Each of us had that crazy, mind-boggling moment at least once in our lives, if not more, where we would ask ourselves a What-if Question. What if I have done that thing I have always wanted to do, bought that car, changed my major in school, expressed how I feel to him/her, did not take that trip, didn’t take that job, or assumed that challenge, and so on? I bet that all of us had that feeling of “what if” throughout our lives. Of course, the wise thing at such a moment is not to dwell on the past as you cannot change it, nor will you know what would have happened if you had made different decisions back then. Instead, it is more productive to focus on the NOW and the future, which is a moment in time you still have control over and can still decide on how to move forward within them.
In 1998, a movie titled “Sliding Doors” came out. It was about this very same question, “what if,” as the movie takes its viewers on this fantastic journey of exploring the parallel option that you did not take for whatever reason and whether that will change the course of your life or not. It makes you think about the big questions in life, destiny, freedom of choice, and the idea of what-was-meant-to-be and if we can influence our future. 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 her life and 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 didn’t, for any reason, and then we look back and wonder what would have happened if we had done that.
Dr. Spencer Johnson talks about the fear factor in our lives in his book “Who Moved My Cheese” and the decision-making process in our heads. It talks about what choices we would make if we could 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 quickly cluttered or distracted once we face our fears and emotions. Hence, as we grow older, wiser, and more mature with our lifetime experiences, we become more cautious in our decisions, trying to balance logic, 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 it is 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 thin-slices theory, a little knowledge goes a long way. Thin-slicing is part of what makes the unconscious so dazzling.” So it also asks you to trust your gut feeling and instinct and eliminate all the noise in your head when trying to decide on something.
From a business perspective, it was such moments that made some brands lead while others fall 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. 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 led by the famous local brand, Rabea tea. It took Rabea until 1994 to launch their teabags; by then, Lipton was leading the teabag segment. A typical What-If moment for Rabea in 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 necessarily bad as it is a different school of thought, but in this case, the rest is history. The branding market is packed with similar stories of brands allowing the fear factor to take over what is the right thing to do for the brand. Usually, marketers & brands with a clear vision and bold attitude lead the way and take over the competition, and then others follow. The marketers who trust their instincts and gut feeling are the ones who win. Correctly understanding all marketing elements (i.e., four Ps, who-what-how, etc.) and their brand is mandatory.
Personally, I think life is too short to allow regrets or reminisce using the WHAT-IF option. If we believe in something on a business or personal level, we should pursue it without hesitation. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish once you eliminate the fear factor when you decide and go for it. I usually use movies in my analogies (hey, I love movies). I will close with a quote from another good movie, “Friends with benefits.” It goes like this, “everybody wants a shortcut in life; my guidebook 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 up.