100 to None

More options usually means more power. More choice, more freedom, right? It’s true, but it’s not complete.

Thinking that “more choices is better” leads to an incomplete philosophy; the desire to always have more choices. Recently I was talking to someone about negotiating power with an employer – certainly you have more if you have a hundred employers who want to hire you versus just one, right?

Seems true in relationships, too. If you have a hundred people who want to date you, you’re better off than if you only have one option, right?

Even shopping. If you can only shop at one store, you’re stuck with whatever they sell – but if you have a hundred options you can probably get exactly what you want.

These are all true – to a point. On your side, choice is important – and on their side, your choice means “they” (whoever “they” are) have to compete, making each individual option better than it would be in a vacuum.

But there is a way to have this power without relying on the universe to have multiple options for you. You have to control the Ultimate Option.

Opting out.

If you don’t need a job, then you have as much negotiating power with one employer as you do with an array of hundreds. You get to set all the terms, because you can walk away if you don’t like the deal. If you’re comfortable with your own company, then you don’t have to compromise and take a romantic partner you don’t really want.

Now, some of that is admittedly Utopian. We’re not complete societies as individuals. Most of us need external income, and romantic partners are great, and friends are awesome, and stores have lots of great stuff to buy, and so on. The point isn’t to completely isolate yourself from the world.

Rather, this advice should remind you that “walking away” is always on the table if the remaining deals are bad enough. It’s a reminder to build yourself a life where you have a reasonable amount of independence – maybe most people need a job eventually, but your own level of saving and frugality can be the difference between needing one tomorrow and not needing one for twelve months. Sure, many of us want a long-term life partner, but your healthy personal habits and hobbies can be the difference between being so desperately lonely that you ignore red flags and being comfortable being alone long enough to make good choices. And not waiting until you’re on your last roll of toilet paper to buy more can be the difference between getting robbed at the cash register and waiting for a sale.

Patience is a virtue. Walking away takes strength. Strength and patience are both rewards of a life lived with care.

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