I create software for fun and money.

The disadvantages principle

Mon, Jan 29 2024

It's easy to get hyped up about something and jump right into using or buying it. A new programming language, new sports equipment, or a new vehicle.

However, as I get older, I find it more and more useful to first look at the disadvantages of the thing I'm curious about.

I ask myself questions like:

  • What are the drawbacks of this new, shiny web framework?
  • What's the hidden cost of the sport I'm interested in trying? Is there a high injury rate involved with it? Maybe the equipment is prone to rapid wear & tear and needs frequent replacement.
  • What should I think about before buying a motorbike? Oh, do I need to rent a garage now? A proper motorcycle gear costs half as much as a secondhand bike?

Of course, I'm not saying one should live a boring life and never try anything new. Maybe you are one of those people who can try a new sport once and not make it your whole personality.

But since I used to be the exact opposite, the above advice proved to be a great mechanism for making informed, thought-out decisions.

Also, there are the kind of people who can have things that are good enough. The above advice might not be too useful for them. Maybe they're OK with a run-of-the-mill coffee machine.

But since I meticulously research every purchase I'm about to make, looking at the disadvantages first might prevent me from spending 4,000 euros on an Italian espresso machine.

And it's not only about saving money. It's also about being frugal with future time and energy. All the unnecessary purchases I make now will at some point in the future require my time and energy to either maintain them or get rid of them.

The disadvantages principle, as I've taken to call it, has been useful to me on many occasions. Sometimes I categorically dismiss something just by pondering its major disadvantage.

Sure, I might get some false negatives along the way, where the thing I'm thinking about dismissing would improve my life. I'm willing to accept those, as the advantages of this mental model have provided me with outsized benefits.