Given the opportunities at our fingertips, there has never been a better time to establish ourselves in the world. There’s only one problem: there are so many opportunities out there, it can feel like an impossible task to decide which ones are worth pursuing.

To choose the path most likely to get us where we want to go, we need discernment. CEOs earn six-figure salaries because of their discernment above all else. Thankfully, this skill is available to anyone with determination and the right mindset.

Jeff Dudan wrote Discernment to give readers the set of tools, models of thought, beliefs, and principles that they can quickly lay decisions against to make the best choice. Drawing on personal stories, Jeff shows that refining our discernment is a lifelong process that requires trust and intentionality. I recently caught up with Jeff to learn what inspired him to write the book, his favorite idea he shares with readers, and how that idea has impacted his life and work.

Published with permission from the author.

What happened that made you decide to write the book? What was the exact moment when you realized these ideas needed to get out there?

Over the past several years, I have found myself consistently working with young and emerging franchise brands. As I engaged with these energetic founders, I realized that fundamentally, there were things that they needed to inform their thinking and sharpen their decision making.

As I engaged in these conversations, oftentimes I would be asked for coaching sessions, or my thoughts on what they could do to improve their thinking in an intentional way on a regular basis. Until that point in time, like a lobster in a pot, I didn’t realize how much knowledge I had accumulated over the many years in business, and how I had organized this knowledge into a set of fundamental beliefs and activities, values, and behaviors.

As I continued to get more active, helping people build their businesses through franchising, I realized that if I didn’t write the book, I would have to deliver this message over and over again. That was the moment that I realized that a compilation of these thoughts could benefit other people, which is what ultimately motivated me to write the book.

What’s your favorite specific, actionable idea in the book?

When you invest in a relationship with someone (put in the time and patience, or perhaps grace and forgiveness) and you live your values with and for them, you have equity. It is critical you value and invest in the right kinds of people, in business and in life. Establishing positive values is something that I stress throughout my book, and when it comes to establishing relationship equity, alignment of values is especially critical. In prospective franchisees and business partners, there are three values in particular I look for that align with my own:

  1. Grit: people who follow through when things get tough.
  2. Intellectual humility: smart people who aspire to learn and will share their own knowledge respectfully, and are willing to follow the plan that is set forth.
  3. Diplomacy: people who can skillfully resolve conflicts in a healthy way.
Published with permission from the author.

If these three values align, then you have a better chance of establishing equity and trust with those you associate with. When you’re building a franchise business, invariably things are going to go wrong. And when they do, it is important that you have poured into the relationships with your franchisees, and that you have advocates that will help you overcome the challenges.

The more equity in your relationship account, the more stability, community, and collaboration you will enjoy in building your business. All businesses face times of stress, and a house divided cannot stand. Overcoming these times of stress is more easily done together.

What’s a story of how you’ve applied this lesson in your own life? What has this lesson done for you?

It has caused me to adopt a respect and resolution management style versus angles and leverage. When you seek to understand people’s issues, and you respectfully work to achieve a resolution, it is good for all parties. You are resolving conflict in a healthy manner, and you are building equity in your relationship account with that person.

If you are faced with the same set of issues and you instead choose to wield the language of the contract, and create and maintain your angles and use your leverage, you erode trust and make a withdrawal from the relationship equity account. The challenge, or the problem, with being an angles and leverage player, is that the balance of leverage and the balance of power change all the time, and if you have taken advantage when you could, when you had the opportunity, you can expect the same treatment in return, when the shoe is on the other foot.