March 24, 2022
 min read

Mind Macros 09: Opportunity cost, Eisenhower matrix, and fixating on endings

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Hello, friend.

Welcome to another issue of Mind Macros - I hope you find something of value.

Food for Thought

1. Liquid modernity and the inversion of value

The term liquid modernity was coined by sociologist and philosopher Zygmunt Bauman to describe the inversion of value we are experiencing. Rather than value being attached to agreed-upon metrics, such as degrees, skills are becoming increasingly mimetically driven. Almost anyone can declare themselves to be an expert in many fields as long as they have a large audience. Things that can be manipulated and bought, such as follower counts, testimonials, and verified profiles, are becoming the new validation metrics.

"One hundred years ago, there was a much wider gap in knowledge between someone who had a doctoral degree and someone who didn't. Today, with the world's information at nearly everyone's fingertips, the knowledge gap between people with a great amount of formal education and those with less has narrowed. In fact, holding certain degrees, such as a PhD or an MBA, can count against you if you're pursuing jobs at companies that view them as a sign of one's complacency. We are witnessing an inversion of value." — From Wanting by Luke Burgis

2. Fixating on endings

"There is not going to be a point [in life] when it all comes together. So let’s not waste our time: instead, arrange what we can to ensure the journey is enjoyable and meaningful. Alan Watts (who brought many Eastern ideas to the West) made the point that when we listen to a piece of music or read a book, we don’t just skip to the end, where it all comes together. But in life, we fixate on endings. Perhaps, instead, life is more like a piece of music, and we are supposed to be dancing." — From A Little Happier by Derren Brown

On your deathbed, which life would you be more satisfied with: a life in which you’re given wealth, health and happiness from birth, or one in which you gain all three through discipline, hard work, and perseverance?

The second, right? Because you have to earn something to truly appreciate it.

The destination isn't really what matters; it's the journey that makes the ending glorious. Fixating on an ending is like fast-forwarding through a film to watch the last five minutes, or skipping an entire book to read the final page. You forfeit all the enjoyment and miss out on the experience.

Practical Advice

1. Be aware of the opportunity cost

"Whenever we choose an alternative, we are automatically rejecting every other possible choice. All those rejected alternatives are paths to possible futures where things could be better or worse than the path we chose. There is potential opportunity cost in any choice we forgo. Every decision commits us to some course of action that, by definition, eliminates acting on other alternatives. Choosing to go to the movies means that we are choosing to not do all the other things with our time that we might do during those two hours." — From Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke

“You can't live a life so obsessed with time allowance,” you might think. Obsessed, no. But mindful of, yes. After all, most of us already live this way with money.

We understand that if we have $100 left over from rent, we can buy a new pair of shoes or take our partner out to that tasty Thai place around the corner. But we know that we can't do both. We have to choose between the two. Either we get the shoes and say no to a night eating fried rice, prawns and that spicy dip we love, or we create a memory with our life partner and forget about the footwear.

When selecting one, we automatically exclude all other options. This principle is known as opportunity cost in microeconomics.

Why should our time be treated any differently? Time is the only resource that we can never retrieve. Once it's gone, it's gone forever. By definition, our time has the highest opportunity cost.

We aren't born with $4M to spend ($50k a year) for the rest of our lives. But we are assigned 700,000 hours (based on an 80-year life) to allocate how we choose.

We must then ask: How do we know that what we have chosen is the most important thing to do right now? We can never know for certain, but using the Eisenhower matrix can be helpful in a task-based environment.

2. Eisenhower Matrix

"One of [Dwight D. Eisenhower's] innovations was to organize information and problems into what’s now called the “Eisenhower Box,” a matrix that orders our priorities by their ratio of urgency and importance. Much that was happening in the world or on the job, Eisenhower found, was urgent but not important. Meanwhile, most of what was truly important was not remotely time-sensitive. Categorizing his inputs helped him organize his staff around what was important versus what seemed urgent, allowed them to be strategic rather than reactive, a mile deep on what mattered rather than an inch on too many things." — From Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday

Eisenhower Matrix

By using the Eisenhower matrix, we are not planning every second of our days, but rather prioritizing the hours we wish to spend pursuing our goals. As the matrix presents all the tasks that require our time, we can more easily identify what we're choosing not to do by selecting one.

Below is a caveat for those who may think I am advocating constant work:

My conception of time is not productive versus unproductive but intentional versus unintentional. If I carve out a week to binge-watch all nine seasons of The Office and do just that, I'm being intentional. The week was productive because I followed my plan. The only time I am being unproductive is if I spend my time unintentionally. This rephrasing eliminates any guilt about not working, which I know many people suffer with.

Quotes to Ponder

1. Carl Jung on our relationship to our ego as we age:

“The first half of life is devoted to forming a healthy ego, the second half is going inward and letting go of it.”

2. Matthieu Ricard on cultivating moral character:

“We don’t mind spending 15 years on education, why not the same to become a better human being?”

​Thank you for reading,

Matthew Vere

Share this with the right people!

If you've ever found anything here to be interesting or valuable- it would be a big help to get this to reach the right people and share it with someone that you think will appreciate it:

Thanks for joining our newsletter.
Oops! Something went wrong.

Latest newsletters

Hey, I'm Matthew 👋

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Thanks for joining our newsletter.
Oops! Something went wrong.