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Waste what, want what

“Waste not, want not,” is a great maxim and a terrible law.

Unnecessary waste is bad… but if you value things along more than one axis (and you do) then life is a long series of balancing acts and compromises.

Some fundamental questions are:

1) What is the value of time?

How much time will you spend trying to save how much money? [the rapidly diminishing returns to finding the best deal on X]

How much are you willing to pay to get which jobs done quickly? [a taxi, a flight, the skills of a professional, a mortgage]

2) What is the value of quality?

What will you pay [time, money, other resources] for a better quality outcome?

3) What are the costs in terms of reputation and status?

Are you paying silly costs because of what people will think of you if you don’t? [status symbols and displays of wealth, time at social events or in meetings, time and effort spent looking ‘normal’ or non-threatening]

4) What less obvious or second-order costs am I paying?

What is the long-term environmental impact of this action?

Do I like the direction that doing it this way nudges my character? My relationships?

Do the returns on this decision snowball for good [financial interest, community, good will, skill, opportunities, discipline] or ill [debt, stress, addiction, weakness]?

5) What is most important to me here?

We need to ask this question over and over again because it’s so easy to lose sight of the plurality of your values when you focus in on single, easily measurable one.

What does the value you obsess over reveal about you?

What do you really want (most)?

What are you (most) prepared to waste in order to get more of it?

Pay up.

See also:

Values in Tension
Seth Godin on difficult conversations
Inconvenient values
C. Thi Nguyen on Twitter, Gamification and Thin Metrics

2 thoughts on “Waste what, want what”

  1. Yes I agree. It’ll cost you somewhere and asking these questions is a great way to weigh that up. thanks for a great post!

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