“Everything costs something.”
When we read a statement like that we tend to nod and say, “Yes, that’s true.” It seems like common sense—maybe even too common to actually mean anything, anymore.
But if I were forced to choose, this simple idea may be one of the most important things I’ve learned about life in the past decade. And it all has to do with a really boring-sounding concept from Economics 101 called “opportunity cost.”
Most of us are risk-averse. While we say we’re adventurous, we also like to play it safe and get a steady paycheck, etc. The problem with this is that it leads us to try to defer our decisions until later—to put off our dreams in the name of “safety.” But there are two big problems with this way of living.
First, due to the work revolution, what used to be a “safe path” probably isn’t anymore.
Second, there’s no such thing as deferring a decision. This is where opportunity cost comes in. Whenever we choose one thing, we choose it at the expense of something else.
As in, every single time.
When I think about “everything costing something,” I think primarily of the one resource I have that I never get back: my time.
Whenever I give it away to one thing, I can never spend it on something else.
This makes our power to choose a very, very big deal.
I was reading the first chapter of Michael Ellsberg’s new book The Education of Millionaires the other day (you can read a sample for free here), and he includes the following quote from Randy Komisar:
“People feel like, unless they’re affirmatively making a decision, they’re not making a decision. They think, ‘How can you fail if you’re not making any decision, not cutting off any possibilities?’ The reality is, you’re making a decision all the time. You’re making a decision not to follow a path that might lead you to fulfillment.
Even though the choice to do something you don’t love, to ‘keep the options open,’ may seem like a passive decision and therefore less risky, you can’t pretend you’re not making decisions. So the real question is ‘What risks are you taking by those decisions you’re not making?’ Not making a decision to create a fulfilling life now is in fact a decision—it cuts off certain paths in the future.”
Find the path you were meant to travel.
It might not feel safe, but it will definitely be good.
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How Good Things Get Made by Josh Allan Dykstra on November 10th, 2010