Everything Is A Trade-Off

Today’s post is more of a random musing than many others which brew for longer times. But recently, this theme has surfaced in my life, and I think it’s worth commenting on. In America, we’re so used to the idea of “have it your way” and “have it all.” Something our predecessors understood has been lost on my generation and the ones since.

Everything is a trade-off. Do you remember when you’d “make it last” or you or your parent would fix something rather than replacing it because of cost? Even if you don’t, I can testify to these things. I remember my Dad bending and shaping a fireplace screen, so it would be fixed and useful because replacing it was not an option. We’d rescreen windows, and a neighbor was often helping me fix my bike. Those moments are still fond memories and formed portions of who I am.

These days, we’ve gotten so used to figuring out “can we afford it?” Or we look at “well, does it have the features I want?” And all that is well and good! It’s worthy to make sure you spend your money well and that things meet the needs their being acquired for. But what I am pointing to is the moments when we choose new over old just because it’s new!

Recently, a friend encouraged me to read a book called One Second After by William R. Forstchen. It is a fantastic book, and I highly recommend it. But one of it’s important attributes is that it’s highlighted, for me, the importance of caution when acquiring or investing in new technology. These days, we move at such a speed that many things are easily run over or past. To steal a quote from the movie The Hunt for The Red October, we are running so fast “that [we] could run right over my daughter’s stereo and not hear it!”

There’s an old saying, “Free as in Speech, or Free as in Beer?” But what’s missed is that someone paid for both! One of the first lessons to my kids was the fact that whenever someone gives you something “for free”, always consider who paid for it (store owner, promoter/company, you via price increases, you via tax increases, etc.). The point is that there’s a trade-off in all things!

Microwave A will warm your food, but it doesn’t have any fancy bells and whistles, custom settings, timers, etc. Just a basic “heat my food up in this much time at this much power” microwave. It’s $20. But Microwave B is $45 and includes a popcorn feature, something that will cook a small chicken and has a built-in thermometer, and it includes a timer and a defrost feature. Is all that worth $25 extra? Probably. Let’s assume the extra features really cost that much, for this argument’s sake. But is it worth the extra $25 TO YOU?! Do you need those features? “Well, I might want them, one day; I might get a sudden craving for microwavable popcorn.” Well, if you have the spare $25, go for it! But recognize that you’ve traded that $25 for those features. For $25, you could’ve bought some popcorn and a pan to pop it in, and you could’ve taken yourself out from some nice fast-food (like Chipotle or Smashburger or even a medium Starbucks ;-D).

Another consideration is digital versus analog. Oh nuts! I think I lost half of you. 😀 I kid, but truly, I’m not sure if most people know those terms, as they are fairly niche terms. So, let’s look at it this way, portable music (Amazon, iTunes, Pandora, etc.) is digital versus vinyl or cassette tapes which are analog. Some people swear digital is better; others will go to war for analog. I tend to be Switzerland, neutral. But I will point out to both parties that there are trade-offs. Digital has a convenience to it that analog can’t provide. But all of that comes with trade-offs. Digital can be more easily altered which means you don’t have a reliable historical record. Analog can be easily lost, which means it’s not as durable. Then there’s the warmth that analog is often felt to have, but digital is more crisp. In sort, analog has a certain warmth and a depth to it that digital loses, but digital has a portability and durability that analog can’t match.

At the end of the day, the point is that in all things we should be aware (or “heads-up” as we used to say) of the gains and losses we accept around us. Something may cost a bit more, but it covers all the needs. Is it worth more? To the person that needs it, it is. Do you need those features? Maybe it’s worth holding on to the extra money. Do you really want to jump on that bandwagon? Maybe it’s not worth the cost!

In our ever-emotional, cheap and convenient world, it is important to take a moment to pause and consider the benefits and drawbacks of the things we spend our time, money, and energy to acquire, support, and utilize. There’s some food for thought!

Godspeed – 1 Corinthians 15:10

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