I read an article written by a woman whose daughter had to make a piñata for Spanish class.  The girl decided on an overly ambitious design, and by the end of the first hour it was clear that it was going to take far longer to finish than could be reasonably expected for this homework project.

The mom urged her daughter to dump the design and start over with a more simple one, but the daughter persisted.  After 22 more hours, it was done.

This project reminded me of the foundational economics theory of “sunk costs.”  She had already sunk one hour into the project regardless of whether she dumped it or pressed on.  Staying with something that would drain more energy was pointless “just because” she had started.  

Do you have projects in life that you stick with even when the outcome is dubious?  Do you press on and read the book even though you are bored after the first 100 pages?  Are you in a career because you are invested in it, rather than because it brings you joy?  Have you stayed with a project that was a perpetual energy drain when there was another way around it?

Sometimes you’d be better to regroup and start afresh with something entirely different.  May you have the courage and wisdom to know when you should rethink your version of the piñata.

— beth triplett

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What’s your 22-hour piñata?  by Allison M. Vaillancourt, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 15, 2013, p. A37  

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