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The Pizza Delivery Opportunity Cost Dilemma

Other than being a teacher and coach, the longest standing job that I ever had was pizza delivery guy.  I worked for a local place, got paid under the table and worked with some of my best friends at the time.  I’ve learned a lot from the jobs that I’ve had throughout my life.  Some of the lessons that I learned as a pizza delivery guy did not become clear until later.

While working as a delivery guy, I got paid $6 per hour plus tips.  You would think that the tips portion would vary quite a bit from day to day but it didn’t.  On most nights, I would average $11 per hour between pay and tips.  So there was always a simple calculation to make.  If I worked 5 hours, I was bound to make about $55.  Fridays and Saturdays were our busiest nights but those nights are also when everyone else is being social.  There was a constant debate in my head as the weekend would approach.  Do I work and make around $150 or spend time with the girlfriend etc.?  I usually worked.

The opportunity cost was easy to calculate.  I had the opportunity to make $11 per hour or spend that time elsewhere.  These calculations are all around us but most of them are not quite as easy as my pizza delivery dilemma.  The opportunity cost is not exclusive to money.  It applies to health, fitness, relationships and so many other facets of our lives.  The problem is that we are leaving too many opportunities on the table.  There is “cash” that we are just throwing away out of laziness, habit or ignorance.

The Long and The Short

There are short and long term opportunities that we have to weigh.  Related to school, the short term opportunity to take that half an hour each day to study for the test coming up.  If the time is spent wisely, the reward will probably come.  If not, it almost definitely will not.  On  the long term side, things like learning how to read and write create long term opportunities from their short term acquisition.  Long term opportunities usually require some sacrifice of the short term.

For many opportunities, we focus solely on the short term.  The time that it would take to work out.  The fear that we feel about approaching that special person.  The effort that it would take to start that project.  The short term is almost always more real because it is right now and we can’t see past it.  The long term is out there looming but it is so far away that we believe that it isn’t going anywhere.

It is the time of year when one of my favorite films is on, A Christmas Carol.  Scrooge and his ordeal with the ghosts is a perfect representation of the short term and long term opportunity cost.  Scrooge continually overlooked long term possibilities for happiness in favor of short term profit.  In the end he had the spirits to help show him his opportunities lost and fix his future.  Do you have someone to help you?  Or do you need to learn to see past the moment for yourself?  Decide what is important to you now and in the future.  If you don’t know where you are going, you can get there by any road.  But will you be happy when you get there?

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