Archive | September, 2010

Sunk costs… can they sink us?

29 Sep

Sinking ShipIn his latest book on MOJO, Dr. Marshall Goldsmith ( Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back if You Lose It) talks about a concept called “Sunk Costs” – and how we are reluctant to let go of losing propositions in our lives.

In information technology and project management, projects are often continued because of the “sunk costs” (even when the return-on-investment is no longer positive and the project is over budget and behind schedule).  Fortunately there is a growing realization (and appreciation) that if the goals of a project won’t be reached, it is a positive step to cancel it.  Of course there will be a sense of loss (and the accompanying grief stages that go along with it) – the loss of a dream (project success), and the acceptance that the project is over.

A similar thing happens in our daily lives!  The adage “don’t throw good money after bad” is easier to say than to uphold.  I know because it’s something that I am learning to deal with.  And I’m not alone!  In face, after reading MOJO, I know that I’m among good company in the world.

Goldsmith says that it is common when we invest in a project or product or relationship (with time, energy, money, and emotion), it becomes painful to let go of the investment when things go awry. We’ve got “skin in the game” so to speak and it is painful to extricate ourselves from something we once thought would be a success!

Last year I bought a used Blackberry Storm unlocked phone from a security guard on Craig’s List for $200. and it worked for a single day (how can this happen? I must be an unlucky trusting soul.) Instead of tossing the phone in the trash, I invested a further $25 on a new battery and a new phone charger in the hopes that the phone would work as promised (yes, I did contact the seller who professed that Craig’s list is the world’s largest yard sale and you get what you get!) The phone still didn’t work and again I didn’t throw it away. I found a repair shop that promised to fix the phone by changing out the charging port and again it didn’t solve the problem.

Finally I’m at the point of throwing the phone away – but it was the sunk costs that prevented me from doing so earlier. I know that I’ll never get those heartbeats back and the loss of money, time, energy, and having a phone that works was a “LOSS”. Any loss causes a bit of grief – and admitting that we were taken or that we invested badly is a tough pill to swallow.

Slowly I’m learning that sunk costs are usually unrecoverable. I know that I avoid loss and that makes it harder to accept, grieve and move on. Perhaps it is the avoidance of grief that keeps some of us hanging on to loser projects.

How about you? Do you find it hard to let go of projects, relationships, and other investments because of the sunk costs? Can you walk away from long-term relationships that no longer bring joy? Can you let go of unprofitable projects in your life? Post a comment and share your experience!

Have a good week,



ISO… Quality

23 Sep

Everywhere I go in the world, it seems to be the same… everyone is ISO (in search of) something or someone who will bring more happiness into our lives.  We run, follow, read, study and take steps to improve ourselves and our lives with the hopes of attaining the elusive “happiness”.

Bookstores are jammed with self-help books promising shortcuts, secrets and pathways to happiness, each with its own different slant on the proverbial “change your attitude, change your life” adage.  I think that the premise is misguided and I agree with the saying (on one of my coffee cups no less): Happiness is the journey not the destination.

I don’t know about you, but a one-size-fits-all method or approach to happiness just doesn’t work for me — I believe that the secret to a happy life is different for each of us.  Do you agree that happiness is an individual state of being?

More and more, I am discovering that happiness is a relative state of mind that begins and ends with the “royal we”: me, myself, and I and knowing what makes up happiness.  What makes YOU happy?

Today I am happier than I’ve been in years, and I have a short list to reach an even higher state of happiness. For me, it is all a matter of increased quality in the things I already have in my life:

1. Better client contracts (with committed clients),

2. A few more high calibre, high quality friends,

3. More affordable living arrangements,

4. More opportunities to travel with friends.

Here’s where I believe the intent and positive attitudes in life fit in – the more that we demand higher quality in any aspect of our life, the higher quality we will achieve.  In the process of moving from accepting low quality (in terms of clients, contracts, friends and any aspect of our lives) to high quality – we might sacrifice short-term gain (money, opportunities) for long-term success (consistently higher quality of life).

What do you think?  I know that the higher I set my goals in terms of “quality” the better the results tend to be. Accepting low quality results along the way takes up space and gets in the way of high quality opportunities.

Have a high quality week!



A bit of Pre-Labor Day Engineering Humor…

2 Sep
@ work 4 "principles of electrical engine...

Image by thowi via Flickr

A friend sent me this collection of eight Engineering specific jokes which resonated with me and colleagues I’ve known and love.   A warning to the prudish or faint of heart, you may not completely understand these jokes if you are not an engineer – in fact, you may want to find an engineer to explain the humor to you.

To my engineering and technical friends:  Which of these scenarios strikes a chord with you and which is YOUR favorite?

Happy Labor (or Labour) Day wherever you live!

Part one:  Understanding Engineers……..

Two engineering students were walking across a university campus when one said,
“Where did you get such a great bike?”

The second engineer replied, “Well, I was walking along yesterday, minding my business,
when a beautiful woman rode up on this bike, threw it to the ground,
took off all her clothes and said, “Take what you want.”

The first engineer nodded approvingly and said,
“Good choice; the clothes probably wouldn’t have fit you anyway.”

Understanding Engineers Two

To the optimist, the glass is half-full.
To the pessimist, the glass is half-empty.
To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

Understanding Engineers Three

A priest, a doctor, and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers. The engineer fumed, “What’s with those guys? We must have been waiting for fifteen minutes!”

The doctor chimed in, “I don’t know, but I’ve never seen such inept golf!”

The priest said, “Here comes the green-keeper. Let’s have a word with him.”  He said, “Hello George, what’s wrong with that group ahead of us?  They’re rather slow, aren’t they?”

The green-keeper replied, “Oh, yes. That’s a group of blind firemen. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime.”

The group fell silent for a moment.

The priest said, “That’s so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them tonight.”

The doctor said, “Good idea. I’m going to contact my ophthalmologist colleague and see if there’s anything he can do for them.”

The engineer said, “Why can’t they play at night?”

Understanding Engineers Four

What is the difference between mechanical engineers and civil engineers?
Mechanical engineers build weapons.
Civil engineers build targets.

Understanding Engineers Five

The graduate with a science degree asks, “Why does it work?”
The graduate with an engineering degree asks, “How does it work?”
The graduate with an accounting degree asks, “How much will it cost?”
The graduate with an arts degree asks, “Do you want fries with that?”

Understanding Engineers Six

Three engineering students were gathered together discussing who must have designed the human body.

One said, “It was a mechanical engineer. Just look at all the joints.”  Another said, “No, it was an electrical engineer. The nervous system has many thousands of electrical connections.” The last one said, “No, actually it had to have been a civil engineer. Who else would run a toxic waste pipeline through a recreational area?”

Understanding Engineers Seven

Normal people believe that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Engineers believe that if it ain’t broke, it doesn’t have enough features yet.

(NOTE:  This also applies to computer scientists!)

Understanding Engineers Eight

(My Personal Favorite…)

An engineer was crossing a road one day, when a frog called out to him
and said, “If you kiss me, I’ll turn into a beautiful princess.” He bent
over, picked up the frog and put it in his pocket.

The frog then cried out, “If you kiss me and turn me back into a
princess, I’ll stay with you for one week and do ANYTHING you want.”

Again, the engineer took the frog out, smiled at it and put it back into his pocket.

Finally, the frog asked, “What is the matter? I’ve told you I’m a beautiful princess and that I’ll stay with you for one week and do
anything you want. Why won’t you kiss me?”

The engineer said, “Look, I’m an engineer. I don’t have time for a girlfriend, but a talking frog, now that’s cool!

Wishing you a safe, healthy and fun-filled holiday weekend!



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