The Inevitability of Sacrifice

Anything v Everything

Hey friends,

One quote keeps coming back to me: "You can have anything you want, but you can't have everything you want." This gets me thinking about options, tradeoffs, and choosing how to choose. After all, you could be a window-opener or a door-knocker.

As I've said previously, everything is ultimately a resource allocation problem. You have 24 hours in a day, and that's it. When you choose to do X, you're inevitably forgoing Y, unless, of course, you're Elastigirl from The Incredibles.

So, options are good; they force you to think hard about your tradeoffs, but they're also stifling. When you have too much to choose from, you worry about choosing the slightly 'suboptimal outcome.' (Which prevents you from taking action altogether.) An outcome is suboptimal when you don't get asymmetric rewards but only simple, expected rewards.

When things open up, try going to a supermarket and choosing between different kinds of peanut butter. You'll have crunchy peanut butter, crunchy salted peanut butter, salted peanut butter, almond chocolate peanut butter, on and on. At that time, it's understandably hard for you to choose the "right" peanut butter. And so, you end up confused in the exponentially increasing confusopolies of 'consumer capitalism' and pick a peanut butter that "resonates" with you, meaning, that attracts you. And this entire process took you 15 minutes, 10 units of energy, and 15 bucks.

This was a trivial problem, but it makes the point. Similar confusopolies exist in all areas of life. The problem, then, becomes non-trivial and intractable. When you have a bazillion life decisions to choose from, you're naturally worried. And so, you don't choose because you fear choosing the suboptimal thing.

But as it goes: "You can have anything you want, but you can't have everything you want." You have to choose something. Sacrifice is inevitable. You just have to sacrifice things at the time that you can choose to, or else things will be sacrificed for you.

One way to do that is to constrain your 'optionality space.' Imagine you have zero options. Now, carefully choose what even comes into your consideration set. Then, things become easier to choose from, because now, you've gone one level meta... You're now choosing to choose.

Sure, you can be a multipotentialite for all the time that you want, but being everything is also being nothing at the same time. Which could be okay. It's not necessary that you have to be something, but really, from experience, I've found that most people who do great work are "something."

So, the decision is, of course, yours: Make a sacrifice or one will be made for you. Constrain your choices. Pick something from those choices. Be that thing. Later, then, as Jung says, you have 50%+ of your life to rediscover the child you lost, when you were being "something".

Until next time,


Our Commonplace Book

This week, I took a few hours and went through VGR’s 1500+ Quora posts. I’m posting here the best ones that resonated with me: