The Marginal Cost Mistake

The Marginal Cost Mistake is a concept articulated in How will you measure your life by Dr. Clayton Christensen. A very simple yet powerful construct, it states that it is easier to adhere to / live up to something 100% of the time than it is to do it say 96% of the time or 90% of the time.

Let me give you an example. It is easier to tell the truth 100% of the time than it is to selectively be truthful. It is easier to exercise or write everyday than it is to give yourself a 3 day break and then come back. This is because our mind uses the allowance and legitimacy of the smaller folly to justify its occurrence the next time and the time after that and the time after that. It just builds up and is a slippery slope from there on.

Sometimes the coming back takes till the end of the year instead of 3 days when someone accidentally follows your blog or you decide to do a year end review because there’s no one around at the work place.

So here we are, after 10 months of paying for the marginal cost mistake, trying to rev up the virtuous cycle once again.

Its not as if the last 10 months were a complete waste.

Spent some of my best days with my daughter (with a disproportionately large amount of help from my wife, mother, and in laws) as she started getting acquainted with the slightly higher abstractions of life (like walking, talking, exploring, playing, and understanding The Force).

Helped create something really awesome with my erstwhile employer. Then did something really adventurous by changing jobs, moving city and country.

Am currently at 16 amazing books read during the year (18 including the ones I’m currently reading, and 22 including the ones I started but abandoned mid way and will probably start again in 2017). And although this blog stuttered a bit, my fatherhood blog is still going strong.

I’m grateful to everyone I’ve met this year and to life in general, but I’m particularly thankful to Prasad for following this blog. I wouldn’t have gotten back to it had it not been for the ‘Your blog has a new follower’ notification that came my way.

As we move towards the end of another calendar year, my resolve is to avoid the marginal cost mistake like the plague in 2017. And in my relentless quest for simplification and getting better at life, I’ve been asking a question to those who matter the most to me ‘If you would want me to pick one goal for 2017, what would it be?

The replies have been fascinating. Not only from the point of view of their utility, but also the motivations and thought processes and decision algorithms they come from. And while most are in line with what I have on my list, it is more important for me decide my one goal for the year and concentrate on it.

What is yours?

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