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Avoiding the Sunk Cost Fallacy


We’ve all been there… Excited about a new opportunity and planning every step. A new networking connection, a new business colleague, a new summit or panel to connect with like-minded people in your field. So excited for this new networking opportunity you plan, you coordinate schedules, your research to confirm you have the most accurate stats... and above all else, you practice, practice, practice. We more neurodivergent personalities might even record ourselves and focus on how we can deliver the message perfectly. All this prep leads to high emotional investment, and the most disappointing situation is to have all this work shattered in one moment. You know what I am referring to, the no-show. Someone fails to show up even after confirming or accepting the invitation. It is devastating to feel we are not top of mind in someone else's head, especially when we have prepared and sunk hours into the event.

Sunk Cost Fallacy is when we have committed so much time, energy, and money, into something that it is hard to walk away because we feel invested. This is true. However, in economics sunk cost is seen more as a cost of doing business, unrecoverable. When we create scenarios in which our goals are priorities for another person or company, this is a false narrative. When we Internalize our goals and strategic planning success, we fail to consider the needs and success of the other party involved. No one has the same thoughts on strategic planning and the definition of success. This failure leads to missed opportunities. Create a clear strategy with perceived outcomes, think if I provide this__, then the outcome of ___ will be achieved. Ask the question; what benefit will the other party receive? It seems so simple but is often overlooked. Make sure the preparation isn’t focused on one-sided success.

When another person is amazed by your capabilities, talents, and strategies they work towards partnerships. They see the value. They make time and they keep a schedule. If you’ve scheduled a virtual coffee or another networking opportunity multiple times for a no-show, please stop. That pesky Sunk Cost Fallacy will be in your head, but you need to move on and invest that energy and time back into yourself. Networking must be a two-way street. The time and energy creating a strategy are wasted if you get caught up in a chasing mentality. Of course, always look toward ways to improve messaging, get others excited, and invest in the vision but all that hard work can be lost once we enter a chasing scenario.

Not everyone will see your value, and that is an emotional cost to business. The ones that do see your value will show you in their actions and professional respect. Don’t let Sunk Cost stop you from walking away, re-strategizing, and focusing on your worth. The value you create by focusing on your strategy will lead to opportunities and positive possibilities for equal gains on both sides of the transaction. A collective go-to is to think in assumptions and get stuck in our heads with our definition of success. This level of mental gymnastics doesn’t lead to growth or flexibility and it’s exhausting. To challenge the future of the workplace, you must first put the time into yourself and create a robust offer. The two-way interaction will come with consistency and expertise.

The problem with my philosophy is it takes time, it takes heart, and knowing when to step away to redirect, is all part of a long-term strategy. Our culture in North America is focused on how rapidly we achieve success. It takes time to establish expertise, it takes time to demonstrate consistency, and it takes time to create quality.

There is a Chinese Proverb, "If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want 10 years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want 100 years of prosperity, grow people."

In conclusion, my advice for successfully navigating through 2022 is not to allow others to define your value, focus on your strategy, don’t be afraid to walk away, never chase, define success in terms of your sustainability and be flexible enough to change!

Society focuses so much on faster, quicker, and instant achievement; we forget how fast time flows in and out of our lives. Allow yourself time, it’s a precious gift.

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