Monday, November 9, 2009

The Shots We Don’t Take

Lately Wayne Gretzky’s “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” has been my daily inspiration. This quote is especially relevant to running a startup, probably the riskiest of undertakings by a recent college graduate in this economy. Though I think it is getting abused when it is applied to every opportunistic situation out there.

Last week, I won a free roundtrip ticket to New Zealand through Air New Zealand’s promotional campaign on Twitter. One might think that it is an amazing opportunity to visit NZ. Well, it’s not as great as it seems.

It comes with some heavy costs and trade-offs. First, the great USA tax code requires me to pay the appropriate taxes on the non-monetary prize, which can be up to $600 if we go by the highest ARV of $1,700. Secondly, the prize covers the fare only from either Los Angeles or San Francisco, and I am on the East Coast adding at least another $400 to the trip. Thirdly, I do not know anyone in New Zealand and I have to look for accommodations instead of working on my startup. Finally, it is just one ticket so I need to find someone willing to accompany me on the trip and to spend over $2,000 on it.

Of course, had I been thinking of a trip to New Zealand in the near future, I would have definitely accepted the price. I could still save good $500 as opposed to buying the tickets on my own. Unfortunately, despite everything this prize came at a very inconvenient time as I cannot really go on a vacation during the first year of the startup (the tickets can be redeemed for a flight within the next 12 months) when I do not have a solid stream of income and my savings are just enough to survive if it all goes wrong.

So there you have it. I am giving up a shot at seeing New Zealand for almost free. I hope this is not the last opportunity for me to go there1. It is still on my list of places to visit along with Atafu Atoll and I would love to see the Lord of the Rings scenery along with a good camera (another expense put on hold).

It does not mean that I am giving up an opportunity. It means that I am making a justified decision of passing it to someone else (a forfeited prize will be re-drawn) in order to avoid the obstacles in front of me and not to lose my momentum. Just like Gretzky, who is also the greatest hockey player of Belarusian decent, did not literally shoot every time he had a puck but passed it, too.

1 - Every time I say, “I’ll visit it the next time,” I recall Labor Day 2001 when we did not visit WTC with my dad saying, “We’ll do it later. What can happen to them?”

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