Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Why We Are Reluctant to Cut Our Losses in Afghanistan...and Ultrarunning

From the always-good Boing Boing, the following from David McRaney:

The same psychological hooks that cost companies millions of dollars to produce products obviously destined to fail can also keep troops in harm’s way long past the point when the whole war effort should be brought to an end. 

It’s a universal human tendency, the same one that influences you to keep watching a bad movie instead of walking out of the theater in time to catch another or that keeps you planted in your seat at a restaurant after you’ve been waiting thirty minutes for your drinks. 

If you reach the end of the quest, you think, then you haven’t truly lost anything, and that is sometimes a motivation so strong it prolongs horrific, bloody wars and enormously expensive projects well past the point when most people involved in efforts like those have felt a strong intuition that no matter the outcome, at this point, total losses will exceed any potential gains.

Knowing when to start and when to quit are often not clear-cut.  Believe me, I am not trying to be flippant in comparing running and war, but in thinking about this post I'm wondering where the point comes when dropping out makes sense.  I've only dropped out of one race in my career (a marathon back in the 1990s) and it was because I was cold and tired, not because I was injured.

So within half an hour I was feeling just fine and kicking myself for bailing.  That incident has served as a motivating reminder for the rest of my running career.

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