When The Cost Is Just Too High
"Stop trying to control everything and just let go!" - Tyler Durden, Fight Club
First, a quick thank you 🙏🏻. Last week's newsletter, Up Is Down, not only saw a bunch of new subscribers, it seemed to strike a chord with many. I received a surprising number of notes and lots of coffee. It's always gratifying to hear, and I appreciate you sharing it with friends, colleagues, and family that find these valuable.
The post seemed to connect with readers, and I kept wondering if there was a single "worst" counterintuitive thinking I had run into more often than others. Without question, it's the "Sunk Cost Fallacy." If you are not familiar with it, the definition of it is:
a phenomenon whereby a person is reluctant to abandon a strategy or course of action because they have invested heavily in it, even when it is clear that abandonment would be more beneficial.
Stop and think for a minute about where we've all fallen into the psychology trap throughout our lives:
- A shitty relationship or a failed friendship - Ever been in one of those where the investment is one way?
- A work project - How many times have you been involved with a project sucking down cash, causing work/life balance issues, that is doomed to failure, and leadership keeps double and tripling down on it?
- Slot machines - You keep putting quarters in - I'm going to win eventually!
- Staying in a job too long - How many times have you seen colleagues, or maybe even yourself, at a place too long without growing?
Look, climbers dying on peaks of mountains like Everest because the eye is on the prize and they've put so much effort into it instead of knowing when to turn back. Now that I'm writing all this, I realize that the entire movie Vacation is really about the sunk cost fallacy.
Why do we, as humans, fall into this? Shockingly, it's pretty straightforward:
- We feel that quitting the investment is to admit failure.
- We hate to admit failure.
- We want to justify that original investment.
- We trick our minds into thinking things will be different.
- We are focused on the past investment rather than the current value.
More simply, we humans are driven (by nature?) to push forward when we feel like we've invested in something, and we'll never get back that investment unless we go ahead.
Here's a wacky idea for this week. Sit back and ask yourself if there's something that you're stuck in right now. If you are, here are some ideas on how to get out of it:
- Let it go. Realize that past cost cannot be reclaimed. What happens if you stop, think, and change direction?
- Ask yourself, knowing what you know now, would you make the same choices or investments? If not, there's your answer.
- Recognize if you continue with the investment, you may be giving up a better path you can't even see.
- Recognize that it is ok to quit things. Seth Godin said it best: 'Winners quit fast, quit often, and quit without guilt.'
- Learn when to hold them and when to fold them.
- Reach out to your personal board of directors for advice. That's what they're there to do.
Have a great week quitting things. 😀
If you enjoy these posts, you can buy me a coffee ☕️, or if you'd rather keep up with my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter or keep reading my posts on this blog.
In the past week or so, Twitter has undergone some major changes (okay, a total meltdown), and whether or not it's going to last long term, really isn't something that I care to dwell on. So it goes, right?
As any self-respecting geek would do, I dropped down the rabbit hole this past week into the whole Mastodon and Fediverse thing as a potential alternative.
While I've had an account since 2018, it's almost overwhelming to see what's going on there. Many friends and readers have been reaching out to get my take on the platform as an alternative; I would put a few thoughts in this week's edition. My quick answer is: if you ask a user about a server, it's not ready for users. It's a science experiment now. In some ways, a fun one - it has a lot of the geekiness of what I loved back when Twitter started.
If you care to follow my experiment there (and there's no guarantee I'm going to be super active), I'm https://mastodon.social/@smakofsky.
Okay, what is this whole thing? Tim Bray has an excellent overview, that, in a nutshell, I'll explain: it's an open-source, completely decentralized social network. Think - a twitter with no one owning anything.
This means anyone can put up a Mastodon "instance" to invite people aboard, and those people can follow and message anyone from any other instance; the federation is automatic and built-in. So you have to pick an instance to get started, which might make you nervous, but it shouldn't because of the instances' most important feature: You can change your mind!
Due to its decentralization, each 'server' can have its own rules, culture, level of toxicity, and etiquette. Etc.
Yep, you can already see the problems that could percolate. One idea I've been toying around with is that it's a worthwhile experiment to set up my server for readers of this newsletter so that a local feed would be of similar mindset and interest. I don't know just yet; we'll see.
But look at Tim's post; some really great observations and fascinating questions are there.
I respect unique online cultures. But there's maybe a problem. If Twitter does implode, Mastodon could very quickly gain a whole bunch of new users, to the extent that long-term Mastodonians are like only 1% of the population, and the newer 99% has no appreciation of nor interest in "Mastodon culture." The system is flexible enough that maybe there's scope for an "og-mastodon" instance that would work in a more traditional way?
This whole space is going to be something to watch.
Thought of the week
I wanted to do a quick shout-out to my favorite, non-digital read, "The Southwester." What makes it unique is that none of the content is available online - it's an entirely offline experience whose purpose is to 'bring people and stories together, but in a newspaper. for you to enjoy in the comfort of your own home'.
When the whole idea of The Southwester came to me, one thought was very much that I wanted to keep this project as offline as I could. Whilst there are many benefits to online, in fact I would find it very hard to sell the paper without it, I wanted the experience of reading the paper to be as analog as possible. - Southwester FAQ
I was overjoyed to get the second issue recently, which included this lovely handwritten note from Hannah.
The third issue just went online for pre-order reserve a copy or get issue 2 here. Or, if you'd like to make a submission for consideration to be included, submit your idea here.
I hope you support them and enjoy reading it as much as I do.
This weeks "Deep Links"
Here are a few of the articles and videos that resonated with me over the last week:
- One of my favorites of the week, "Everything is Aiming," talks about how 'success is defined by how our peers evaluate our track record; but what if you're not excited about this definition of success? What if you're feeling lost and want to find your way — not the default path, but your own path?'. Similar to last week's newsletter, "Up Is Down," this one explores Kyūdō, the Japanese martial art of archery. The 'alternative philosophy where aims matter more than goals, and where success is the process itself' is a game changer - More
- Listening is such an underrated skill, one that I have to keep practicing consciously (I have a "stop talking" note under my monitor); "Listen Like a Trampoline" is a subtle reminder of how 'absorbing the message and then adding height and perspective to the conversation by asking questions, increasing our understanding.' Great stuff. - More
- "This Is How To Have A Long Awesome Life" is a great read, and probably more than you ever wanted to know on the importance, and the varying definitions around healthy eating - More
- With all of the layoffs, Twitter imploding, and the world changing every day, I found "The art of the long goodbye" a great post regarding letting go of things (more sunk cost, perhaps?). 'Because, even though we are gone, we are never truly gone, absolved, allowed to move on past the transition point, into the next thing' - More
- "Just Don’t" really caused me to pause and think; lensing in on how the word 'just' can be quite harmful. 'The difficulty of something you're asking someone else to do, when you're not inside their head and don't understand what they see and feel. The word just is a signal that you're not taking their problem seriously'. - More
- Feels like I've been between levels 6 and 7 the last few months, "The Seven Levels of Busy" provides a cool scale I will implement when I think of time management. More to follow on how I adapt this into my workflow. - More
- Simon has some great advice on "What to blog about" here. My add-on is: write for yourself, don't 'try' to build an audience; instead, talk about things to get them off your mind and help others. I find that to be the most rewarding part - More
- I, too, have been thinking a lot about 'the narcissism of departure' probably more than I should, but given the epic imploding of Twitter, "All I Want Is a Place to Quip" was a thoughtful piece on the power of a medium that offers no more than 'one-liners, in the form of 280-character-constrained posts, with optional links and images' - More
- "What happens when software developers are unhappy?" is an interesting summary of this paper; some thought-provoking themes in here if you manage/are a software engineer, especially that 'unhappiness results in mostly external consequences, while happiness mostly affects developers individually.' - More
- A sobering read on "Magical Hope vs Actual Hope" and climate change - More
When I first started listening to the music of Pink Floyd (probably mid-80s?), the dark undertones, sarcastic irony, and haunting riffs quickly found a home as part of my music collection.
I really enjoyed this article on "How Pink Floyd Built The Wall: The Album, Tour & Film", or enjoy the video series here:
Be well. ✌🏻