Tim McCarthy and the Business of Good

The Illusion Of Control

Jan 1, 2023 12:14:11 PM / by Tim McCarthy

I’ve been learning about control for a little more than 25 years. My initial work was on myself, and to this day, I strive to consider what I have control over and what I do not. Once I see what is true in a situation bothering me, acting on it saves needless pain.

For example, a doctor once told me that health is “30% chance and 70% choice”. If your DNA indicates that you’re more likely to have heart disease or cancer, there’s little beyond early detection you can do to change that. On the other hand, the hip problem I’ve developed (that I’d like to think is chance) is made worse by my inability to control my weight.

Pink and purple DNA strands on black background

Bad hips in my family? Chance. Adding to or lightening the load on my hips…choice. My Dad would say “hips and knees are load bearing devices; they last longer if the load is lighter”.

In business, it’s entirely the same. Uncontrollable factors include the economy, interest rates, customer turnover and many other uncontrollable things.

At a recent college program, I was asked “when is a good time to start a business”. My answer was, "whenever you’ve identified an unserved need in the marketplace." Too few choices for Mexican food, start a really good restaurant. Hard to find a good hairdresser, open a salon.

“But there’s a recession coming!”, the student stated, “and interest rates are going up”.

Those factors make opening your business more difficult and yet if all the factors you CAN control are pointing in the right direction, you will overcome those challenges.

Good food, good hair (list your product or service here) never goes out of style.

I lost another partner recently due to a misunderstanding of control. Like most controlling personalities, they felt control is an exclusive right. I used to think the same until I learned that the more people I include in important decisions, the better decisions I make.

And finally, of course, there is the chaos created by controlling family members. Moms who mistake “controlling” for “caring”. Dads who do the same. Do we really trust our children so little that we think they won’t learn – as we did – from their mistakes?

On this issue, I hit the jackpot with my parents because they let me make tons of mistakes. I can remember my mom saying to her young Timbo, “if you can’t learn to make small decisions, you will be unable to make the big ones.”

The illusion of control dies very slowly but if we are wise, we take some time to define the areas where we think we are in control but are not. And the areas we do control but think we do not.


Tim McCarthy

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Tim McCarthy

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