Graduating From $20 Problems to $20K Problems

One simple tip for inviting more abundance into your life is to elevate the cost of the problems you normally focus on.

Suppose you order groceries online and have them delivered. And suppose the company screws up several items in your order. Maybe you feel inclined to complain and get a refund on those items.

Perhaps you take some time do the following:

  1. Feel upset.
  2. Vent to someone else about it.
  3. Think about following up with customer service, wondering how they’ll respond.
  4. Actually write to customer service.
  5. Feel distracted while awaiting a response.
  6. Read the response from customer service.
  7. Receive a polite apology and $20 refund on your order.
  8. Finally let it go.

So you successfully processed and solved a $20 problem.

That’s fine. You can do that, but be wary of making a long-term habit of this. Ten years from now you may still be dealing with $20 problems. Is that what you want? Or would you like to graduate to more expensive problems?

The more time you spend thinking about $20 problems, the less time you spend dealing with different classes of problems – $200 problems, $2K problems, $20K problems, $200K problems, etc.

Even if you solve lots and lots of $20 problems, you’d have to solve 1000 of them to equate to the financial impact of solving one $20K problem. You can ignore hundreds of $20 problems and solve just one $20K problem now and then, and you’ll still come out way ahead financially.

Of course there are other considerations. Solving lots of $20 problems could add up to a significant mental and emotional impact. It’s not only about the money. But it can still be helpful to consider the financial impact of each problem you’re dealing with to consider if it’s really worth your time.

I still deal with $20 problems now and then, but I try to limit myself to the ones that matter to me. For instance, Rachelle and I recently spent some time considering new pillows to buy for our bed. This was a $50 problem. But since we’ll be spending a lot of time sleeping on those pillows and since a bad choice could cause some angst, including physical discomfort and lower quality sleep, we wanted to take the time to select some really good pillows. Taking an hour to weigh options and make that choice seemed reasonable. So even though it looks like a $50 problem, we could also see it as a $50K problem for the potential productivity and lifestyle impact.

However, if the impact of a decision is really just $20 or $50, then it’s best to work on your framing. Realize and accept that the more time and energy you spend dealing with decisions at this level of financial impact, the more you steal time from investing in bigger, more impactful decisions.

I know it can be hard to let go of $20 decisions, but this is an important skill to develop if you want to progress financially. You can’t keep collecting coupons year after year – unless you start finding $20K coupons.

Here are some frames you may want to progress towards:

  • Your Starbucks points don’t mater. If some of them expire, you’ve lost a few dollars. It’s not even worth caring about. It’s not even worth your time to check their latest promotions.
  • It doesn’t matter who pays for dinner. You can pay. The other person can pay. It’s better not to spend much time thinking about it since that just wastes neural energy.
  • Buy the best quality tech you can afford. Then you needn’t waste time wondering if you should have bought something better. Don’t skimp on your tools.
  • Take all the mental energy you would have spent fussing over $20 decisions, and use it to negotiate a meaningful raise at work, or do a new marketing campaign for your business. Even if you just bring in an extra $5K per year, that’s equivalent to solve 100 $50 problems or 250 $20 problems.
  • Solve fewer, bigger problems. Let lots of little problems die unsolved.
  • Instead of solving lots of little problems, solve the problem of finding someone to solve those little problems for you.

Keep progressing. At some point you have to stop fussing over $20K problems and opportunities, so you can focus on $50K or $100K issues.

At one point a $20K opportunity may excite you, but to progress beyond that level, you eventually have to start seeing $20K opportunities as partial matches and let them go. It’s really hard to see $50K opportunities when you’re still tempted by $20K ones, just as it’s harder to spot paper money when you’ve trained your mind to notice coins on the ground.

When you’re dealing with a problem or an opportunity, pause and ask yourself: Is this a $20 issue? A $2K issue? A $200K issue?

Which class of problems and opportunities feels aligned for you to deal with right now? What kinds of problems make you feel really good when you solve them (versus feeling empty or dissatisfied)? Are you keeping your focus at your desired level? Are you reminding yourself to let go of the partial matches?

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