring about your customers’ needs, wants and desires.

If you haven’t bothered to find out what it takes to get people to pay for your goods and services, now is the time to do so.

Even if you work for a company or a government agency, you still need to know the basics of marketing, just in case you decide to start your own business.

The two most important questions in marketing are:

1. Who needs this?

2. Why should they buy from me?

Let’s start with the first question. Who needs that stylish handbag you’re selling?

Who needs that consultancy service you’re offering?

Who needs those delicious cakes you’re baking?

A lot of people start a business first then look for customers later.

That’s why 60% of new businesses fail within 3 years.

It’s like a tailor sewing a cloth first, then measuring her client later.

Doesn’t work.

Before starting a business, you need to know who your ideal customer is.

You need to know her age group, motives for buying, preferences and dislikes.

picture of hand writing who is your audience?

If you don’t know your ideal customer, you risk offering products and services that nobody wants.

Let’s move on to the second question. Why should people buy from you?

Why should I buy that handbag from your shop, instead of the boutique down the road?

Why should I use your consultancy firm when KPMG has a better track record?

Why should I order a cake from you when my sister bakes?


Remember those useless snacks?

I bought them from provision shops on my street.

There are ten of them in the street and they sell the same snacks.

Same biscuits, same doughnuts, same ‘chin chin’.

When I buy from the first shop, the owner of the second shop frowns at me, obviously unhappy that I didn’t buy from her.

When I buy from the second shop, the owners of the first and third shops frown at me.

Instead of getting annoyed, the shop owners should have asked themselves:

Why should a customer buy from me instead of the next shop?

How do I ensure that customers buy from me most of the time?

Competition is a part of life. But in business, competition can destroy you financially.

You have to differentiate yourself from the competition.

Offer a unique product, customer experience or special price that your competitors can’t imitate.

Stand out from the competition.

Marketing is not easy, but it’s worth studying. You can get free marketing courses from the National Open University of Nigeria.

Go to and type ‘marketing’ in the search bar.

You will be shown different topics on marketing. Click on a topic and download the courseware in pdf.

If you want a more intensive study of marketing, enrol in A Professional Africa’s Strategic Marketing Course.

One of our members, Urenna Onyewuchi, founded A Professional Africa to offer world-class online education to entrepreneurs and executives of African origin.

Get Better at Selling  


Marketing is about identifying and satisfying your customers’ needs.

Selling, however, is converting your products and services into cash.

It’s about getting paid.

Marketing promotes your product while selling gives you money in exchange for your product. 

When I started my web design company, I got an inquiry from the director of a well known psychiatric hospital in Aba.

He wanted to know if I could design a website similar to that of Life Crest Medical Services.

I said I could.

We met and discussed the web design project.

He accepted my proposal and asked me to send an invoice to his office. I sent it.

He never paid.

Later, I realized that my proposal hadn’t communicated two vital components of selling: trust and value.

People buy products and services from companies they trust.

If a customer hasn’t done business with you before, you have to earn her trust.

You have to prove that your business is reliable.

How do you do that?

By showcasing testimonials from satisfied customers.

By offering free samples of your products and services.

By displaying awards and endorsements from relevant organizations in your industry.

By acting like a professional.

A customer may not think twice about purchasing an item priced at N1000.

But she would hesitate before buying a product priced at one million naira.

picture of a thinking black lady


She would ask herself, ‘Do I really need this?

Am I spending too much on it?

Can I get it at a cheaper price somewhere else?

Will I regret buying it?’

Those unspoken questions are the biggest obstacles in selling your products. And the only way to answer them is to show value.

The higher the price of your product, the more you need to earn your customers’ trust and demonstrate the value of your product.

In my proposal to the hospital director, I should have shown him how a website would increase the hospital’s revenue and attract clients who needed privacy.

I should have shown him how a website would train his staff and educate the public about the dangers of mental illness.

But I focused mostly on the technical details of creating and maintaining a website.

He wasn’t interested in web design, he just wanted to improve his hospital’s services.

I lost the contract because I didn’t demonstrate value.

Customers don’t want to be persuaded to buy your products, they want answers to their situations and concerns.

You have to show how your product would change their lives for the better.

Like marketing, selling is a fascinating subject.

There are countless books about selling.

The book I enjoyed the most was You Inc: The Art of Selling Yourself by Harry and Christine Beckwith.

Go Digital

picture of smartphone and the globe

Here are interesting facts:

  • 45% of the global population own smartphones. That’s 3.5 billion smartphone users worldwide.
  • The average smartphone user checks her phone 58 times a day. And spends up to 3 hours each day on the phone.

The mobile phone is no longer a calling or messaging device.

It is a personal assistant for shopping, travelling, dining, exercising, learning and sharing ideas.

It is an indispensable part of modern life.

If you want to profit in this social distancing era, you have to reach your customers through their smartphones.


By building a home online:

  • Register your business in an online directory like Google My Business, so customers can easily locate you.
  • Set up a Facebook Page for your business. You may also set up accounts on WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and other social media networks.
  • Establish an online store for your products by creating your own website or getting an account with e-commerce companies like Shopify, Flutterwave Store and Ecwid.
  • Engage with your customers online. Check their comments, complaints and suggestions. This will help you refine your marketing and selling strategy.
  • Learn digital marketing, which is all about reaching customers through electronic channels such as the Internet, smartphones, social media and search engines.

You can get a free, certified digital marketing course from Google.


Tough times require not only tough measures but smart ones also.

With a combination of frugality, marketing, selling and digital technology, D.I.S.S Alumni members who are entrepreneurs and business owners can thrive in a COVID-19 ravaged economy.

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