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How to Make Data Driven Decisions in Everyday Life

Updated: Nov 1, 2022

Dan Watkins started as employee #15 at Qualtrics, in "the basement of some old guy’s house," as sales leader for a survey company.

About seven months of success into Watkin's time at Qualtrics, the CEO decided to hire a Head of Sales over him.

"I went to Ryan. I was like, Ryan, how about this? What if we let data make the decision? Go hire this person. What if you give them half my team -- they can pick which half they want. And if I do as well or better, maybe I should still stay reporting to you. We had to work so hard because our skills were low. The other individual skills were off the charts, but they wouldn't come close to how hard we work. I got two guys whose only prior experience was being a painter and a maintenance man.

"Using the data to decide how we're going to get better and work harder, we ended up winning.

"It leads to careers for all of us and hundreds of people that end up being part of that organization over the years. And it led to eventually me wanting to help organizations, saying, 'there's a better way.'"

Watkins created a data-driven methodology to win in sales, but the principle is versatile. He's used this in raising children, approaching hobbies, and even moving through a divorce.

But how do you make data-based decisions that could reliably change your everyday life?

Get Clarity

"The time to have the map is before you enter the woods."

For any goal that a person wants to achieve, there are three essential components. The first input is work ethic; the force of momentum one brings to their goal. Everyone usually focuses their attention on the third component: the outcome, or output.

Most people forget the second input, skillset, that it takes to achieve a worthwhile goal. If you combined enough inputs and constantly hone your skills, you'll achieve your outcome. Getting clear on these three components gives you the map to do the work for the best ROI.

Input work and skills to get the output. Frankly, very simple. Yet, execution regularly falls short. Where's the gap between having clarity and achieving success?

Find the C-grade Student

If you're an F-grade student, don't ask an A-grade student about their habits. Jumping straight to A is overwhelming. Don't take a goal where every day, you'll look at yourself and say, "I'm so far away from it." If you don't believe you can get there, you won't put in the effort. You won't truly become involved and engaged with hitting it.

Finding someone with D-grade habits though, that's reasonable. And believable.

If you're still an F student and ask the valedictorian for tips, the hacks the valedictorian gives are too advanced. The foundation isn't there yet. But starting at D-grade and working up -- that's where you find a mentor that can help you start building the momentum to get to valedictorian levels.

Deliberate Practice

In the book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool address how to tune your inputs (skills, work) to get the optimal result. Ericsson studied the top performers of the world -- chess masters, master violinists, Olympians -- to understand the patterns of their operations. The result across the board?

Deliberate practice; a practice that requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance.

Deliberate practice always follows the same general principles: break the entire process down into parts, identify weaknesses, test and refine strategies for each section, then integrate these learnings into your process.

This process allows for mental representations to be cultivated, resulting in "muscle memory" when the full process is set in motion.

Stay Grounded in Reality

Unexpected events are part of the data. You have to throw unexpected events in the mix, otherwise, you're living in wishful thinking. Once you start disregarding the truth, you're going to come up with reasons why certain things happened, and there's a good chance it's not the real reason. If you're trying to fix this problem that isn't causing your reality to be the way it is, you can get dejected.

The Stockdale Paradox is explained by the following: “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” Confronting the truth of your situation is critical for your success. Understanding that hardship and disappointments will undoubtedly be a part of the journey is necessary for success.

If you are honest with yourself, truly take in the data, and accept it as it is, you have the power to choose your future.

Hold Yourself Accountable

Lastly, accountability computes abstract desires into trackable actions. The process of tracking your real wins and learnings is easier when you have a system that allows you to do it manually or automatically. By using retrospective aggregated data, you can find out where your efforts are going instead of guessing what result you will achieve. There are many apps, software, and spreadsheets that are great tools for approaching accountability.

Developing accountability systems that work for you is key to achieving measurable results. DataBased's core foundation lies in the principle of accountability for moving sales teams toward their goals through automated data aggregation and visualization.

"You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems." - James Clear

Discovering a DataBased Approach

Data-driven approaches to life are the key to measurable, sustainable success in business and personal life. If you're interested in how DataBased can create measurable, sustainable revenue for your sales teams by implementing the methodology above, contact us here.

Want to hear the original conversation that sparked this post? Listen here.

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