Buy-in is free, but it might not be cheap

These things we can buy into — ideas, philosophies, methodologies, etc — don’t cost us any money, but they might cost a lot in other terms.

The first cost is the work of buying in. This can range from very little to a lot. But it’s a non-monetary cost.

The work-cost of buy-in might be roughly quantifiable and it might involve second order monetary costs (ex: a real financial opportunity cost, for example), but no money actually changes hands when you buy into the thing a person or company is inviting you to buy into.

Rather, the work of buy-in is the cost of change. The cost of learning. The cost of a temporary discomfort — perhaps of cognitive dissonance.

I once spoke to a guy who had worked at Medtronic. He claimed that less than 20% of those who receive stents go on to make voluntary reductions to their levels of tobacco smoking or diet changes that would reduce obesity. I don’t doubt these numbers; we do perceive some changes as worse than death.

The things we can buy into don’t cost us any money, but eventually we might spend a lot on them. If we’re bought into the idea of self-employment, we might invest significant amounts of money in our business, or learning how to run it better.

If we’re bought into an aspiration to become more healthy, we will probably spend real money on cooking equipment, more expensive food, exercise equipment, and perhaps the recurring cost of a gym membership.

There’s an implied sequence here:

  1. Buy into the “something bigger”.
  2. Buy things to support progress towards the something bigger.

I theorize that things don’t have to happen in this order. The financial transaction of a purchase might happen first, and something about that purchase leads someone closer to buying into the something bigger. I’m planning to explore this more later, because I think it’s important.


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