Create and Maintain Optionality

An employee should strive to create and maintain optionality at all times.

To have options is to have power, security, and confidence. Having options grants you more control over your own destiny. It provides a secure environment, much like an airliner is more robust with two engines than one. And the knowledge that you have power and security fosters a sense of confidence.

Other people can subconsciously sense whether you have options. If you have options, you will seem more relaxed. You will not care as much. They will then value you accordingly. If you do not have options, you will be rightly seen as low value. Conversely, an employee with multiple lucrative options is likely high value.

Power, security, and confidence beget more options. Banks like to loan money to people who don’t need it. Ironically, rich people receive more free stuff. The opposite is also true. If you have few options, you’re likely to lose the ones that you do have. It can either be a virtuous or vicious cycle.

Furthermore, maintaining optionality exposes you to serendipity:

If you ‘have optionality,’ you don’t have much need for what is commonly called intelligence, knowledge, insight, skills, and these complicated things that take place in our brain cells. For you don’t have to be right that often. All you need is the wisdom to not do unintelligent things to hurt yourself (some acts of omission) and recognize favorable outcomes when they occur. (The key is that your assessment doesn’t need to be made beforehand, only after the outcome.)

Nassim Taleb

Having options means you do not have to make good predictions. All you have to do is keep your options open and see which ones pan out while avoiding existential failure.

Finally, never forget that walking away is a powerful option that you must always have in your back pocket. The best way to maintain that option is to have a sufficient financial cushion.

Having options is not optional.

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