Opportunity Costs

Appaloosa Nationals with Illegal Vixen

It has been a great summer! For the first time since high school, I have had the freedom to do what I want to do when I want to do it. I’ve been able to play with my horse and I took an entire week (7 days) to attend the 71st National Appaloosa show in Fort Worth, Texas. Life is good, but I think it is important to recognize what we have to give up in order to take advantage of these opportunities. 

As a youth, I knew I wanted to have a corporate job that would allow me to afford horses. I earned a bachelors degree in business marketing and found my niche in the financial industry. To continue my climb up the corporate ladder, I went back to school for my MBA and was rewarded with a corporate title and officer perks. Unfortunately, my role also came with an expansive territory that required me to be in Birmingham, Atlanta, Tupelo and Ocala regularly. Suddenly, I found myself able to afford the monetary cost of my horse, but there wasn’t enough time in my week to actually see my horse (or my husband). It was also impossible for me to take a vacation without spending several hours each day on the phone or answering emails because the bottom line never stops calculating. For my mental and physical well being, something had to give.

At my breaking point, a new opportunity presented itself; one that I would have never sought on my own. A friend asked if I’d be interested in teaching high school. The county I live in was building a college and career academy, which is a program within the public school system designed to teach high school students vocational skills while giving them the opportunity to earn college credits. In addition to drafting, nursing, engineering, and a host of other career path instructors, the school needed a marketing instructor— someone from the corporate sector who could teach from real-world scenarios. Someone like me! 

It was a scary decision. You hear so much negative about what teachers go through and the challenges they face. I also knew I’d be giving up my corporate credit card, stock options and a marketing budget most marketers only dream of having. Oh, and I’d be gaining the public education system pay scale. But, I also knew I would benefit from Christmas and summer vacations, and I would no longer have to travel away from home. I decided to jump in! 

I was literally thrown into a classroom and expected to keep a herd of 14 year olds in line. (Fortunately, teenagers like treats and will do pretty much whatever you ask in exchange for a Jolly Rancher.) I quickly found the classroom to be a perfect environment for someone like me. Much like our equine friends, teenagers desire leadership and understanding. They enjoy positive reinforcement and rarely act out for no reason. And, if you earn their trust, they will work hard for you. 

One of the first lessons I developed for my marketing class revolves around the concept of opportunity costs. Opportunity costs are the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen. For example, when I left my corporate position, I lost the potential for continuing up the corporate ladder, therefore also losing added incentives such as raises that may have come with future promotions. In my classroom scenario we compare growing grapes versus oranges, but I really think this concept can be applied to all aspects of life, especially when life includes horses. 

For me, choosing horses means that I get an entire summer off. It also means that I have lost the opportunity to attend the Appaloosa World show because teachers don’t get to take vacation in October. This give and take is minimal in comparison to some of my horsey friends who have to consider much greater opportunity costs such the gain of having children versus horses (I’ll touch on this in more detail in future posts). 

Ultimately, everyone who attended the Appaloosa Nationals had to give up something in order to be there. I am going to write a follow up on this with the exact costs of my trip to the Nationals. In the meantime, what have you given up to accommodate your horsey life? What were the alternatives? Are you happy with your decision? 

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