I’ve made some questionable decisions in my life. I’m sure you have as well. Can you think of one you’ve made recently that you’d like to have another crack at?

But let’s not dwell too much on our bad decisions. Instead, let’s take a look at some of the bad decisions that other people have made.

#1. 20th Century Fox signs over merchandising rights to all Star Wars films

In 1977 (a great, great year) senior executives made one of the worst investment decisions of all time. They traded all of the merchandising rights to all Star Wars movies for a $20,000 cut in George Lucas’ paycheque. The revenue from the merchandising is estimated to have exceeded $3 billion (and is still growing).  I’m guessing they’d like that one back.

#2. Western Union passes on the telephone

In 1877, Alexander Graham Bell offered the patent for the telephone to Western Union for $100,000 (about $2 million in today’s dollars). William Orten – the president of Western Union at the time – not only turned it down, he took the time to throw in a few jabs while he was at it.

As he wrote to Bell, “After careful consideration of your invention, while it is a very interesting novelty, we have come to the conclusion that it has no commercial possibilities… What use could this company make of an electrical toy?”

#3. Bill Gates saves Steve Jobs and Apple from bankruptcy, Apple becomes most valuable company in the world

In 1997, Apple was so close to bankruptcy that it took a $150 million investment from Microsoft just to keep the company running. A few weeks later and Apple would have been a footnote in history. If it wasn’t for that investment, I wouldn’t be typing this email on a MacBook Air, and you wouldn’t be reading this on an iPhone (as 59.1% of people subscribed to this newsletter do).

What could they have done differently?

Unfortunately for Bill, Will, and the jokers at 20th Century Fox, the Heath brothers hadn’t yet written Decisive when they made these momentously bad decisions.

If they could give them each a do-over, one of the things the Heath brothers would urge them to do is 10/10/10 – an exercise that would have helped keep their short-term emotions in check. It goes like this…

When you have an important decision to make, ask yourself the following 3 questions:

How will I feel about it 10 minutes from now? How about 10 months from now? How about 10 years from now

Of course, nobody has a crystal ball to predict the future (if you do, call me). Was there any way for Bill to predict that Steve would revolutionize not only the PC industry but also the music and phone industry in those 10 short years?  Who knows. But some version of that story might have popped up as a possibility.

What does this mean for you? It’s a deceivingly simple exercise that just might help you think differently about your next big decision. And it’s only one of the tactics and strategies you’ll learn for making better decisions in our summary of Decisive.

Originally shared by Steve Cunningham, Founder of Readitfor.me


  1. In order for MSFT to stay as one company and stay in business they needed a competitor.. Bill invested into Apple to save his own ars… I bet if you said to Bill that YOU think he made the worst business decistion ever investing in to Apple he’d laugh in your face pat you on the head, give you some candy and say”kid’s these day’s, run on home now and watch the financial markets on tv, study hard at school, and maybe if you make it to collage you’ll look back on today and laugh just as loud as i did in your face and think to yourself “i’m so luky i was a stupid kid back then, imagine if i was a business professional and said that” WOOOOOOW!!!!!!

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