Opportunity Cost


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Earlier this year, I was tasked with co-mentoring a high school student. To be honest, I didn’t want to do it. The thought of being a direct influence on a young man’s life was too much responsibility at a time when my own life was in turmoil. As a compromise, I guided him to a few of the books which had guided me; The Alchemist, Art of War, and 48 Laws of Power. I told him, After reading these three books, you will be able to think through any situation that life throws at you.” And so his journey began…

I’ve always heard that you can learn more about a subject from teaching it than you can from just reading about it. I found this to be true after he read and we discussed “The Alchemist”. I don’t recall his exact question about the story, but it lead me to explain the term “Opportunity Cost.”

As a business major, I’ve heard, read, and used the term hundreds of times, but it wasn’t until I had to explain it that I truly understood it. “Opportunity cost is the foregone benefits of the actions not taken in order to pursue the action that is taken. ” He stared at me blankly so I explained, ” Whenever you do something. There are a million other things you could be doing instead. For example, you could be out in the streets with your friends or spending your summer watching daytime TV but instead you are here (at my job) interning. Every situation that you’re in will have options and opportunity costs. You’ll have to make a conscious effort to recognize them.” In my explanation of the definition, I had my own epiphany.

Since moving to DC, I’ve been living my life on fast forward and somewhat blindly.

Instead of savoring moments, I’ve been rushing from moment to moment in search of… I don’t know. I spend most of my work week looking forward to my weekend, like a kid on Christmas Eve. Conversely, the time between Friday at 5:00 p.m. and Monday at 9:00 a.m. somehow seems like only minutes had passed.

“Life is short.” Does it have to be? How much longer would life feel if we spend our time appreciating moments instead of rushing to the next cheap thrill. I’m not saying quit your job and go become a monk in the hills of Tibet, but do consider how much of your life are you willing to spend unfulfilled and working just for a check.

A friend once told me that money buys options.

What is the opportunity cost of using your money for short term luxuries instead of long term goals? How much money (options) could you have saved if you spent the last 5 years living on only the bare essentials and finding free sources of entertainment? How many new things (options) could you have learned if you spent hours in a free library instead of paying to sit at home at watch reality shows on cable?

What’s more important than creating options for yourself and your generations to come?

There are two paths in life: What you can be and what you choose to be.

3 Replies to “Opportunity Cost”

  1. LaShonda says:

    This was the wake up call I needed…Wow!! Thank you Ali!

  2. HotLava says:

    Consider that every individual must choose between what she/he wants to do and what’s expected of her/him. Understand that those concepts NEVER match up.

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