Indiana Jones and More about Choices . . .


“Choose wisely, my son!”

There is a particularly poignant scene in the third Indiana Jones movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where the ancient Knight guarding the Holy Grail (Christ’s drinking cup or chalice) admonishes the Nazi treasure hunter and Indiana Jones to choose wisely.

As you may recall, the Nazi chose a very ornate golden chalice, believing it was “fit for a King”, while Indy chose a simple wooden “carpenter’s cup”!

indy chalice

Life is full of choices, some big, most small.  But choices still the same.  My tutor used to say that a successful life is nothing more than the culmination of a series of small choices, made daily.

But what guides our choices to be successful or not?  To be good choices or mistakes? To be right or wrong for us?  A choice is not a role of the dice, take it or leave it.  Choices are the result of a mental process that goes on inside of each one of us which guides our behaviour, in this case, the choice we make.

The mental process behind the act of choice is fundamental to our very survival, and also to the quality of our life along the way.

Choices that deal with survival are often clear cut.  Not always easy to implement, but we can often see clearly the path for survival.  Life and death choices made in the moment are often made instinctively.  The human species is hardwired for survival and unless the situation is totally hopeless, we quickly choose the choice with the greatest chance of survival at the moment.

But most choices are not life and death. And most choices are not just right or wrong.  A great deal of the choices we have to make as we go through life are choices between two rights!  Both have positive outcomes, yet we still have to choose (rarely can we change the situation and have it both ways).

Here is a real life example.  My daughter, now 13 and a very accomplished violinist, recently won first prizes for violin concerti (parts of a full concerto) in three separate categories at a music festival near London.  Needless to say, she was very happy.  As a result of her stunning performance, she has been invited back to play and compete, along with a few winners from the other musical instrument categories. They call it the Stars Festival and Competition, by invitation only.  This is a big honor and comes with a cash prize if she wins again.

However, the day of the Stars Competition is also the same day her Russian class in school is having a party with a group of exchange students from Russian who are spending the week with host families.  They are going bowling and ice skating, two things that my daughter adores.  Both events are the same day and the same time.

Choice time!  Both choices have positive outcomes.  Recognition and appreciation, as well as publicity for one choice, the fun and learning through socialising with her classmates and getting to know kids from another culture.

In the next blog I will try to articulate the thought process we all go through when faced brainpuzzlewith these kinds of choices, and choices in general.  I believe there is a fundamental principle of life effectiveness at work here that is mostly invisible to us and to better understand this principle may help in making better life decisions.

But, I am curious as to how you, the readers of this blog, would solve this type of dilemma, the choice between two rights for a young 13-year old.  What is your advice?

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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3 Responses to Indiana Jones and More about Choices . . .

  1. Great post and I know from whence you speak. Your 13 year old daughter plays the violin and my 14 year old daughter sings. Both are learning not just to be musicians and singers but about the trade-offs inherent in life and the costs of achieving goals, particularly long term ones that involve discipline and dedication. Personally, I don’t think it matters what you or I think about their choices. What’s important is that they get to make the difficult choice and learn so much by making it.


  2. Yes, but as I have been learning to my cost, our job is done. From now on they have to learn by their own mistakes. This is not to say we, as parents, can’t keep talking, nudging and showing by example, but teenagers will not learn from now on without making their own mistakes. Just my two pennies worth.


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