There Are No Solutions, Only Trade Offs – Tucson Personal Trainer Blog

By: Jerry Trubman, Owner and Founder


The title of today’s post is a quote from Thomas Sowell, an African-American author, economist, and social theorist. I first heard this quote last year, and it has messed with my head ever since. I’ve been trying to put some thoughts to pen and paper, but just couldn’t seem to find the right way to do it… until a certain Reddit thread made its way to my feed. Here is an excerpt…


<<< go to a gym that I like a lot. I have a great coach, have lost a lot of weight, and I’m in the best shape of my life. The gym costs $250 per month. It’s expensive.


A friend of mine makes fun of me for this, and has told me many times that I’m overpaying. He goes to Planet Fitness, and pays $10 per month. With that said, he rarely goes, and when he does, he half-asses it. He is overweight.


I was considering finding a cheaper gym. I started going through my expenses for the month, and was on a call with my financial advisor and brought this up to him.

He proceeded to give me some of the best behavioral finance advice I’ve ever received. He said, ‘Your friend can’t believe you pay $250 a month to be in great shape. I can’t believe your friend is willing to stay fat for $240 a month.’ Genius…

If you’re debating an expense, inverse the cost and the benefit, ‘Am I willing to pay $250 a month in order to be in shape?’ becomes, ‘Am I willing to be out of shape in exchange for being paid $250 per month?’”>>>


For the record, I think ‘stay fat for $240 per month’ is an oversimplification of the derived results, and a poor choice of words. However, the exchange in the cost/benefit analysis at the end is spot on.


This is also just an example of tradeoff… just because I’m not out of shape doesn’t mean this doesn’t apply to me. I certainly have my share of toxic behaviors. A business coach I worked with many years ago would have me go through these little thought experiments. He would say, “We ‘get something’ out of everything we say and do… both positive and negative. It’s up to us to decide if it’s worth it. If we choose not to discontinue a particular behavior or action, we can only conclude that what we are ‘getting out of it’ is worth it.”


The intention isn’t to beat ourselves up about it. Rather, it’s intended to give us a more powerful place to stand when it comes to doing the hard work of undoing that behavior.


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Not All Irrational Decisions Are Bad


There are countless examples, but the one that comes to mind is investing in retirement. The stock market has been taking a beating lately, and it’s tough to sit and watch your 401k become a 201k (ha ha!). For some, the reward to investing in more speculative things is the higher return in the long term. For others, although they intellectually understand that the long-term returns on stocks are superior, being able to sleep at night is also highly valuable. In this example, it’s not necessarily that one way is right or wrong, it’s simply that quantifying sleep quality and stress levels can be hard to do.


I have a friend who, despite having an absurdly cheap interest rate on his home mortgage, decided to pay off his house early. He makes plenty of money, and understands that currently his savings account pays out a higher interest rate than his mortgage interest rate. Nonetheless, he chose to pay off his house early. Why? His answer was, “I find it more comfortable sleeping at night knowing that my house is paid off.”


How can we argue that?


No Solutions/Only Trade Offs In The Gym

The gym, like all other places in life, contains no solutions… only trade offs. Everything must be carefully weighed out (pun probably intended). Even making the time to exercise in the first place comes with tradeoffs. Everyone’s time is valuable… Elon Musk wakes up with the same 24 hours that you and I get, and this time needs to be well allocated regardless of how many extra zeros are at the end of the balance of your bank account.


In one of my certifications, they asked us an interesting question: Say you were in prison and they only gave you 20 minutes per day and three days per week to use the gym. What would you do? This little thought experiment makes you seriously rethink what your gym priorities are, doesn’t it? You certainly wouldn’t come and roll on the foam roller for 15 minutes while scrolling on your phone (at least I hope not).


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I hope this Thomas Sowell quote gives you as much to chew on as it did for me. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below or email us at ,


Until next time,

Jerry Trubman is a coach, clinician, author, blogger, and powerlifting state champion. With over two decades of lifting experience, he has devoted himself to seeking out better answers, and distilling them into practical programs that produce great results. Jerry has coached “Team Protocol” to 4 National Powerlifting Championships in the 100% Raw federation. He writes the internationally-read blog, “The Healthy Addiction” and lives in Tucson, Arizona with his wife, Marie, and dog, Asher.

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