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The Lucilius Parables, Volume I


December 14th, 2019


There’s that expression about putting the cart before the horse.  It’s to point out that we’ve got things in the wrong order.  Starting with the end instead of the beginning.


Another way to think about it is with incentives.  An incentive is a fancy word for reward.  When it comes to getting our stubborn pleasure-seeking selves to get something done, we can use incentives to make sure it happens.  But in which order?


Does it make much sense to have the reward before we’ve done any work?


I’ll just watch one episode before I do my work.


This is putting the cart before the horse.  Instead of relaxing, the relaxing can be used as an incentive to get the work done.  It’s far less effective the other way.  And in fact, the time spent relaxing isn’t as good as it could be because there is a pall of impending work hanging over the situation.  But reverse the order and the time spent relaxing is that much more enjoyable because work is out of the way. 


This is a surprisingly simple and difficult thing for humans to do.  We are too short term.  We want things now. 


And for the most part this is how much of the animal kingdom works.  But one crucial thing that separates us from all other animals is our ability to plan.  How many animals have goals that they project one month, or one year, or even five and ten years out into the future?  Do you see any lizards preparing for retirement? 


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Podcast Ep. 608: Cart Horse Carrot

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