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Ideas and stories from my growth journey. Warning: If you are interested in a casual, comfortable life, this blog will be counterproductive for you.

Pay Now or Later?

Life can be summed up as a series of payments and rewards. Each choice you make includes both elements. You will always get some reward for your choices and you will always pay the price. Whether the rewards are worth the price is one of the big questions of your life.

chocolate cake

Every choice we make has a price and a payoff, a cost and a reward. Many times, the question we face is, “Do I want to pay now or later?”

For example, when a piece of chocolate cake is presented to me, I pay now (turn it down and miss the pleasure of the cake) or pay later (sugar crash is 3-4 hours and also wake up a little bit fatter tomorrow). Before you quit reading, let me assure you, this is not an anti-cake post. In fact, I have a chocolate cake in my fridge right now. This is true of parenting: it’s easier to give your kid what he demands than endure another fit. You can defer that fight. But each time you do, you make the future discipline that much harder, as the child gets more and more accustomed to getting their way.

It applies to leadership as well. It’s tempting to delay confronting a bad attitude employee. And you don’t have to be vulnerable or admit mistakes—you’re the boss. But these choices don’t eliminate the price, they merely delay it to another day—and make the inevitable consequence bigger.

Let me be clear. It’s not always better to pay now. Sometimes we do need to stop a smell the roses. A life lived with our eyes always on tomorrow can lead to a cold, gaunt existence. But it’s not always better to pay later, either. Sometimes we do need to say no to the chocolate cake or have the hard conversation. Managing this tension, I believe, is at the heart of wisdom.

If it’s not clear which choice is best—pay now or pay later—I’d like to offer one principle to help you tip the scales: The deepest pleasures often require a long series of payments. Tweet This

This is one of the reasons I write books. Month after month, pushing my thinking to deeper levels, crafting (and re-crafting) language, and linking concepts and characters into an escalating flow—t’s hard work. And there’s no reward until the entire thing is finished. In late April, my second book will be available for sale. It took four and a half years of payments. (Partly, that’s because it was written on my nights and weekends.) But the deep satisfaction of having written something meaningful like that is worth it.

When I compare that price of writing with the alternative—lifelong regret, knowing that I had a book in me that I never wrote—the years of work are not as big a price as the next forty years of regret.

When in doubt, pay the price now and you’ll always pay less. Tweet This

Scott WozniakPay Now or Later?
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