Tuesday, February 26, 2008

pick me

dublin doors

Closing a door on an option is experienced as a loss, and people are willing to pay a price to avoid the emotion of loss.

Dr. Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, as quoted in this morning's New York Times.

Ariely's research concludes that closing doors -- limiting your options to focus your energies on what remains (just as Cortes did when he burned his ships on the shores of the New World and set off one of the most horrifyingly productive genocides in the colonialization of the Americas) -- is a good thing, but that human nature resists what's best for us, because it feels too much like the parts that suck.

You can play Ariely's door game to see how you fair »

(The site serves up a lot of cool visual illusions, too.)

Once upon a time I was faced with a whopper of a decision to make. I found myself in San Francisco and decided to take the time to walk their Labyrinth -- I'd heard it was a good meditation device, and I thought maybe it would help me figure things out.


Walked the one in the cathedral twice. Then walked the one outside.

Nothing. I still didn't know what I was going to do.

I decided to hit the gift shop on the way out -- the back of the shop was packed to the rafters with racks and racks of cards and I pushed my way through to a rack in the very far corner, picked up a single card (it had a couple of doors on the front) and opened it. It read: "Whatever decision you make will be the right one."

Later, I shared this story with my friend Enyasi. She said: "You know, my mother would have said: Whatever choice you make, make it the right one."

'Nuff said.

three doors on the street


a.m. said...

I love how this post leads into game theory, creative process and the internet. One of the biggest challenges facing creatives today is finding a working method that is personally relevant and that limits one to working in a particular way that can be productive.

In order to do this, you have to walk away from the bazillion options that are available to you and choose a few within which to work. If you don't, it is very hard to mature creatively because you are always changing your language or your perspective and you never establish a personal viewpoint. Many can't do this.

a.m. said...

I also think that people tend to prefer the potential that exists before making a decision to limit ones options, rather than the less exciting reality of living with decisions once they are made.

suttonhoo said...

thanks for the comments, a.m. -- much to chew on. much to act on.

Mikkel said...

It bothers me how the so-called "creatives" always get all the attention. What about us destructives? We too need to limit our options in order to focus our destructive energies.

Should I focus on killing people or destroying property? How can I increase my CO2 emissions? Should I rent a steam roller or will a hammer do the trick? So many choices.

suttonhoo said...

you & Bakunin both.

the problem of course is after y'all have passed through there's no one left to marvel at what you've made.


Mikkel said...

Destruam et aedificabo, baby.

a.m. said...

But it is soooo much easier to multitask in the destructive business.... you can kill people, destroy property AND increase your CO2 emissions all at the same time!

Mikkel said...

Good point.

a.m. said...

I am reminded of a friend of mine some years ago who, after finishing a degree in design wanted to become an opera singer. We spent some nights discussing his desire, the possibilities, what he could do about it, how to go forward, etc. Then he decided to go for it. He enrolled in voice training and began in earnest to follow his dream.

I didn't see him again for a few months. Then, when we got together, I asked him how it was going. He said that it was great. But there wasn't much to talk about. He was working hard, training, learning, improving, growing, doing all the work that comes from making a decision like that. But, once the decision was made, there wasn't nearly as much to discuss. After the decision comes the work. And it is through the work that the dream becomes real. The decision making process leads towards work, or at least towards action, and work is a lot less romantic than possibility.

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