151. There is a cost to everything

Rama Nimmagadda
5 min readFeb 16, 2024
Photo by Prateek Kumar Rohatgi

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” ― Henry David Thoreau

Everything that you want in life comes at a cost. Even when you are completely at rest not even twitching a muscle or jerking a limb, you are still incurring energy costs at an average rate of about 600 to 700 calories per day.

If you are ambitious career wise, your cost may be tenuous or total lack of relationships with friends and family and likely even your health.

If you find yourself in your comfort zone at work, your cost is growth prospects in your career.

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Work life balance comes at the cost of reasonable career growth. Similarly, work from home also generally comes at the cost of career progress.

The cost of Usain Bolt’s nine seconds of glory is four years of intense hard work.

Cost of early retirement is meaningful “engagement” of time whereas cost of late retirement is time itself.

Running a start-up comes at the cost of (pretty much) everything else in and of life.

Peace comes at the cost of war and war comes at the cost of peace.

If you seek high returns on your investment, it will cost you severe heartburn in the form of high volatility and perhaps even loss of some or most of your capital.

Multi-bagger returns on stocks come at the cost of multiple drawdowns of over 50%.

If you want to play safe with your investments, your cost will be real reduction in value of your capital — inflation will rust your portfolio.

If you exercise too little or too much, you will pay with your health. Ditto with overeating and undereating.

The cost of yielding to default goals (goals set by others) is living a meaningful life.

If you play too safe in life, you may forgo the thrill of living.

To be lucky, hard work is usually the cost.

To get information, time and energy are the cost.

For gaining knowledge, curiosity, time, energy and genuine interest are the costs.

And to acquire wisdom, experience and knowledge are the costs.

If have a precocious or a gifted child, you may have to account for special schools and special teachers which may be hard to find, not accessible distance-wise and may even be financially beyond reach. The cost will be your child’s social skills and your own personal life.

I’m not sure if getting a seat in one the coveted premier schools is a curse or a boon because it comes at a huge financial cost.

When you buy things on discount, there is a cost there too — your timing of purchase may not suit the timing of your need or you may be buying outdated products.

If you own a dwelling in a residential community, you incur community maintenance cost — irrespective of whether that dwelling is used or not.

OK, everything has a cost, so what?

“The butterfly counts not months but moments and has time enough.” — Rabindranath Tagore

We bear the cost of doing things in the currency of our time and energy. Time and energy, both are in limited supply for everyone. We can renew energy, but we can’t do the same with time. Time is our most valuable asset because it is not just limited but it is also constantly depleting. So, understanding the cost of doing anything is important because it can help you determine how to spend your time. As Seneca asserted rather succinctly in his essay “On shortness of time”, it is not that life is short, but that we waste a lot of it.


“We don’t drift in good directions. We discipline and prioritize ourselves there.” — Andy Stanley

Whiling away time sitting on a couch and scrolling through reels or watching web series or spending long hours in daily commute may seem like the usual ways of wasting time but there are many other subconscious covert ways in which we waste time. The fact is that unwinding is important, and commuting is unavoidable. While there may be opportunities to save time in these activities, there is another, perhaps much bigger way of unlocking your time — you first recognize that there is a cost to everything you do and everything you want to acquire, then focus only on those items that are absolutely worth our while and pretty much discard everything else.

It is entirely possible that this may lead to a significant reduction in your consumption of news media, avoiding company of toxic folks, realization that work is mostly a means to an end and not an expression of personal validation; you may even start to exercise a little, improve your diet a bit, probably sleep more, increase interaction with your children, partner, parents and friends, perhaps even find yourself with some free time and enough energy to help someone in need.


Thanks for taking time to read this. In this newsletter, I share my learnings that could help you improve your decisions and make meaningful progress on your goals. I try to share stuff that I have personally experienced or experimented with. If you find this newsletter worthwhile and if you do not mind it, please do consider sharing it with others.

A bit on my background

I help people make better decisions.

I coach people on “Making Better Decisions”, “Financial Intuition” and “Building Great Careers”. I’m open to run sessions on these topics in institutions — this will help me create larger impact.

I’m also an Investment Advisor (RIA) registered with the Securities and the Exchange Board of India (SEBI). As an RIA, I analyze and prepare financial plans to help people achieve their financial goals.

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