As I’ve mentioned before on The Simple Dollar, Sarah and I have a “buy it for life” approach (the post is really worth reading if you’re interested in the details) when we replace items around the house. We vastly prefer items that will simply do their job over and over and over and over without needing to be replaced or fixed with any sort of regularity.
The drawback of this approach is that it requires an investment up front. Products that last are not cheap.
You can buy cheap pots and pans at the store and they warp in a year or two. If you invest in cast iron, particularly enameled cast iron, and spend the time to season non-enameled cast iron, it will last practically forever.
You can buy cheap umbrellas that break after a few dozen uses. On the other hand, if you buy an umbrella with a lasting guarantee and good mechanisms, like a Davek, it will be around for many years, even if it costs as much as five times your normal umbrella.
I can go on and on with these kinds of things – clothing, kitchen items, etc. – but the idea is clear. We want to invest our money on things that won’t break again any time soon. That way, the things we have are reliable and reusable and we’re not dealing with another replacement cycle in a year or two.
While that may be a great philosophy for buying products, it’s also a powerful philosophy in other aspects of life.
Relationships, for example, are things that can either be very quick and transient or they can last and last. A friend of mine once said that “relationships can last a moment, a season, or a lifetime.” The longer a friendship lasts, the more work it takes up front.
Professional standing is something that can be built into something impressive over time or it can just be the result of doing your nine to five job and not asking questions. The greater and longer-lasting your professional standing, the greater the investment of time and effort.
The same thing is true of community standing – if you put no effort into it, you won’t be noticed in the community. If you want to be a community leader, you have to put in the time to get there.
There are always times in our lives when we simply want to be able to rely on things that are solid. We need the stability of things that work, whether they’re the tools in our kitchen or the relationships in our lives.
If we don’t put in the expense during the good times to build those things up, then they won’t be reliable when the bad times come.
As with buying something for life, we don’t initially see the rewards for it.
If I buy an umbrella that’s intended to last for life, it’s going to work more or less like a cheap umbrella for the first year or two. I’ve invested more in it, but I don’t see the proceeds.
The difference is that at some point in the relatively near future, the umbrella I invested less in will stop working and I’ll have to buy a different one.
I don’t see the rewards initially for that greater investment. Instead, they come subtly over the long haul.
That same idea applies to relationships and community standing and professional standing. You put in the time and effort now and you don’t really see anything immediately for your extra time and effort. In fact, you rarely see a direct connection ever.
Instead, over time, you see lots of little things happening that you may or may not connect to your choices. You’ll be passed over on a round of layoffs. Someone out of the blue will speak up on your behalf. A friend will pop up and help you when you need it.
The things that last are the things you invest in. Not just with money, but with time and energy and focus and care.