Good, Cheap or Fast – Pick Two

by Andy Wood on August 22, 2014

in Exploring the Possibilities,Five LV Laws,Life Currency,LV Cycle,Money,Principle of Increase

Impossible dream

The original premise of LifeVesting is, what would happen if we applied principles of financial investing to all the areas of our lives?  Some of the things we have explored in the process are:

  • There are four – and only four – things you can spend your time and money on.
  • It is possible, like the Bible’s “Proverbs 31 woman,” to position yourself so that you laugh at the future rather than worry about it.
  • God has an economy and you can be rich in it.

Nearly ten years after my son proposed the idea, it still intrigues me.  Lately I’ve been thinking about some wisdom I got from my friend Kirk the Builder.  Kirk works for a major contractor who has built multi-million-dollar facilities all over the country.  One day we were having lunch and talking about the biz, and Kirk shared some profound wisdom.

In construction, he said, people can pick any two of three options:  good, fast, and cheap.  We want all three, but we can’t have all three.

We can have good and fast, but it won’t be cheap.

We can have good and cheap, but it won’t be fast.

We can have fast and cheap, but it won’t be good.

What intrigues me about that is that the principle isn’t limited to bricks-and-sticks construction.  From a bigger point of view, in all the commodities of life – time, money, esteem, ability, whatever – we want three things.  We want a quality result (good), immediate or quick gratification (fast), and an increase in value (cheap).

We can have two out of three, but not all three.  Quality, Quantity, Quick.

Go out to eat, as Kirk and I were that day, you can typically have two out of three, but not all three.

Operate a restaurant, you can offer any combination of the three, but not all three (in spite of what the fast food people may tell you).

Sometimes people will try to shave off enough of all three and meet us in the middle with all three.  The result:  mediocre, mediocre, and mediocre.  But that beats awful, awful, and awful.  And in some people’s minds, it beats awesome, awesome, and awful.

I’m thinking this can also be applied on an organizational, or even a cultural or national problem-solving scale.  We can approach problem solving with one of three strategies – Good and Cheap, Good and Fast, or Cheap and Fast.  Quality/Quantity,  Quality Quick, or Quick Quantity.

To get Good and Cheap, you’ll have to wait.  It won’t be fast.  (Hint: That’s why Congress, who in the House are up for re-election every two years, hardly ever chooses this option.)

To get Good and Fast, you’ll have to pay.  It won’t be cheap. (This is where we get our debtor economy.)

To get Cheap and Fast, you’ll have to compromise.  It won’t be gourmet.

Is there a spiritual dimension to all this?  I don’t know for sure, but I think so.

If you want a Quality/Quantity kind of life, you’ll have to be willing to give God time to build it. Ah, the magic of compound interest… or waiting on the Lord!

If you want a Quality /Quick kind of life, you’ll have to be willing to pay a lot for it in terms of resources (think doctoral-level education, student loans, or some sort of spiritual version of boot camp).

If you want a Quick/Quantity kind of life, you’ll have to be willing to surrender some of your expectations for quality.  Remember, it takes 40 days to make a squash and 40 years to make an oak tree.  But each has their place.

Now… what to do with this idea?  Well for starters, let’s stop asking the government to break the rules of sophomore economics.  In our age of entitlement, we have a way of howling about whatever one of the three things is missing, and somehow Old Uncle Sam is supposed to fix it.

Then why not use that as a guide to help determine what’s most important to you today?  Or maybe over the next 5-10 years?  Are you more willing to wait for what you want, pay for what you want, or compromise the quality of what you want?  What best serves you in the long run? Fast may be fine for lunch, but will it serve you best in the long run?

And while you’re at it, use this as a strategy guide.  Walmart chose cheap and fast.  Neiman-Marcus?  Good and Fast.  Lolly Wolly Doodle? Apparently good and cheap; nobody’s ever accused them of being fast.

Your church, your business, your approach to friendships, even your approach to spirituality, all could use some perspective based on this idea.

It certainly isn’t advanced economic theory, but it definitely has value. And it may explain why you’ve been frustrated or had a bad case of multiple mediocrity lately.

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