Mansi was miserable. Depressed, helpless, lost...
She had given many years of her life to studying medicine. The best years of her life, the prime of her youth, were spent in pursuit of a degree that would qualify her for one of the most admired and coveted professions out there.
Once she became a doctor, however, something felt...not right. She wallowed in misery for a while, hiding from the shame of being unable to pursue this noble profession and the concerns, and worse, accusations, from friends and family who thought she was wasting her education.
She simply didn't want to be a doctor. She wanted to do something else. But how could she? After all the time and energy and resources that had been spent...?
Yesterday, my friend Richa, an editor over at Equitymaster, wrote a piece which resonated with me deeply. In it she said:
Richa referenced this theory to explain why people hold on to underperforming investments. But it reminded me of Mansi and her struggle to give up medicine because of the investment that went into it.
So what should she do now? Should she become a doctor and practice even though it will make her miserable? Or should she pursue documentary film making - her true passion, but a far less certain path?
With this topic on my mind, I came across another piece, this time by Osho Rajnish. His imagery is far more graphic.
What Richa calls 'sunk cost', Osho calls a 'graveyard'. Everything that you know is of the past, it is already gone, it is dead really. So he asks, 'Do you want to be in a grave or do you want to be alive?'
If you are clinging to the past, you are as good as dead.
Richa explains that, in economics, we cling to the past because we have invested time and money. In life, though, we invest everything: knowledge, energy, belief...
We think that, because we experienced the past with our whole being, it is too much of an investment to let go. But it is not. Once it is finished, your past is a 'dead load' that is 'crushing your life, burdening your life, preventing you from entering into a living, rejoicing being,' says Osho.
And it is not just your past, he says, that holds you prisoner. Your society does too. Society feels a duty to 'keep you in line', to make sure you are not straying from 'tradition'.
But tradition is just another word for the past.
Tradition is the way things have been since time immemorial. Tradition is a graveyard of lives. And to keep this graveyard functioning, society expects you to sacrifice your life.
Breaks in tradition cause upheaval. Tradition has been there for thousands of years, accumulating knowledge and experience, investing resources of millions of human lives. What an enormous cost that is! But if we keep bowing to tradition and investing more lives in it, then we are giving in to the sunk cost fallacy, clinging to a corpse.
Breaking from tradition, parting ways from the crowds, refusing to play sheep, is the only way to live. It is hard, much harder than following the crowds.
'But what do people who follow crowds get?' Osho asks. 'They don't live at all. They only die. From their birth, they start dying and go on dying till their last breath.'
Like Mansi was dying. Until she made the decision to be free. Now she's an award-winning documentary filmmaker.
Even if a minefield or the abyss should lie before me, I will march straight ahead without looking back. - Zhu Rongji, former Premier of China
Saturday, January 16, 2016
Don't Let Your Life Become a "Sunk Cost"
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