You’re faced with a decision. You’ve narrowed the options down to two. You’ve considered all the pros and cons of each option. You’ve thought long and hard on each option. One of the options is clearly more popular than the other. But it’s not the “right” option in your analysis.
Many of us have faced this dilemma. Whether you’re choosing up sides on the playground as a kid, or making high stakes decisions in the corporate boardroom as an adult, the song is the same. Sometimes the best decision isn’t popular, but it’s still best.
When I was a kid in grade school, I had a classmate, let’s call him Bernie, who would probably be diagnosed with borderline Asperger’s today. He was a brilliant student, but socially maladjusted. And he was tortured mercilessly.
Each day at recess, the boys in the class would choose sides for a game of whatever sport was in season (American football this particular day). I was picking for our side, and as the pool of available players dwindled, there stood Bernie.
Did I mention Bernie was big? It may have been natural, or it may have been a result of being held back a few times, so that he was better adjusted socially, I’ll never know. But there he was, big as a barn, one of the last two to be chosen, up against a much smaller boy. And as the whispers from my team of “Not Bernie” murmured in my ears, I weighed my choices (literally) and reached my decision.
The team’s disappointment when they heard me pick Bernie was palpable. The game started, and we worked hard on trying to find something to do with Bernie on each play. It usually involved blocking, or standing, or staying out of the way. The game see-sawed back and forth until it was nearly time to return to the classroom. We were down to our last play, the score was tied, when we had an epiphany. We lined Bernie up in the backfield, handed him the ball and told him to run like hell to the goal line. And run he did.
Did I mention Bernie was big? Yeah, I thought I did. Bernie variously carried or trampled over most of the other team as he ran for glory. And damned if he didn’t make it. The kid that nobody wanted on the team scored the winning touchdown. And it turned out that the unpopular choice turned out to be the right choice after all.
I lost track of Bernie later in childhood. I don’t remember if he moved away, or if he just melted into the bigger school when we moved to middle school. I’m sure he was still brilliant. And I’d like to think that Bernie learned what I did that day. Make the right choice, even if it’s not the popular choice.