The Cost of Choice

There are no free lunches, only trade offs.

You may have plenty of freedom in an absolute sense, but the cost of exercising certain kinds of that freedom is far too high to be worth it to you.

For instance, despite how often people say otherwise, you don’t have to go to work every day. You can stay in bed all day if you want! It’s just that the cost of doing so might be pretty high – your boss might exercise their freedom to no longer give you any money. If you hate your job enough, you might take that trade off, but for a lot of people it’s a bad deal.

I first started thinking about this the first time I had to explain to my daughter why I was choosing to work instead of play with her all day. Sure, I’d love nothing more than to play with my kids all day every day. But the cost to do that would be very high, since we wouldn’t have a place to live.

The reason I’m thinking about this today is because I saw a conversation about success being defined as the freedom to choose what you do with your life. Someone voiced the opinion that you always have the freedom to choose in that way, and you don’t have to wait for “success” to be able to do that – you don’t have to “earn” freedom, you just have it.

I agree! To a point.

You don’t have to earn freedom. You have it right now. But all choices have costs.

So let me redefine success a little differently: “Success” is reducing the cost of your choices to the point where you can afford the choices you want to make.

You can choose not to work right now – but “success” is being able to make that choice without paying costs you don’t want to pay. Maybe that means you’re “successful” in that you have enough money to not need the income the job provided. Maybe it means you’re “successful” in that you get to make the impacts you want to make on your community even without the vehicle of that role. It can mean whatever you want in practice, but the core concept is the same – you are successful if your important trade offs are also easy ones.

Everything requires some sacrifice, some juice. And different amounts will feel more major or minor to different people, so in this way all success is subjective. That’s a very good thing – no matter how much your lunches cost, you should be the one to eat them.

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