On the last day of class Richard Wicks, my law professor for Contracts, said, “By now I’ve taught you all you need to know about the elements of a contract. But today I’m going to share the final, most important, lesson.”
The hands of seventy first-year law student were poised to take that final note.
“The ultimate clause of every contract should always state, ‘And I mean it gosh darn it!’” Professor Wicks said it more colorfully, but you get the point.
In my blog during the past eight years I’ve covered many topics, but one principle that I follow often, that deserves a return appearance, is the theory of Sunk Cost. When making a decision you should consider only the future and ignore the “Sunk Cost” of the past.
For example, imagine you are watching a movie in a theater (remember that experience?) and after the first ten minutes you are terminally bored. But you have already paid for your ticket. That is your sunk cost because you’re not going to get your money back.
Do you sit through the rest of the film “”to get your money’s worth,” or do you simply leave? And what about your companions, who may want to stay?
Years ago I was at a movie with Daveen and my parents. I found it offensive, but I didn’t want to create a scene. I whispered to Daveen, “I’ll wait for you in the lobby. You can all finish watching the movie.”
Normally, if Daveen starts watching a movie she finishes it. I was surprised when, ten minutes later, the three of them also walked out.
My point is, I’d already spent the money, and invested my time. But the only real question I should be thinking about is how I want to spend the next hour. Do I always have to finish something I paid for? When I’m attending a sports event in person (remember that?) and my team is leading by forty points I don’t have to stay for the last five minutes of the game. I prefer to beat the other cars out of the parking lot.
We can’t escape from the fact that our lives must be lived totally in the future. But past experience is useful as a guide, not a prison.
I encourage you to free yourself from the tyranny of sunk cost. And I mean it, gosh darn it.