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What Are You Paying For?

Many business owners are paying a steep price for not defining what they want and what they're prepared to sacrifice to get it.

What Are You Paying For?

I'm sure you're familiar with the trolley dilemma: a runaway trolley is speeding down the railway tracks towards several people. You can pull a lever which will divert the trolley onto a side track, where there is just one person. If you pull the lever, one person will die. If you don't, many more will perish instead.

What's the right thing to do?

This popular thought experiment (with many variants) raises provocative questions about the value of human life. Is it worth sacrificing one person to save everyone else? What if that one person is someone you care about? What if it's ten people instead of one? What about a hundred or a thousand or a million?

COVID-19 has made all of these theoretical debates uncomfortably real. It's a poignant reminder that anything worth achieving comes at a price. Unfortunately, "anything" and "price" rarely get defined, until we're thrust into a situation where we're forced to choose. The inevitable consequence is schizophrenic decision making and wasted resources, which is precisely what we're witnessing right now.

This isn't just a political problem. Many of us don't make clear decisions about what we really want (often due to a fear of failure) or what we're prepared to sacrifice to achieve our goals (due to loss avoidance). So we blissfully submerge into the status quo, buoyed along by external circumstances.

Business owners aren't immune. Many would rather tread water than swim for the shore, and present circumstances simply reaffirm their self-fulfilling survival.

Everything has a price, whether we're aware of it or not. We didn't prepare for COVID-19, but we're paying for it all the same.