Every living human being has traded with the devil at one point in her/his life. The trade is simple – “to obtain anything, you must give up something of equal value”.
Many young professionals have given up health, love, leisure or soul at one point or some points of their lives, to exchange for money, fame, power, ego, knowledge, whatever interests them. Steve Jobs gave up health for a legacy. Rupert Murdoch gave up reputation to expand his empire. Tiger Woods gave up a clean name for sex. No matter how powerful and up the ladder we are; we make trades. These trades have consequences.
Not all trades are bad. Some are meaningful, almost necessary to continue living. For example, in order to survive, one trades time for salary. In modern society, this is normal, and not a bad trade. In order to learn, one trades time for knowledge. We go to school for many years for this exact reason. Nobody in the agricultural society needs to go to school, for there is no value in knowledge in arts/history/mathematics/rocket science if people cannot feed themselves.
In modern society, the complications for trading adds up because the consequences of trades are difficult to evaluate. Most of the time we trade under uncertainty. We are making choices looking at a probability tree without the exact probability labels. Should we do it or not, who do we trade with?
I think I have made trade with life multiple times in my life. During my elementary school and junior school years, I made some good trades. I traded time for knowledge, traded pain for discipline. I’ve also traded friends for pride and subsequently took the trade back. After I graduated from undergrad, I traded a stable relationship, proximity to friends and family for a career and the opportunity to live in a new place. Before I moved from Houston to Taipei, I traded friends for new opportunity.
Recently I have been thinking if I should make a big trade again, especially when it comes to career opportunities. Whenever a company or an industry reached out to me, I got itchy. I got itchy making a trade. Should I trade stability for excitement? Should I trade the ability to sit and analyze things for the ability to go and implement in the field. Should I trade sign-on bonus for a higher salary? Should I trade the possibility of starting my own business for the stability of career promotion? Too many choices laying in front of me. I am like a stupid salmon looking to get hooked or caught by a net, maybe multiple nets.
Today I want to remind myself not to trade with the devil. I might have made some small wrong trades in the past, but the worst trade I’ve ever made was I traded my health at one point for pride. I would try not to ever let that happen again. No matter what type of pressure I am under, I will not trade my health for anything. Some other trades I made that are “out of money” were trades involving career progresses vs. relationships with family and friends. Careers that could eventually destroy personal relationships will not be my priority anymore.
Where would I be and how well could I do after 5 years, 10 years? I still don’t know. What I know is I am reassigning values to the pillars that support the fundamental structure of my life. And I am not going to trade with the devil this time.