Juice, Revisited

Everything that you make happen costs juice.

Juice can (and almost always does) mean a lot of things. That’s why I like the term; because it’s often inaccurate to say that something takes “time and money” when it really took a lot more than that. But money absolutely is a component of juice, and it tends to get a lot of focus. But in many ways, it’s the strangest component.

First, having money generally means having more juice, but it’s not a 1:1 ratio. Money didn’t come from a vacuum, and in a surprising number of cases you actually have to lose a few units of some of the other components, not only in order to get the money, but even as a side effect of having the money.

Here’s an example: imagine you have very little money, but you have a lot of drive. If you ask an acquaintance for a somewhat costly favor, they may admire what you’re trying to do and help. If you have a lot of money, on the other hand, that same acquaintance may feel like you’re taking advantage of them for asking for free help when you could so easily afford a different solution. In economics terms, this means you can often have less social capital just because you have more money. (Of course, there’s another threshold you can cross where you have so much money that people want to do more favors for you, but it’s no longer out of genuine altruism. That’s a different thing altogether, and beyond the scope of what I’m talking about in this post.)

Second, money itself often is a source of stress – whether you have it or not. People don’t, in general, want money. They want one of the “Three S’s:” Stuff, Status or Security. They either want the things money can buy (i.e. people don’t want money, they want vacations and cars and televisions and so on); they want other people to like, respect, admire or even envy them; or they fear the life that not having money will bring (i.e. they use money to insulate themselves against a poverty lifestyle, such as exposure to crime, inability to pay for health care, etc.). But whichever “S” or combination thereof you’re after, they all require another deadly “S:” Stress. Because turning money into those things costs juice as well (money doesn’t just magically become stuff, security or even status without additional effort on your part), and so on top of the stress you endured and juice you expended making the money, now you have to endure more stress and expend more juice converting it to what you really want in the best way possible for you.

Now, don’t think I’m trying to bash on money, here! As a quick aside, I truly believe that money is the single greatest invention mankind has ever come up with. The wheel, fire, harnessed electricity, even language – it all pales before “mediums of exchange” in terms of helping to lift the people of the world up from the caves and swamps and into the sky. On a societal level, money is absolutely amazing. On a personal level, money is a tool – and as I’ve mentioned recently, it’s important not to confuse a tool and a goal.

My “S” is absolutely Security. I’m very anti-stuff for the most part, and while I wish I could say I’m 0% status-driven, I can at least with confidence say I’m very low on that scale. My main goal for which I use money as my tool is creating a bubble. For me and my family, I want to make sure our life is on our terms. I expend a good portion of my juice (of which money is a part) on that goal every day.

But because I recognize both my actual goal, and the fact that it takes juice to get there (not just money), I’m very aware of when I can trade money (either existing or potential) away for some other component of juice at a great exchange rate, because that actually gets me closer to my goal.

I could earn more money than I do now. Without a doubt. In fact, on a pretty regular basis I investigate the possibilities for doing so, just to keep myself sharp and observant. As of now, none of those options would give me enough money to justify the significantly larger addition of stress they would cause, nor the significant reduction in other resources at my disposal.

Because you see, not only do I work towards my goal every day – but I also live it every day. My family is secure now. I work to maintain and even improve it, but every day I get to spend a lot of time with my kids, who are healthy and happy. I get to make their present and future lives more secure by being an active father. I have lots of plans and ambitions for future improvements to the homestead, to increasing various savings and retirement accounts, to safeguarding all of our health – but those are improvements to something that is already good. If I took a job that paid me much more money, I may be able to make better future improvements, but I would have to take away from something that is already good, right now.

That juice isn’t worth the squeeze.

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