Behind door #4

Keith Schacht| February 27th, 2011
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This weekend I’ve been thinking how the range of options that most people consider available to them is much narrower than the truth. If they can’t find an enrollment form or a job description or a single person of “authority” tells them, “I’m sorry, that’s not an option,” too many people are too willing to accept that as fact. “Why?” is the real interseting question here, but right now¬†I want to collect examples of people not doing this for every-day relatable situations. Do you have an example?

Here are three I have:

1) When I was in college and there were “required” classes that I didn’t want to take I figured out that I could skip them by “testing out the class.” I just had to ask the department how I could demonstrate mastery and typically they’d tell me if I could pass the final exam they’d give me class credit, but not a grade. It’s much easier to study for a couple days to pass a final than to sit through a whole semester of soul-killing lectures and wading my way through boring assignments. Avoiding “required” classes was door #4 that most students assumed was not possible. I also applied this trick to enroll in classes that I wanted to take but were “full.” Miraculously there was always an open desk in “full” classes so I’d happily attend every class and do every assignment that was interesting, skipping the ones that seemed pointless, since all I had to do was pass the final to make the university happy.

2) A friend told me a story about how he got his current “job,” let’s call him John Smith. The company was interested in hiring him but he had a very specific view of the job he wanted to do; he wanted to help with certain aspects of the project but not others and he wanted to work from home on his own time. When they didn’t agree he proposed they hire John Smith Consulting to instead to do what they needed and they were okay with that solution. Again, he just asked for door #4.

3) Another friend told me how his wife wants to attend a masters program in another city but he loves his job and doesn’t want to leave. The “one of us has to sacrifice our career” dilemmas are not uncommon, but his solution was a simple one. Monday through Thursday he’ll do his job as normal. Friday he’ll fly to home #2 in another city where his wife is holding down the fort and spend 3 days of every week there. This may not be the most convenient living arrangement, but anyone could pull this off for a couple years. Get a smaller apartment in city #1, sign up for a frequent flyer program, and get ready to explore a new city. This win-win behind door #4 is an option that so many would have never considered.

4) My wife and I have are up front with each other about the things that we don’t like doing. Inevitably there is a list of things that neither of us want to do: laundry, cooking,¬†cleaning the house, random household essentials, etc. Most people solve this problem by the compromise, “I’ll do A if you do B.” But between a housekeeper, personal assistant, TaskRabbit, and Amazon prime–neither of us do things that neither of us want to do. The typical objection of hiring a personal assistant or housekeeper is that it costs too much, but it really doesn’t. It’s all about being explicit with your priorities. Getting a smaller apartment, cheaper car (or using Zipcar), eating out a little less often–it’s easy to squeeze a few hundred dollars out of any budget. You can find talented people for $8 or $9 per hour on craigslist, and 10 hours per week of someone’s time goes a long way. Wouldn’t you love 5-10 hours more time each week to do things you truly enjoy doing? That’s the option behind door #4…

3 Responses to “Behind door #4”

  1. jana Says:
    May 20th, 2011 at 1:12 pm


    While I appreciate the tone behind this “article”, I think you are speaking to a very select, and small group of individuals. Yes, people too often give up in the face of an obvious denial, and yes, sometimes if we just refuse to hear no and to find a loophole, we are able to do what we want and not piss anyone off. However, your third and fourth examples were just down right conceited and ignorant.

    Congrats to you that you and your wife have made enough money to fly back and forth between to places and have two separate homes. My husband and I can’t even talk about taking a brief trip out of state due to financial difficulties, let alone a weekly one. Nor can we “squeeze” an extra $100 out of our budget. Hell, $100 would mean not eating for almost half the month. We already live in the smallest, cheapest apartment we could find, don’t eat out, and don’t spend on frivolous things. But we, like many and even most people in this world, have huge student loans to pay back, rent to pay, and food to buy in order to just get by each month. It’s both arrogant and upsetting to read such examples and for you to consider that the “norm”.

    Again, the overall message I think could be really great and inspiring, but some of your examples are just ignorant. We can’t all work for Facebook; so that means most of us are just going to have to settle for one home and do our dishes ourselves.

  2. Jonathan Wolter Says:
    September 27th, 2011 at 9:02 am

    Great. I did the same in college. Found I could test out of numerous terribly dull classes through distance education with other universities.

    I like what you’re writing. There is always another (sometimes better) way to think about things. It’s a mentality that everything has to work if we just get the right lens to look at it.

  3. Jesse McCarthy Says:
    August 12th, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    Thanks, Keith, really good stuff.

    My quick example: You can sit anywhere in the restaurant, not just in that cramped, dark corner at which you happened to be seated.

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