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Posted by on Apr 2, 2013 in Blog, Life | 2 comments

Decisive | How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work

Decisive | How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work

Last week in the mail I received my copy of Dan and Chip Heath’s new book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work.  I pre-ordered my copy a while back, and in doing so received a few perks from the authors (including a custom Decisive ‘magic 8 ball’ that should be arriving soon!).  As they have often done in their other books, such as Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, the Heath brothers provide a very practical framework readers to follow.

I’ve read the overview of the book, as well as some sample chapters and excerpts, and look forward to diving into the full work.  Here’s a small excerpt based on a little phrase I grew up hearing in Texas.  What about you?


Often we get stuck in our heads when it comes to making decisions. Take Steve, a student who has recently made the choice to go to pharmacy school. What led him to reach that decision?

Well, Steve spent months toying with other possibilities—medical school and even law school—and he eventually decided pharmacy was the best fit. He’s always enjoyed chemistry, after all, and he likes the idea of working in health care. He feels like the lifestyle of a pharmacist, with its semi-reasonable hours and good pay, would suit him well.

But this is pretty thin evidence for such an important decision! Steve is contemplating a minimum time commitment of two years for graduate school, not to mention tens of thousands of dollars in tuition and foregone income. He’s placing a huge bet on paltry information. This is a situation that cries out for an ooch.

To “ooch” is to construct small experiments to test one’s hypothesis. (The expression was new to us, but apparently it’s common in parts of the South. Maybe it’s a blend of “inching” and “scooting”?) An obvious ooch for Steve would be to work in a pharmacy for a few weeks. That’s a small experiment that would allow him to see, up close, what the real life of a pharmacist is like. Steve would be smart to work for free, if need be, to get the job. (Certainly if he can afford two years of school without an income, he can afford to take a month-long unpaid internship.)

Surely this concept—testing a profession before entering it—sounds obvious. Yet every year hordes of students enroll in graduate schools without ever having run an experiment like that: Law students who’ve never spent a day in a law office and med students who’ve never spent time in a hospital or clinic. Imagine going to school for three or four years so you can start a career that never suited you! This is a truly terrible decision process, in the same league as an impromptu drunken marriage in Vegas. (Though maybe that’s unfair to Vegas, since a hungover annulment might be preferable to a hundred grand in student debt.)

To correct this insanity, the leaders of many graduate schools of physical therapy have begun forcing students to ooch. Hunter College at the City University of New York, for instance, does not admit students unless they have spent at least 100 hours observing physical therapists at work. That way, all incoming students are guaranteed a basic understanding of the profession they’re preparing to enter.

When we ooch, we bring real-world experience into our decision. We stop trying to predict whether a particular option will be right for us and, instead, simply test it out.



  1. Okay, I was thinking this book was going to help with nutrition and exercise choices, but I just don’t see it from that excerpt. Maybe in another chapter???

    • Well, it deals with how you make decisions in general. So the principles certainly can be applied to health and fitness.