Got tough choices to make? Use Suzy Welch’s 10-10-10 Rule [Book Summary]

'10-10-10: A Life-Transforming Idea' by Suzy Welch (ISBN 1416591826) In “10-10-10”, Suzy Welch offers a simple, straightforward thought process for decision-making.

The fundamental premise of Welch’s “10-10-10 Rule” is that our decisions define us. Each of our choices has consequences, both now and in the future.

Welch advocates making decisions thoughtfully by considering the potential positive and negative consequences in the immediate present, the near term, and the distant future: or in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years.

… there is nothing literal about each ten in 10-10-10. The first 10 basically stands for “right now” as in, one minute, one hour, or one week. The second 10 represents that point in the foreseeable future when the initial reaction to your decision has passed but its consequences continue to play out in ways you can reasonably predict. And the third 10 stands for a time in a future that is so far off that its particulars are entirely vague. So, really, 10-10-10 could just as well be referring to nine days, fifteen months, and twenty years, or two hours, six months, and eight years. The name of the process is just a totem meant to directionally suggest time frames along the lines of: in the heat of the moment, somewhat later, and when all is said and done.

Welch reiterates that decision-making should involve a clear understanding of all the attributes and the long-term implications of your dilemma, crisis, problem, or question.

10-10-10 does have a way of galvanizing people into forward-thinking action and out of a fixation on the present. … The third 10 in 10-10-10 has a powerful way of mitigating that tendency. It helps us decide whether (or not) it’s worth it to endure short-term flame-outs in the service of our larger, more deeply held goals in life.

The bulk of the book offers trite, protracted, and tiresome examples of people using 10-10-10 to make decisions related to friendships, dating, marriage, children, work, and career and life planning.

Welch explains that the perspective that accompanies considering our decisions’ immediate and long-term consequences can be very helpful.

  • “By having us methodically sort through our options in various time frames, the process … forces us to dissect and analyze what we’re deciding and why, and it pushes us to empathize with who we might become.”
  • “The process invariably led me to faster, cleaner, and sounder decisions.”
  • “The process also gave me a way to explain myself to all the relevant “constituents”—my kids or parents or boss with clarity and confidence.”

Recommendation: Skim. If you must, read the first two chapters for a long-form description of what I’ve summarized. You’ll find little of value in the rest of the chapters. Alternatively, read The Oprah Magazine article in which Welch first introduced her 10-10-10 idea.

Postscript: In 2002, Suzy Welch was launched into spotlight after getting fired as an editor of the Harvard Business Review following a scandalous affair with former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, who was still married to his second wife. Subsequently, Jack’s enraged wife revealed embarrassing details of his post-retirement compensation from General Electric, claimed a significant share of his wealth, and divorced him. Suzy and Jack got married in 2004 and have since authored two best-selling books, “Winning” and “The Real-Life MBA”.


  1. CRB says

    Like your postscript. I believe Jack also started a college…. does it still exist? What was its reputation… Like Trump U?

    GE is being recreated. Which 10-10-10 did JW flourish, survive, fail- Personally and Professionally?

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