Each one of us had that crazy and mind boggling moment at least once their life, if not many times, where you would ask yourself “What if…” What if I have done that, bought that, changed my major, expressed how I feel to him/her, did not take that trip, didn’t take the job, took that challenge, and on and on. I can bet that all of us had that feeling of “what if” throughout the course of our lives. Of course, the wise thing at such moment is not dwell at the past as you cannot change it nor will you know what would have happened if you took different decisions back then, rather it is more productive to focus on the NOW and the future, which are moments in time you still have control over and you can still decide on how to move forward within them.
In 1998, a movie titled “Sliding Doors” came out and it was about this very same question “what if” as the movie takes its viewers into this amazing journey of exploring the parallel option that you did not take for whatever reason, and whether will that change the course of the rest of your life or not. It makes you think about the big questions in life, destiny and freedom of choice and the idea of what-was-meant-to-be and if we can influence our destiny. The movie shows the leading actress, Gwyneth Paltrow, in two parallel courses of her life, just because she missed the train one morning and it takes you through the her life and her what-if life. In most cases, our What-If moment comes when we think of something in the past that we wanted to do but we didn’t, for any reason, and then we look back and wonder what would have happened if we did that.
Dr. Spencer Johnson talks about the fear factor in our lives in his book “Who Moved My Cheese” and in the decision-making process that goes in our heads. It talks about what choices would we make in life if we were able to eliminate (or put aside) the fear factor (fear of the known, the What-If, the insecurities, etc.). No one can predict nor guarantee the future, and we cannot rely on our sense of logic alone, for that is easily cluttered or distracted once we face our fears and emotions. Hence, as we grow older, wiser and more mature with our life time experiences, we become more cautious in our decisions, trying to balance logic and gut feeling and what our heart tells us to do. In most cases (not all), what our gut feeling told us to do, what our first instinct told us to do was the right choice/course to take. In another famous book “Blink” the author, Malcolm Gladwell, talks about the This Slicing theory and the whole idea of gut feeling and how is it right most of the time. Here is how he defines it “A critical part of rapid cognition is known as “thin- slicing.” Thin slicing refers to the ability of our unconscious mind to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience. In the theory of thin slices, a little bit of knowledge goes a long way. Thin-slicing is part of what makes the unconscious so dazzling.” So it is also asking you to trust your gut feeling, your instinct and to eliminate all the noise in your head when you are trying to decide on something.
From a business perspective, it was such moments that made some brands lead while others lag behind; it is the gut feeling of the marketers behind such brands to go bold and do the right thing for their brand vs. taking the more conservative approach only to see their brand lagging behind. In the early 1980s Lipton introduced the new invention of teabags to the Saudi market, a market dominated by the conventional way of making tea and lead by the famous local brand, Rabea tea. It took Rabea until 1994 to launch their teabags, by which Lipton was by far leading the teabag segment. A typical What-If moment for Rabea at the mid 1990′s to think what if they had reacted faster ten years earlier. However, they were conservative and cautious in their approach, which is not necessary a bad thing as it is a different school of thought, but in this case the rest is history. The branding market is full with similar stories of brands allowing the fear factor to take over what is the right thing to do for the brand. It is usually the marketers & brands with a clear vision and bold attitude that lead the way and take over competition, and then others follow. The marketers who do trust their instincts, their gut feeling are the ones who win. Needless to say that proper understanding of all marketing elements (i.e. four Ps, who-what-how, etc.) and their own brand is mandatory.
Personally, I think life is too short to allow regrets or reminisces using the WHAT-IF option, and if we believe in something, on business or personal level, we should pursue it with no hesitation. You will be amazed of what you can accomplish once you eliminate the fear factor when you are making your decision and go for it. I usually like to use movies in my analogies (hey, I love movies). So this is from the movie “Friends with benefits” and goes like this “everybody wants a shortcut in life, my guy book is really simple; you wanna lose weight stop eating fatty, you wanna make money work your ass off lazy, you wanna be happy find someone you like and never let them go”. I guess that sums it all.