Don't spend a dollar to solve a five-cent problem

I am proudly a satisficer. I rarely get the best deal on anything and don’t bother trying. I don’t care if people have more money than I do. The possibility of the best bargain doesn’t motivate me. I am uninterested in the best restaurants, schools, sports teams or stores. When I find something that is good enough, I stop looking until it stops being good enough. This is sanity and a way to be more - not less - successful. Some things in life - most things in life - just aren’t worth the trouble we take finding the best.

Searching for the very best takes time and in conditions of uncertainty (read real life) you can never be sure you found it. It is the recipe for endless searching and endless frustration. Action and energy trump the search for the perfect solution. In the time it takes to find the best solution, you could be taking advantage of several different opportunities. If one guy earns $50 each from three "half-fast" projects in the time it takes for another to earn $100 for the absolutely best opportunity, who is the more successful?

So let's look for the good enough solutions and know that it is better to try in conditions of uncertainty than to wait until we are sure we are right.

This is the key to the success of the free market and the source of its criticism. In the course of any reasonable time, the $50 guy is going to be a lot more successful than his more circumspect colleague. Actually, he is finding the "best" practical solution considering the cost structures in place, although not the best theoretical one. That means he can constantly be criticized for missing the best solution. This helps to explain why smart people like liberal university professors and judges don't understand the market. They can make good arguments and they can always be right, but that obscures the truth.

Theodore Roosevelt addressed the difference between the theoretical and the practical. He said, "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

One more thing. Where I live the magnolias and cherries are blooming. The azaleas will be out next week. The time spent walking among them is worth more than a couple dollars saved or made by finding the very best. Life is never perfect and can't be.

Posted by Jack at April 9, 2005 9:04 PM