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September 18th, 2020
Much of what we seek boils down to optionality. We stock the fridge with more food than we’ll eat so we can have options. We stay single longer in order to peruse options through time. We buy larger houses so we have the option of being in the den or the downstairs living room, or the patio, or the other house on the island. We are drawn more and more to shop with Amazon because the options continue to grow and grow and grow.
Leveraging a situation for an outcome that is focused on optionality is almost always the best course of action. But as with anything, when taken to an extreme, the benefits can grow toxic. Take for instance the young and wayward spirit who can’t commit to developing a single skill because the entire set of possible career options is both incredible and overwhelming. The perennial dater may also run into a similar issue as life moves on and the enormous amount of time and effort required for a family gets kicked down the road. Optionality can, in some cases become no option, and this is a subtle point wholly based on exactly which circumstance we are focusing on.
For example, money creates optionality. In fact, the fungible nature of money creates optionality in its most form, both practical and conceptual. A surfeit of money unlocks optionality in most other fields within a human network, aside from, perhaps, love - but even that is certainly up for debate and scrutiny as few, if any people would object to a spouse that was instantly wealthier. Optionality for one usually means optionality for the other, particularly if love is genuine.
When optionality is a function of time, however, it runs like a fuse. It’s a grave mistake to spend too much of one’s life trying to figure out a path to try because time and life runs out and we can find ourselves with the best years behind us without ever taking a solid swing with any one path. While money is fungible, time is not. The illusion of course is that time seems fungible. You can wake up tomorrow and do something totally different than anything you’ve ever done. It’s possible to radically change direction and the potential and possibility teased by the concept of tomorrow feels consistently reassuring. But how often do we actually take up the tease on its dare? How few people, it seems, have the guts to take hold of their life and wrench it in a totally new direction. Such drastic action is certainly the exception, not the rule, though the promise of tomorrow makes it feel like a steady rule.
Optionality tied to time dwindles like sand in an hourglass, each grain a different day, a different chance when our possible path might have struck out in a new direction, falling through the pinch of the present, forever lost to the impenetrable vault of yesterday.
The lesson of course which we must anticipate before learning too late is to get busy living, or waste it all waiting for something that may never show.
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