One question to help you make better choices in life

As you know, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Wacky Wednesday, and a whole bunch of other cleverly named days are coming up...

Each will present you with a plethora of discounted items, from TV's and Furbies, to digital games, music, and software at bargain prices.

I am actually a huge fan of this time of year.

Not because it turns some people into stampeding, 28 Days Later zombies to get the latest Tickle Me Elmo...

black friday stampede o - One question to help you make better choices in life

But because it offers me a chance to get things that I had wanted to get anyway at a great discount, saving me money I can then spend on other things (like Let's Rock Elmo's....).

This, of course, poses an ethical dilemma: to buy or not to buy?

Obviously, you can't purchase everything that strikes your interested over the next few weeks leading to Christmas; while there will be many great sales, there are only so many gold coins in your pocket.

That's why, around this time of year, when my wallet is open and ready to make some bad decisions, I ask myself a simple question:

Will this make me better or worse in the next two years time?

This is the simple litmus test I use to decide whether I should pull the trigger and buy shiny new X, or whether I should turn down the endorphin-releasing, red-light flashing, bargain-bin, no-brainer, 99% off limited-time, limited-quantity, discount deal I'm sure to see in the next few days.

Will this make me better or worse?...

A simple question that changes everything.

And if you're buying gifts for friends and family, same rules apply: "Will this make their life better or worse in two years time?"

If you're wondering, "but Tom, how do I use this in my own life you turkey?!"

I'll feed you baby bird.

For example, let's say I see a new 80" LED TV on sale for 60% off, only $1,700; the full-price version is over $3,000 - what a steal, right!?

I then ask myself: "will this make me better or worse in two years time?"

This is where I weigh the pros and cons of making the purchase (removing the enemy from the equation).

Let's start with pros:

  1. Brand new TV (makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside)
  2. It shows moves in high-def, 10 billion pixel, 4d3d3d3
  3. I'll have the biggest TV compared to [place name of people I'm competing against here]

Good pros, all of them.

Now let's look at the cons:

  1. I already have a 50" plasma, so quality of life will only improve marginally (the difference between no TV to any TV is a bigger quality of life increase than, say, a 50" to 80" TV upgrade).
  2. I'll be down $1,700, which restricts me from using that money for other things like travel, a night out with people I love, learning, charity, etc; the opportunity cost is high, here, regardless of the discount.
  3. If I get a new TV, I'll feel compelled to use it. And a TV is a "consumption" tool - you create nothing with it - you can only consume with it. Therefore, I will consume more this year than I will produce with this same item.
  4. This TV will probably make me gain weight because TV is built to be watched sitting down, and it's more fun to gorge on processed trans-fats while watching movies /TV.
  5. My weight gain will make me feel worse about myself, impacting my confidence, my relationships, etc.; I'll need to spend money to lose the weight, which means more money indirectly out of my pocket to repair the negative effects; in the interim, my work performance will decrease because I'm carrying around extra lard; I have to buy new clothes to fit my fat-ass into, etc.
  6. And in 2 years time, this thing will be just as obsolete as my current TV (which works fine by the way), compelling me to buy a new TV because it's 60% off, shows movies in 5d at 20 billion pixels, and I've now created a habit out of purchasing a new TV ever Cyber-Black-Wacky-Day-Week.

All in, I'd personally skip the TV.

(and that's exactly what I am doing this year)

So what is worth buying?

Anything, in my opinion, that can make you or your life better.

For example:

  1. Getting a Fitbit to track your steps, calories, and workouts over time (which will do the opposite of the TV mentioned above at a fraction of the price)
  2. Upgrading business software to increase your effectiveness, output, etc. (like moving from Mailchimp to ConvertKit, because it reduces the time it takes  to create and share compelling content)
  3. Signing up for a new course on a topic you want to learn about (like how to write and publish a bestseller, become a thought leader, and generate 6-figures or more through your writing)
  4. Purchasing a book (or 11) on topics that could improve your life

What you might notices is that, by necessity, all of these "things" are "production" tools - things that will help me create or improve my life or the life of others.

I know any of these would be a good purchase because my life will improve if I get (and use) them. They aren't just purchases, but investments.

Winner winner chicken dinner.

Easy to do, easy not to do

Fundamentally, what I'm sharing with you is easy; easy to understand, and easy to do.

But it's also easy not to do.

  • It's easy to splurge on the TV anyway because, bro, it's 80 inches.
  • It's easy to ignore the books, courses, or products that could improve your life if you purchased them and invested time and energy into using them...
  • It's easy to ignore everything on this page because it's just a blog post and, in real life, you need to keep your [wife/kids/friends/whatever] happy...and they're happiest when they get what they want, not what I think will make them better in the next two years...

Easy to do, easy not to do.

Yet, it is these small, easy choices that change the trajectory of our lives.

“The truth is, what you do matters. What you do today matters. What you do every day matters. Successful people just do the things that seem to make no difference in the act of doing them and they do them over and over and over until the compound effect kicks in.” - Jeff Olsen, The Slight Edge

So before you open your wallet, today, tomorrow, next month, or next year...

Ask yourself:

Will this make me better or worse in two years time?

The answer to this question, and the choice you make after, could change you life.

Or not.

It's up to you.

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7 comments on “One question to help you make better choices in life”

  1. Tom, Trust you're taking time to enjoy this holiday. This is an excellent post, never thought of looking at things in terms of two years. I just usually look at do I really need it, or will I really use it? So, I like adding that time element to the decision making process.

  2. I agree that every choice we make definitely matters, Tom. Sometimes what seems to be an insignificant choice ends up defining the next chapter of our life. Beautifully written article. Thank you!

  3. Great post, Tom, and just in the nick of time. I'm glad I took a few minutes to read through it. I'm with Skywalker in that I never thought about looking at purchases in terms of a time period. It's a good reminder that I need to slow down and read what I have, watch what I have, and use what I have before making new purchases.

  4. Love this Tom!
    Anytime I want to make a major purchase I apply this and also give myself a few days to 'sit' with the decision. More stuff also means more stuff to take care of... so it really has to be something that will add to my life, not take away from it. Hence the possibility of grabbing a discount for a new dishwasher... haha...
    Hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving!