I knew that. Bank robbers know that.

The most logical answer. The clearest explanation. The obvious choice.

Isn’t that how we all try to go? The well-reasoned, coherent, intelligent way?

Yes. I think most of us strive to do this in every aspect of our lives. But on occasion, we hit a mental glitch, or we have an error in perception. Mistakes. Blunders. Mishaps.

And then there are the other, more extreme cases. Those people who do something completely unwieldy and everyone around asks (after the fact), “Just WHAT in the world were they thinking?” As they can be seen driving with the ATM machine chained to their rear bumper as they lump over parking blocks and get stuck between light posts.

Yet for most of us, in those situations where we are trying to figure out the best answer — that obvious option — we have learned to make a reasoned guess. Or at least, we create a series of steps to figure out the best way.

There is a name for this. It is called “Sutton’s Law.” Suttons Law states that when diagnosing, one should first consider the obvious. (Mostly it is used in medicine, or when debugging computer code, and such.)

It suggests that one should first conduct those tests which could confirm (or rule out) the most likely diagnosis. They teach this “Law” to medical students. So that they can discern what might be the best “order” for tests when someone is sick. The way to a quick diagnosis, and then a treatment. But it is used in other areas, as I mentioned. (Pharmaceuticals, Computers, Technical Machining, and on.)

Sutton’s Law. Here’s the oddity.   It is named for, of ALL things, a bank robber.

Willie Sutton. He was born on June 30, 1901, and then he lived for another 79 years after that. An American crook. He robbed banks over a forty-year span, and stole an estimated $2 million. But, he got caught a lot. He spent more than half of his adult life in prison. He also escaped three times.

He would use disguises when he robbed banks. And, as a result, he was nicknamed him “Willie the Actor” and “Slick Willie.” One time, a reporter asked him “why he robbed banks” and Willie answered: “Because that’s where the money is.”

“Because that’s where the money is.” – The most obvious answer, hence, the law.

Choices. Options. Decisions. Conclusions. Everyday we’re confronted with a barrage of choices. It is all a matter of deciding how we want to go. Good choices keep us heading in our “right” direction. There are always pros and cons. No pun intended on the “con” part.

But really. Choice-making is an essential part of our lives. Every day. Ordinarily, most of us can make decent choices. Seamlessly. Efficiently. But, now and again, we might come up against a decision that gives us a moment to pause. So we “Sutton” our way through to a diagnosis.

Although. Sometimes. The head doesn’t give us all the answers. This isn’t covered in the Sutton Law. This one comes from the heart. When deep inside, at our core, we know what is right.

And those, we may find, are the best choices of all.


“I mean, you could claim that anything’s real if the only basis for believing in it is that nobody’s proved it doesn’t exist!”
― J.K. Rowling


“How very wet this water is.”
― L. Frank Baum, The Marvelous Land of Oz


“What does the brain matter compared with the heart?”
― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway