Paradox of Choice


Are you familiar with the paradox of choice? It’s a fairly simple concept that boils down to this: the more options you have, the harder it is to make a decision. (And the easier it is to feel regret later, for fear that you might have “missed out” on a better opportunity).

For example, one home design company had literally hundreds of options that every customer had to sift through. They would sit for an average of 20 hours with home designers, endlessly poring over 150 kitchen cabinet styles, 159 carpets, 65 countertops, 43 bathroom faucets, and on and on. One day the company was forced to cut a huge chunk of these options as a cost-saving measure. Now customers would only have 5 or 6 options in each category. The company braced itself for backlash because of the reduced options, but was surprised to find an enormous increase in customer satisfaction. Now customers only needed to spend an average of 4 hours with the home designer. The company saved a ton in labor costs, and the customers felt better about the whole process. The moral is, options are a good thing to have, but too many can paralyze you!

One of my best friends once said that in order to make it in New York, you have to have a specific goal. A focus. I definitely think there’s truth to that. Because otherwise, you’re awash in an ocean of choices, and it’s so easy to get overwhelmed. NYC isn’t a place for dabblers, either– not only do you have to know what you want, you have to beat out thousands of other qualified people to get it!

That is what I, dabbler extraordinaire, now find myself up against. I’m juggling a lot of ideas but my runway is ever-shortening. My apartment lease ends in about a month, and I won’t be able to go for too much longer without some kind of decent income stream.

So, that’s the challenge. Now for the opportunities. I have been exploring all of the job ideas that I’ve written about previously, both here and in Tennessee. Here’s what I have to show for it so far:

The Brewery — I’ve been interning at a local brewery for some time now, but over the last couple months I’ve ramped up the frequency a lot. I’m on very good terms with the guys that run the place. They are super fun people to hang around, and I feel like I’m part of the crew. Plus, interning there is a very viable way to get picked up for a job that pays actual monies. (As opposed to just getting paid in beer and experience. Which, honestly, is still not all that bad!) Two interns got picked up to work at other breweries just a couple of months ago. Even the assistant brewmaster himself started as an intern there.

The art+science of brewing is fascinating, and this brewery is quickly growing up from the startup stage. It could be interesting (and possibly lucrative) to be a part of that. That said, there’s still no specific offer on the table yet– this is all still speculation. I need to sit down and have an honest talk with them to feel out the future.

The Bar — This was one of those really random connections, and an example of the power of networking. The brewery I intern at makes shandies using lemonade from an awesome gourmet lemonade company. I met Megan, the lemonade place’s owner, when she was visiting the brewery one day. About a week later I noticed that she had a stand set up at Bryant Park for Movies in the Park, so I stopped in to say hi. We got to talking and I mentioned I was looking to get into bartending. Megan turned to Jess, her friend in the stand, and said “Hey, aren’t you guys hiring?”

The very next day I was meeting with Camilla, the general manager at Jess’ bar. And the next day after that I was training as a runner! (The idea being that I’d get my foot in the door and work my way over to start training behind the bar.)

I’ve worked two shifts there now, and I frigging love this bar. The people are all really cool, the bar itself is gorgeous, they play great music, and they have a great chef than makes tons of great food (all in-house and from scratch). Long story short, my kind of place. But again, the timeline is ambiguous. If it turns into one of those things where they just have me stay as a runner/busser for months on end, that’s not going to cut it. Now that I’ve proven that I’m a dependable worker, I need to talk this out with the general manager.

日本語を利用しよう (Let’s Use Japanese!) — I contacted some bilingual-Japanese recruitment firms both here and in Tennessee. One has a client a ways outside of Nashville that urgently needs a translator/interpreter, and the recruitment officer thinks I have a great chance of getting it. It’s in the automotive industry, which is definitely new territory for me but could also be interesting to learn. Plus it’s a contract position for 6 months to a year, so I wouldn’t be locked in forever and ever. She estimated that the pay would be $18-20/hour, but the clincher is that they actually cover housing too! That could give me a chance to save up some cash and get a foothold for transitioning to TN. The downside is that it’s a typical hourly 40-hours/week type job where I’d have to go to work at 7:30 every morning. Ugh. I hate mornings.

The recruiter wanted to make sure I was ready to commit if they submit my info to the client, so I asked her to give me the weekend to marinate. Looks like I have a lot of thinking to do!

未発見(As Yet Undiscovered)

On top of all this, I still feel like there is something bigger waiting to be discovered. That my cause is to create something, to innovate something new. When I think of committing myself to any one job, FOMO is always there whispering that maybe there’s something better that I just haven’t found yet.

I tell myself that there’s no reason to limit myself to just one job, but on the other hand that’s usually how I work– by diving in and losing myself in one thing at a time. Thus I don’t want to waste time committing to something that won’t bring me a significant chance for learning and fulfillment.

And then there’s the whole money/paying rent business, which just serves to complicate things further! Idealistically, I want to do something because I feel like it is genuinely important and compelling to me, not just to chase a paycheck. But such is life. It forces you to answer the question:

Where do your true priorities lie, when the chips are down?

We shall see.



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