46 Years On Earth

“Today marks my 46th year on earth. Holy crap!

46 years ago today James Taylor had the number one song in the U.S.A with “You’ve Got A Friend.”

To celebrate the day, my wife and I went out for a nice dinner. It’s an important story because it represents one of the few lessons I’ve learned in all these years.

We weren’t sure if we’d find a babysitter for the evening. Because of that, I avoided making a reservation – forgetting I could have just canceled it.

That morning, my dad said he could watch the kids. I looked up the restaurants in the area but none had availability at the time we needed.

I ended up booking a nice but boring restaurant. It’s in a shopping mall. There’s no ambiance at all. The food is good but forgettable. It’s also full of shoppers and their kids.

I told my wife where I made the reservation. She gave me a blank stare. I explained my reasoning. I want seafood and someplace new. Why not experiment on your birthday?

I thought about it for a minute. Then I said:

“You’re right. This is a bad idea. Let me try a few other places.”

We ended up going to a familiar restaurant. I wanted to eat a  new restaurant. I had to give up that desire. Instead, we ate somewhere familiar. But we sat outside surrounded by a garden, other adults and an attentive staff.

If I hadn’t admitted I made a mistake, we would have eaten at an overpriced, stodgy, loud restaurant in a shopping mall. Hardly the experience I crave for a birthday dinner.

My Goal For The Next Year

Admitting to your mistakes is a lesson (skill) some people never learn. There are other personal growth challenges I have yet to conquer.

In the next twelve months my focus is on one – overcoming part 2 of this equation:

Ignoring sunk costs and correcting mistakes.

What is the sunk cost fallacy? Here’s the thumbnail definition:

When your decisions are tainted by the accumulation of emotional investments. The greater the investment,  the harder it becomes to abandon it.

Here is how we typically verbalize it:

I’ve invested so much into this [job, project, relationship, etc…]. I can’t just walk away from it.

I have ten years of experience in this field. If I quit now it will all be for nothing.

Yes, I course corrected on my poor choice of restaurants. That was a low risk, low stakes change.

Here is where it gets high stakes. How do you overcome accumulated sunk costs? These are the ones we hang onto for months and years.

This is why I spent ten years in a career that didn’t suit me. It’s why I continue projects that serve no purpose or face no realistic shot at succeeding.

Sunk cost is an evil demon that hijacks good judgment. Here is my goal for the next 365 days. If I make it the entire year without saying these words or any of its first cousins, I’ll consider it a success:

…But I’ve already put in so much effort. I can’t quit now. That would kill me.

No, it won’t. I can quit. Let’s see if I will.

 

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