Saturday, November 05, 2011


Mike and I drove over nine hours each way to Lookout Mountain last weekend.  We helped pass the time by listening to podcasts.  My favorites were the Freakonomics podcasts.  I loved the books and the podcasts are just as entertaining and informative.  One in particular really stuck with me.  The subject was quitting.  Yeah, that's pretty broad...could involve most anything...quitting a job, quitting smoking, there are so many things to quit.

According to Steven Levitt (one of the Freakonomics authors):  "Each of us encounters an unattainable goal about once a year.  Being able to abandon goals when they are unattainable is good for your health."

So obvious!  Yet it seems something I'm not very good at, nearly incapable of....even when the reality is staring me right in the face.  Can you imagine standing in a supermarket line and waiting for hours, knowing full well that the line was closed not long after you got into it.  I sometimes wonder how a reasonably clever human being (me) is able to look straight past the most obvious reality.

"Sunk costs" are the reason.  Levitt explains that those are the costs that you have already put toward a goal that appear so great that you find it hard to give up, even when you should.  Waiting on hold for customer service is one very common sunk cost.  Once I've been on the line for twenty minutes or so, I can't just give up and call again another time.  Having twenty minutes invested has, on more than a few occasions, caused to me waste yet another twenty minutes before finally getting fed up and hanging up the phone.  Having sunk twenty minutes of my time somehow creates the incentive to waste another twenty minutes.  How dense!!

So, it looks as though this is the life lesson the universe is sending me at the moment.   Some goals are not obtainable, not matter how determined we are.  It's just time to quit.  Period.


JackieB said...

Very wise post. I've definitely gotten better at being willing to walk away from something if it makes sense to do so. It has helped tremendously with my peace of mind.

Of course, were all wondering what it is you have in mind. :)

Hadewych said...

Yes, very wise. To me this is the reason for growing up, and growing old: to learn such lessons and even more difficult to learn how to put those insights into practice. Especially when all such lessons are connected to opposite truths: often goals are only attainable because you keep working very hard and believing in it, investing even more sunk costs than you allready did. When to give up?

Anonymous said...

Gulgong classic, what an example of sunk costs. Entry fee, paying a driver, 12 hr drive, fuel, time away from family etc......
and only 1 day of flying. Without doubt the most expensive 3 tows ever.