I can do all the things. Well, not EVERYTHING. But, I can do a lot of things. And part of that is because I am organized. And part of that is because I am fast. And determined. And I don’t sleep as much as I should. And I have a compelling need to get things accomplished. And damn it, someone has to do it. Part of taking responsibility is often because there is no one else there to do the thing that needs to get done. Or to take care of the thing that needs to be taken care of. Or take responsibility of the thing whatever that thing is. And so, if the thing must be done, I am often left doing it.
Two of my cast told me recently that I am “too efficient.” I was asked, “How can we help you do the things if you have already done the things?” And then… then, they proceeded to tell me how hard their lives were and how many snaps they had to sew, and how it was going to take so much time for them.
And in a moment of insanity, I almost – ALMOST – volunteered to sew their snaps (snaps that I already bought for them when I was at the fabric store anyway, mind you.) I mean, I do sew snaps well. And quickly. Not that it is hard, but my snap sewing speed is pretty quick compared to the time that I have seen many other people sewing on snaps. But I have a lot of shit to do – other shows, other costumes, my day job, my newsletter, promoting the shows, feeding my pets, having a life (oh, wait, I don’t get to do that right now…). And so, no… NO, I did not open my mouth and I did NOT offer to sew on snaps.
Because there is this thing called “comparative advantage….” I learned about it a long, long time ago when I was in college studying business. Comparative advantage is the ability of an individual or group to carry out a particular economic activity (such as making a specific product) more efficiently than another activity. In college, we talked about it in relation to business, and industries of various countries. Wikipedia explains it as:
“Comparative advantage is the economic reality describing the work gains from trade for individuals, firms, or nations, which arise from differences in their factor endowments or technological progress. In an economic model, agents have a comparative advantage over others in producing a particular good if they can produce that good at a lower relative opportunity cost, i.e. at a lower relative marginal cost prior to trade. One shouldn’t compare the monetary costs of production or even the resource costs (labor needed per unit of output) of production. Instead, one must compare the opportunity costs of producing goods across countries.”
So, let’s give it a real life example: I may be able to sew on snaps more quickly than other people in actual time spent. But, I can also spend that same time doing other things – like choreographing, directing, completing other costuming, etc. The other things may not be things that other people can do or that they can do as quickly or efficiently as I do them. Therefore, my time compared to their time is better used doing other things. So, if it takes me one minute to sew on one snap and one hour to choreograph a dance, but it takes them 5 minutes to sew on a snap and 8 hours to choreograph a dance, I have cheaper resource costs (my time) for BOTH sewing on a snap AND choreographing a dance; however, they have a comparative advantage in sewing on snaps over choreographing because the opportunity costs sewing on snaps are relatively less for them (assuming that choreographing a dance has a greater value than sewing on a snap.) Breaking that down, I can sew on 1 snap a minute, which equates to 60 snaps in the one hour that it takes me to choreograph a dance. While they can only sew on 12 snaps an hour, that is 96 snaps in the 8 hours that it takes them to choreograph a dance. So, they have the comparative advantage in snap sewing.
Another situation happened many years ago when we needed about 10 signs painted for a show. Another woman on the show ended up drawing and painting the signs. She came over to my house after the show and saw some artsy fartsy painting stuff I did and said to me something like (paraphrased), “I thought you couldn’t paint.” No, no, I never said I couldn’t paint. But, I do not paint quickly. And I had a lot of other things that I needed to do for that show, and those things that I needed to do were things where I had a comparative advantage. And SHE had a comparative advantage over making signs. And, really, when it came down to it, I needed her to do something.
So, what is the point of all this? I don’t know. Maybe just a strange reason to combine my business administration/finance education skills and my love of crafting together into one long and, perhaps, painful example. Or maybe, to let you know that even if you think everyone else is better than you at everything, you are, COMPARATIVELY, better at something. Because you have to be. That is how comparative advantage works. Also, maybe just get off your ass and go do something. Why not? Life isn’t all just snaps and choreography.
And you’re welcome.