I really enjoyed Freakonomics: A Rouge Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. If you’d like to pick up a copy, click the book image (Amazon affiliate link). The title is, admittedly, a bit grandiose… but it’s a fun read, talking about human motivation and how economics helps us understand cause and effect. I don’t agree with all of the conclusions, but I did enjoy the arguments.
There’s a podcast by the same authors, and I enjoy the show quite a bit. About six months ago, authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner announced an experiment they were conducting on decision making. The premise? What if, after examining an issue repeatedly, you couldn’t make a decision? What if you then decided to let random intervention take place? Flip a coin, then stick to that decision.
For me, the decision to make was perhaps somewhat trivial. I had been participating in a photography club of sorts. Every month, a list of twenty “clues” was created to form the basis of a photographic scavenger hunt. After a couple of years, I had become a leader in the group. I was helping to keep things going, from creating scavenger hunt lists to being an administrator on the Web site. It was fun. It also took up about three or four hours a week of my time.
We’ve all walked away from something we enjoy, and while this had been something I had previously considered doing, I was conflicted about the decision… but after wrestling with it for a while, I decided to join the Freakonomics experiment. I logged on (see link above), and read about the experiment. The request was simple, flip a coin, and follow the decision, no matter what. I agreed to the terms, and flipped my virtual coin. Based on the results, I would either continue or quit.
The coin told me to quit the group.
Appalled that I was letting a random number tell me how to spend that much time in my life, I went through with it. I resigned from the group that day, and suddenly felt a sense of… relief. The reason I had been wrestling with the decision was that I felt obligated to continue with commitments I had made previously. Those commitments made sense when I made them, but they were not a lifetime contract, and it was time for me to walk away. I didn’t want to spend that much time on photography every week. It had become more a chore more than something I enjoyed.
Why am I telling you this story? Because of the three or four hours a week I had been devoting to photography. Suddenly, that time was freed up. Completely. It was about that same time that I started walking. In short order, I was running.
I wouldn’t have time to do what I’m doing if it weren’t for that flip of the coin. So Stephen, and Steven, thanks for the nudge. Because of your experiment, I’m going to run the 2014 Boston Marathon. I’m down 25 pounds (so far!). I’m in better shape than I’ve been in at least twenty years. And I’m supporting The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society by fundraising to help support finding cures for blood cancers.
If you are not yet a participant, please consider making a donation to support The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Thank you!