ROI (Return On Investment) is a popular metric that helps us understand how well our money is working for us, but what about the question of how well your time is working for you? After all, time is money, right? Many of us who have billed by the hour, or work for wages have placed a value on our time — in fact the act of setting a negotiated hourly rate places a concrete number on the value of your life’s limited duration.
So, considering the importance of the resource, how well are you investing your time? How are the choices you make today impacting your future when your time is considered in terms of an investment?
Answering this question brings up the concept of Opportunity Cost — accounting for the inevitable loss incurred when making any choice. There is a value that is lost when a choice is made — the value of what has not been chosen drops as it is placed into the impossible column.
The ever-smiling Richard Branson famously said that in his career what mattered most was not what he did, but what he chose not to do. I have to assume Sir Richard knows a thing or two about opportunity cost, made even perhaps more remarkable by the fact that he found success even though he invested in a record label and an airline — two industries famous for shrinking margins and sketchy financials.
We see opportunity costs in sporting events as opportunities to score are lost forever, as the possibility to “turn around” a losing game, or pull a win out falls towards zero as the game progresses. Choices are made in lineups, tactics, plays. Execution plays its part as does chance. And as each quarter, period, inning and turn progresses, chances for a positive outcome are lost for good, and upside becomes more of a miracle with every miss.
The inverse is true for the winning team. “Good” choices are made, plays are more easily made, luck seems to be on their side.
Opportunity Cost is associated also with the value of taking risks — in fact, taking no risks is sometimes equated with zero loss, as if by keeping chips off the table, you cannot lose them. However as long as life is measured in ticks of the clock, there is always a cost to inaction. The time for action in life is a finite resource, and to not spend it wisely is to miss out on any possible upside. This timid and conservative approach would argue that it is more important to not incur the pain of downside loss when some of our risks do not happily return on their investment.
But the ultimate counter argument is that one has but one life to live — and to stand on the sidelines while others play the game to win is the ultimate lack of investment in oneself. And if you do not have the courage or conviction to invest in yourself, certainly nobody else ever will. Nor should they.
If risk can be quantified, then much like a form of currency and can be traded in. Much as “credit default swap” derivatives seek to buy and sell risk as if it were legal tender, the Entrepreneur too deals in the currency of risk. But one can only take risk if one has freedom to do so — freedom of choice, freedom from contractual obligation, freedom from debt, freedom from subsistence-level concerns.
The Entrepreneur that can be as unhindered as possible, that can incur the most risk without panic or collapse, the seasoned battle-hardened veteran that can keep a steely eye on the prize while competitors fall on the swords of their risk aversion, those that can choose the path best traveled from the path most weary and the path most worn, are the players that ultimately succeed.