Last night I played poker at Bellagio in Las Vegas. At one point I got pocket queens, a tremendously good hand. The hand played as expected until the last card. I got raised by a mediocre player which meant that I could be assured that he had made his hand. I had hundreds of dollars in the pot, but I folded. The money was spent, and chasing after it wouldn't do me any good.
When I got home, I cleaned up my place and packed for my trip the next morning. Several months earlier I had used some airline points to book a round trip flight to Hong Kong. I stayed up late to get myself tired for the flight, and went to sleep.
The next morning I woke up to my alarm. I packed up my laptop, brushed my teeth, got dressed, and began to dial the number for the taxi company to take me to the airport. I paused for a minute and then put down the phone.
Why was I going to Hong Kong? I like Hong Kong a lot, especially this one teahouse in the park. And I had twelve hours in Seoul, which I was looking forward to. But beyond that, there was no reason to go. I was going by myself and had nothing planned. On the other hand, I had tons to do in Las Vegas. I'd finally gotten a stove, so I could complete the kitchen remodel I was working on. I had lots of regular work to do, too.
On the other hand, I'd already used a lot of points for this flight...
I went online and canceled the short repositioning flight that was to take me to San Francisco, where the trip to Hong Kong began.
Thinking about the money already spent is an example of the sunk cost fallacy. The trip seems more valuable to me because I've already paid for it. But I don't get that money back if I go, and I don't get it back if I don't go. It's irrelevant to my decision. The real decision, free of bias, is whether I'd rather be in Las Vegas or Hong Kong. And I knew I'd rather be in Vegas, so I didn't take the flight.
My motivation carried on through the day. I went to Lowes (twice), and got everything I needed to complete my work. I installed the sink, faucet, dishwasher, and water purifier. I put in a new outlet for the stove and got it set up. I got a quote for the countertops. At nine at night, when I finally stopped, I had a functioning kitchen that I could cook dinner in.
Emotionally I felt as though I might regret skipping my trip, but I don't. That's generally how it works when you disregard sunk costs. Emotionally it feels tough, but you end up making the decision you actually want to have made. When you make decisions, don't think about what you've put in, think about what you'll get out. What's done is done, and suboptimal choices won't change that.
Photo is some tea from last time I was at that tea place. Looking at that does sort of make me wish I could transport myself there for at least a day...
Superhuman by Habit will be available as an audiobook very soon-- some time within the next 24-48 hours or so! Hopefully people are interested in that... it took a while for me to narrate and edit.
Superhuman Social Skills will be released on September 17!
Something I didn’t realize about the sunk cost fallacy until recently is that the simple question of “Would I rather be in Vegas or Hong Kong?” is not the only thing to take into consideration; the dimension of time is also in play.
You might find that you’re more excited to stay home and work on your place at the moment—but what about afterward? You might find yourself wanting to be in Hong Kong then, and you’d have to buy another ticket. In that case, it would be smarter to have used the ticket you had and worked on your place when you got home.
-Matthew Varney / @MatthewBVarney
The last few legs of my JetBlue All-You-Can-Jet month should be enjoyable but uneventful (at least as far as blog-worthy stories go), so it's about time to share my thoughts on it, and a few stories from the month.
Soccer in Bogota
The highlight of the trip was, of course, Bogota, Colombia. I've been wanting to go to Colombia for a while, and it certainly didn't disappoint. I stayed with blog-reader/awesome-dude Matt Aaron, who was also kind enough to show me around Bogota.
Everyone I know is terrified of air travel.
They have infinite power and zero accountability.
When you're in an airport, you're at the mercy of the people there. If they don't like what you're doing, they can do anything they want to you, and you have no recourse.
I understand the necessity of that coercive power - but such immense power requires immense accountability.