Willing to Lose

I often think that society tends to be bad at making positive trade-offs. Even setting aside how bad people are at correctly evaluating things like this, people will generally only support something that (they think) has 100% good effects. For instance, let’s say there are two health policies on the table and people have to vote for one of them: Policy A will save 10 lives per year from heart disease. Policy B will save 100 lives per year from heart disease but result in 1 extra death per year from cancer. People will vote for Policy A, despite the superiority of Policy B, because people focus way more on “causes 1 death” than “saves 100 lives.”

In other words, people are bad at trade-offs.

But you know what? This isn’t just about public policy stuff. People – and I’m absolutely including myself – are bad at this concept even in their personal lives.

I’m always looking for win/win scenarios. I love finding ways to improve multiple things at once. But you can’t do that all the time, and thinking you can will make you overlook even very beneficial win/lose scenarios. Those scenarios can be amazing as long as the win is bigger than the loss. Maybe it’s just fine to take some time off from your side business in order to build that deck that you want. Maybe it’s just fine to slow your personal reading pace in order to spend an extra afternoon with a dear friend.

You can’t win ’em all, as they say. But if you’re willing to lose a little, you’re more likely to get to pick how you do so. That’s a win all by itself.

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