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Every Decision is an Opportunity Tradeoff

Published 7/19/2019

Take a moment and think back on the last 24 hours. What did you give up and what are you giving up to listen to this podcast episode? In today's episode, we're talking about opportunity fear, specifically the fear of opportunity cost.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Take a moment and think back on the last 24 hours. What did you give up in the last 24 hours? And what are you forfeiting by listening to this podcast? You've certainly heard of the fear of missing out or fomo, but we don't often ask ourselves this question without a clear sense of loss. In other words, our fear of missing out is usually fear of missing out on something specific. We don't often talk about this fear in terms of opportunity. And that's exactly what we're going to focus on in today's episode. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to Developer Tea and my goal in the show is to help driven developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in your careers. Opportunity cost is a huge cost that we should be considering, not just as developers, but in our lives in general. But I want to be very clear, the goal of focusing on the fear of missing an opportunity, a different kind of fomo perhaps, is not to induce anxiety, but instead to actively recognize that every decision you make is a decision to sacrifice something else. And it can be no other way. Every decision we make, there is something that we're choosing not. We're choosing the opposite of. When you may hear this and hear the message that this means that every decision you make must be worthwhile. And then you'll fill in the blank for what worthwhile means to you. For example, people like me who have a high priority on their family life might take this episode to mean that you're supposed to go and spend all of your time with family, but there's always missed opportunity to spend time with your children, for example. But this is a more complex topic because there's a lot of evaluation that goes into these kinds of decisions. If you were to stop working all together and go and spend all of your time with your family, then you'd eventually run out of money. You wouldn't be able to provide for them. And a lot of other competing priorities would unfortunately fail. And so we do this kind of negotiation with our decision making. We think about the things that are worth sacrificing, but sometimes we're not as mindful as others. Sometimes the decision that we make in a given moment is purely in response to whatever is happening around us, or maybe it's some kind of learned habit that we haven't taken the time to inspect. The truth is, no one can tell you how to best spend your time. And perhaps even you don't know how to best spend your time. This is because we don't always make perfect decisions. We don't always evaluate everything all the way to its logical end because that would take more time than it's worth. In that way, we kind of are making a decision to choose the more valuable thing by making a decision rather than being paralyzed by this kind of analysis. So what is the point? Well, I want you to think about two things when you face difficult decisions today and hopefully in the future as well. The first thing is to think about the opportunities that you don't necessarily see. This is difficult because it's actually a creative process. You have to think about things that are not necessarily on the table, options that you haven't necessarily found before. This is the fundamental concept of opportunity cost. So in the evening, when you arrive home from work, you have time to either follow the same habits that you've always followed, which seems like the easy option, or you have time to do with what you want to, and in a way, that's a harder option. It presents you with new decisions and new cognitive overhead that you otherwise wouldn't have had if you had just kind of done the same old same old. So that's the first thing I want you to be mindful of, that you have a lot of other opportunities that you've never even thought about with any given decision. But the second thing I want you to think about is the fact that no decision is perfect. No human makes perfect decisions. All of the time that we spend, each of us is making a constant sacrifice. We're trading things off. We don't have a perfect calculator to know which direction is the most satisfying. Because we have two bad options in front of us. Sometimes the decisions we make, both of them are going to compromise things that we care very deeply about. So I want to provide you a message of perhaps comfort in knowing that any decision that you make, and really any decision any human makes, comes with a high degree of uncertainty, and that no matter what illusion of optimal you have, there's always another option. There's always the possibility that you're going to make a mistake. You're going to choose something that you look back on and you wish you hadn't. But instead of feeling alone in that seemingly terrifying position of never being able to make the perfect choice, this is the only way that it can be. This is something that is a part of the human experience. Everyone around you is in the same situation. Interestingly, this requires us to approach life in a balanced way. On the one hand, we know that all of our decisions are trade-offs. We should be careful with those that we should care about the way we spend our time, and we should be aware of all of the opportunity that we're not even seeing. On the other hand, we know that we can't optimize perfectly, and that sometimes we're going to make decisions that we wish we hadn't made. By keeping these two things in mind, you can care very deeply about the way that you spend your time, but you can also kind of let go a little bit of making those perfect decisions. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. I hope this was encouraging, and I know that somebody probably needed to hear this kind of encouragement today. We are all facing the same difficulties in our careers and our personal lives, and sometimes it just helps to know that there are other people who face the same problems that we have. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. This podcast wouldn't be able to survive without sponsors, and we've created some really fantastic relationships with sponsors. If you would like to partner with Developer Teain the upcoming quarter, you can reach out to us at sponsors at spec.fm. That's sponsors at spec.fm. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. If you haven't yet subscribed and you enjoyed today's episode, you found it encouraging or somehow valuable, then I encourage you to subscribe in whatever podcasting app you're currently using to listen to this. Thank you so much for listening, and until next time, enjoy your tea.