Optionality , one word we don’t come across a lot. At least not in Dutch, more so in the English speaking world. Nonetheless a very interesting concept. When searching for the right way in accessing risk I discovered the work of Nasim Taleb, who has written a lot about risk and fragility in our modern society. In his book antifragility, he explains how fragility in systems work and teaches a lot about risk assessment. At least it was an eye opener for me.
Risk is often misjudged or risks are overlooked. This happens in all sorts of environments, from surgery right up when you sign for your mortgage. My search was mainly focused on finance risks. As it turns out , having options helps a lot and is very important.
It all comes together in how we asses risk , when you have more options, you have more protection against risk. But what does optionality means? And how do you apply this in everyday life?
Optionality is the possibility in making choices without the obligation too choose. Abstract yes, or maybe should I say. Let’s talk about it some more in terms of my favorite topic. Finance. If you have money left at the end of the month , you have options , let’s say you can buy a book , pay off a debt or whatever tickles you. I am not debating what the smart move is here, but options you have. This is not exactly what is meant by optionality, hang on we are getting there.
When you come up short every month, there are no options. You can only borrow beg or steal. All of which are bad options , basically no options. The amount of pressure in finding a solution will most likely work counter productive. Or you can’t see any valid solutions any more let alone think about alternatives.
When you are free to do what you want , or more or less anyway, this is were the real power of optionality comes in play. Imagine that in any given job, as long as it pays minimum wage, you’ll still be able to cover all monthly costs. It will liberate you from a very big pressure in life, the need too making X amount of money for years on end.
Now that stress is out of the way, your job is not one you will have too keep at all cost. Loosing it isn’t life threatening anymore and it opens up your vast brainpower thinking about other options in life. You can change jobs , try out a new position in your company without the fear of failure.
In any case things start moving again, not driven by that sole risk of loosing a job and therefore an X amount of money. Money is no longer the only risk you need too manage. When you have high (financial) stresses it clogs up your brains and devotes a lot of brain power in finding solutions when that sole risk pops up. It also leads your brain in making a lot of wrong short term decisions which will be wrong in hindsight. It most likely make the risks you are trying to avoid bigger instead of smaller. If that’s all out of the way decisions tend too be more balanced, better thought out and make for far better choices over the long term. Some say it unlocks long term thinking.
It leaves space for creative thinking, thinking up new projects , planning all sorts of cool stuff and actually finding time and energy in trying some of those projects. In other words you think of new options. And the projects you do , fail or succes make you think again and come up with even more cool options. The power of the multiplying options if you like.
Lessening financial stress is a very good starting point in search of a life with less stress and more opportunities. Minimizing the necessary monthly cash flow will give a sense of ease and space for you too work on ideas and projects which are buried in the freezer and really get hands on with them. Inevitably this (financial) risk reduction will bring you optionality.