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May 18th, 2019
The practice of mining, that old sort of mining, the one we imagine when we think of prospectors sifting for gold, is a ripe analogy for process in many of the endeavors we undertake.
Prospectors often sifted or dug through massive amounts of useless material before finding a profitable and shiny strain of gold.
But there was never any guarantee that any particular direction of digging would lead to fortune. And so too in many other parts of life. Sometimes, we are just digging holes.
Perhaps some lessons can be garnered from such seemingly useless endeavors, such as an exercise of sustained and focused effort, but perhaps the most useful lesson is knowing when to abandon the effort. This tendency to keep going even when it seems that giving up would be better is often referred to as the ‘sunk-cost’ fallacy.
‘Giving up’ is such a shamed and taboo concept, and perhaps for very good reason, but as with many concepts and beliefs, we import it into places where it does us a great disservice.
Giving up on all effort is a genuinely sad occurrence, and if shame and taboo can work effectively to keep a person from giving up all effort, then perhaps the price is worth it.
But giving up effort on a single endeavor often carries the same weight, shame, and forbiddance that is more appropriately attributed to giving up on everything.
Knowing when to abandon the mine and strike out in new directions is the art of the Pivot.
We often mistake a needed pivot for ‘giving up’, and pivoting is in a sense giving up. But it’s giving up on an unproductive direction in favor of a more productive direction.
Pivoting, or ‘giving up on a small and local level’ is how we simultaneously keep from giving up all effort and save ourselves from wasting time in poor directions.
The way to keep this compass needle healthy is to always assume that one’s direction is off by some margin and needs correcting.