How to deal with two attractive alternatives - having the cake and wanting to eat it too

There are many times in life where we are confronted with situations where there are two seemingly attractive alternatives. We wish to have the advantages of both alternatives. This is the classic case of wanting to have the cake, but also like to eat it at the same time. However, this is not possible. How do we deal with this kind of a situation? This article attempts some answers in this direction.


In matters of marriage, or career or savings or whatever, we are always confronted with situations. We want to have the cake and eat it too. We jolly well know that this is not possible. We have two things that become clear, but we can choose only one. That is, we can't have the cake and eat it too. If we chose one alternative, we better get prepared for that alternative, no matter what the demands or challenges of the opportunity are. We must go full blast into it, all guns blaring. No choices here.

Let's consider one lovely example, but a simple one, which confronts many a young man or women. The parents arrange a girl and the parents of the latter come calling. They are very rich. You aren't. You like the girl but are not very sure how she will behave. Getting married into that family might meaning rolling in wealth and possibly, their attitudes could be different too. They want you only because you are an IIM MBA, from the prestigious IIMA, employed with Asian Paints as an Asst. Manager. But the girl is also a CA. What would you do? Take a risk, say yes, and then face the music?

Have any number of conversations with the girl. That is fine. But before you decide, you could possibly be sure that the ego problems will never be there. Yes, this is a good possibility. But it is also possible that they may surface anytime later. How would your retired teacher parents come to grips with that, if it happens? Your inquiries with so many people indicate that things are not so bad either. The girl is highly cultured and does have dreams. You are very sure that there will be no problems at all. You take a risk. But a calculated risk. However, whatever happens, is entirely your responsibility. Your parents warn you again and again.

Irrespective of the situation, the most important guidelines are a) Research every alternative and pen down consequences b) Discuss the same with trusted friends c) Never hesitate to take risks wherever necessary d) Live up to the challenges and e) Share your experiences with others for lessons.

Research every alternative and pen down consequences

What is seemingly impossible is to sort of find out all the consequences. For, the challenge of the unknown is always a challenge. Yet, we need to research all the alternatives before finding out an optimum solution. Well, in the above-referred case, a couple of trusted friends, who knew the girl very well, arranged for a couple of "over a cup of coffee" meetings. The girl was firm on her opinions. She was brutally frank. The man took a risk. All the other alternative cases were not that good. This was the best choice. He took the plunge. The wedding was very simply conducted, as per his wish. The consequences were not at all bad. The parents were kind and he did feel at home. They respected his IIM achievement. The story had a very good ending before the wedding. After it, the story continues. And it is a very happy story. The "research" in this case pertained to the help and advice of his friends.

Discuss the same with trusted friends and relatives

It was his close friends who organized the meetings where the main points and concerns were discussed. The couple had so many points of agreement and were on the same page on so many vital points in life. His assumptions were all wrong and the "what if?" questions became irrelevant. However, the trade-of was pleasant only because the man sought the next course of actions and sought the help of his close friends, who knew the girl in question. Matters related to career are very difficult indeed. A maternal cousin of this author had studied Geography by sheer chance. It was a discipline that never interested him. Decades ago, he was confused. This author had known a few cost accountants who were all well placed. It did turn out that despite the challenge if the boy pursued the course, he would have a bright future. Pursue he did but took a few years to even clear the inter examination of the ICWA. However, he had a job on hand and with renewed confidence, he was able to complete the final course as well. After stints in a leading NBFC company of Coimbatore city and later with Malabar Cements, he switched over to the Chennai-based Murugappa group and became a Manager within ten years of his post-qualification experience. Around eighteen years ago, he had an offer with a Nigerian company, owned by an Indian. He had a good jump in salary and a job abroad. That was when there was political instability in that part of the world as well. What if the political problem forced him to come back? The man took a calculated risk left the country. Within one year, he jumped to another job in a conglomerate. Since then, the Nigerian bosses were so impressed with the work that he was promoted as a President of the company within eight years. He now takes of key negotiations regarding the Mergers and Acquisitions of the group and is now on a roll. They have the cake and eat it too the situation presented itself, but the man 's self-confidence and hard work did play a major role too.

Never hesitate to take risks wherever necessary

Without risks there is nothing in this life. There are quite a few who are very enterprising. Some months ago, this author met a General Manager of the Aditya Birla group in a conference. He was 44 but had taken a risk to do a full-time Executive MBA abroad in the USA. He returned and joined the Aditya Birla group. When quizzed as to what motivated him to take the risk, he did mention that the changing landscape of the Corporate Sector would accommodate only those who updated themselves. He had sponsored himself to attend the Management Conference. That would actually speak volumes about his self-confidence. He resigned his job in supply chain management with a family-oriented company and then took the risk. Asked how he managed the family, he simply said that he had mortgaged his house in New Delhi to fund the expenses. His teacher wife in New Delhi also supported him right through. The more we meet with such people, the more we learn about tricky situations. If he had continued without the qualification, he would have been safe but his promotion chances were limited. It was a safety Vs future situation. He took the risk and then joined the Aditya Birla group. These things happen in life. They happen to those who are prepared to take risks. He had liquidated all the loan within one year.

Live up to the challenges

The aforesaid professional was seen introducing himself to Supply Chain Management professionals from Bangalore city, particularly from the start-ups. He was willing to share his own knowledge and for most of the free time in the evenings, after a brisk walk, he was seen engaged in serious conversation with the participants. They were interested too. They represented good companies and they would have to make presentations on the learning and also document the same on the highly protected intranet. They were keen to get some ideas from his too.

This is exactly what we should do. Unless we learn the new tricks of the trade, the real-life experiences as they unfold themselves and also be alive to the likely challenges that one is bound to face, (cost-cutting is never easy in this industry) and so on, managing the challenges head-on would be a bigger challenge. Today, the internet itself is a big knowledge provider. It does give a big account of what is needed in terms of knowledge. However, converting the knowledge to experience and also value-added experience is not common science. It requires seriousness of purpose. It requires dedication. This is the essence of many a challenge for most of those employed in any organization.

Share your experiences with others for lessons

The question of "what if that guy were to become smarter than me?" is naturally not a good question to ask. Though it may be part of having the cake and wanting to eat it too, there is more to it. Having smarter subordinates is a blessing. It is not a curse. As long as you are good to them, they will prove to be good assets and not liabilities. They will perform well under any given set of circumstances if you give them the required support. You should remember that you can actually have the cake and also eat it in such eventualities. L&T, the giant Indian multinational is full of such executives. BHEL and NTPC. And Asian Paints. the ICICI Bank, among others, have them. So, if you get a chance to work with these institutions, go for it. Take the risk and then follow all the steps.


No matter what you are, no matter what your financial position is, you can always make a qualitative difference to our lives, if you seriously try to. The process of working in corporate organizations or having fairly good or even very good married lives is just doing the right things.

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Author: Venkiteswaran22 Aug 2019 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 3

I may add to the article a crucial point :
If you had decided after all the possible analysis, research and evaluating the pros and cons, then forget it and never regret your decision, whatever be the result. Decision making is not easy especially when two alternatives are available and each one is attractive. It is always better to decide, at the earliest, rather than remain indecisive or postponing and then landing on a hasty wrong decision under pressure.

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