Sunk Cost Fallacy

01/06/20

The “Sunk Cost Fallacy” came up in conversation on a podcast I listen to, The Dave Chang Show, with his guest David Epstein, the author of ‘Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World’. I haven’t read the book, nor do I intend to, as I’ll be crazy busy with school work, but I am interested in the concept of sunk cost. The sunk cost fallacy is when “individuals continue a behavior or endeavor as a result of previously invested resources (time, money or effort). This fallacy, which is related to lose aversion and status quo bias, can also be viewed as bias resulting from an ongoing commitment.” Lately, I have been considering that my job as a truck driver, which I have had for the past 10 years is an example of this. The fact that I am temperamentally at odds with the work I have been doing drove me to apply at Portland State University in order to finish my bachelor’s degree (from credits almost 20 years old haha), and to try and cast myself into an entirely different career that has almost nothing to do with physical labor. Honestly, it has been kind of scary, and starting in on my second quarter, I still feel somewhat adrift, and don’t have any real, concrete career plans yet. I am looking at 2 years of study minimum to achieve a bachelor’s, though, so there isn’t any pressing need to choose… yet.

However, experiencing my job as a sunk cost is very real, and it causes me a lot of anxiety. I don’t exactly know how to walk away from it; the wage, the vacation time, and the comfort and familiarity of it (a doubled-edged sword, for sure.) Considering it causes me to go into a kind of mental paralytic state, as stepping forward into an unknown void is bound to do. It has afforded me a home, and a reasonable amount of money to support my family, and, the works not even that hard anymore. It’s rarer now, but some days are organizationally such a shit show, that I will go in and do literally nothing for my whole shift. I’ll essentially sit and read in my cab, or fuck-off for a 3 hour lunch. Oddly, but perhaps not surprisingly, much of this dynamic is why keeping the job has become untenable. But, the actual walking away from it part… It feels like I will have to figuratively lop off a whole part of myself, and it’s still hard, even though I am so, so positive that what will come to replace it will be of infinitely more value than work as transactional drudgery. If someone out there has gone through this before, reach out. I’d love to hear from you.