As a joke, you use your cell phone to dial your own number. Someone picks up. “How can you do that?” they ask. “I’m in New York. I’m on a bus. I’m at an airport. I’m driving in a car. I’m doing many things.”
You are in fact doing many things. You’re on a bus, at an airport, in a car, and you’re eating a hamburger at a restaurant. You’re making that phone call. You’re living in New York.
Your ability to do many things comes at a price. You sacrifice one thing for another. You are living in New York and doing many things. But what about being home? What about being with your family, or your friends? If you’re doing many things, you might be doing them in the same place. Or not.
The tradeoff has value. A long commute is a short visit with your kids. If you’re at home, you’re not spending time away from home, and you’re not seeing your friends.
Now you might argue that the problem is that you’re not doing enough things. Maybe you should be taking up more responsibilities, and traveling more. You could even travel more. But there’s another way to look at it. The tradeoff isn’t a quantity. It’s a quality. It’s what you’re doing with the time you have.
And you can’t get quality by doing many things. There are limits to what you can do with a couple of hours. You need time to process, to reflect, to rest. You need time to reflect. And so you give up the quantity for the quality.
So you live in New York. But you get your kids back. You sleep in your own bed. You get back to the many things that matter.
And you keep giving up the quantity. Because the quality is more important.
That’s not the only tradeoff that matters. There are lots of them. Time, money, connections, effort. These are just a few.
But they’re not necessarily tradeoffs. They’re tradeoff moments.
They’re the moments where you choose your quality of life over your quantity of life.
It’s not always easy. But you’re supposed to get better at it.
Some people spend a lot of time looking for the optimal tradeoff. They spend their time on the wrong things. But what they’re doing with their time is still time well spent. They’re finding the right quality of life.
So don’t worry about finding the perfect tradeoff. Worry about making the perfect choice.
What is the perfect choice?
The first choice.
The one you’ll make as soon as you wake up.
The one you’ll make every time you need to make a choice.
The choice you make when you’re standing on the edge of the cliff.
The choice you make when you’re waiting for a bus.