The year was 2009. I was a junior in college and was bursting at the seams with untapped potential. It was a Saturday night, and like any good college student, I was off to a party filled with fun, laughter, and copious amounts of booze. I didn’t know it then, but that soiree of unadulterated college enthusiasm would quickly take a turn for the worst – I was going to get punched in the face.
People sometimes have mixed feelings about getting punched in the face. There are those who don’t mind it and might even do it for a living, while others like myself thoroughly try and avoid getting punched in the face whenever possible. Unfortunately, all the calculated measures I had taken in the past to avoid such things just weren’t adding up that night.
“This doesn’t just apply to entrepreneurs either. It can apply to the crappy job you’ve invested so much training into, the boyfriend who still hasn’t proposed after 8 years, and so on. All we can focus on is what we’ve already lost, and not what we’re losing.”
While at the party, I received a call from a friend who was trying to get directions there. It was loud and we were in a basement, so I decided to head outside so I could hear better. Had I been paying more attention, I would have noticed that a group of very unsavory characters had arrived and were trying to enter the party. They were appalled to find that the host didn’t want them there, and even more so when she said she would call the cops if they didn’t leave.
Me, standing away from all of this and still on the phone, was only vaguely aware of what was taking place. Before I knew what was happening, one of the aforementioned characters approached me and immediately snatched my phone out of my hand, boldly stating “YOU AIN’T CALLIN’ NO COPS!” In that instant I was somewhat taken aback. One moment I’m on the phone giving directions, the next moment I’m phoneless and being accused of calling the cops. I proceeded to follow the man walking away with my phone in-hand, as there had clearly been a misunderstanding on his end.
As calmly and diplomatically as I could, I said to this individual “You’re right, I’m not calling the cops. Can I please have my phone back?”
I would like to believe the acoustics echoing from the basement had somehow altered his hearing, and that was the reason why I received no response to my request as he was walking away. Or perhaps he was offended by my poor use of the word “can” instead of “may” when requesting my phone back. Whatever the reason, he just wasn’t responding. I asked another time, and then a third time after tapping him on the shoulder. This was the moment it happened. Rather than turning around and warmly extending his arm with a phone in his palm, he instead swung a clenched fist that landed squarely on my cheek. I had just got punched in the face…bummer.
Unlike television would often have us believe, I did not go flying through the air or have any teeth loosened. In fact, I didn’t even really move at all. The punch came and went so quickly that for a moment, I wasn’t sure if I had really been punched. I don’t think this was quite the reaction the man was looking for, especially when I calmly replied “Okay, you punched me in the face. NOW may I have my phone back?” This seemed to really aggravate my offender, and a slew of other punches followed suit.
While it may be hard to believe, this was not my first time being punched in the face. I believe the assailant quickly realized this when he found himself pinned on the ground having his punches reciprocated. Unfortunately, this advantage was short-lived as a companion of his proceeded to soccer-kick me in the spine, sending me face-first skidding across the concrete. I DEFINITELY felt that one. Several more friends of his decided to join in the festivities. I finally heard someone yell, “YO DA COPS ARE ON DEY WAY!” And the kicks abruptly stopped.
As the men began running off, I quickly got up to follow them, at which point I had to side-step one of their female friends trying to greet me with a large rock in her hand. I gave it one last attempt, much more audibly and less calm than the previous times “CAN I PLEASE GET MY GODDAMN PHONE BACK?!” It was no use, they were running towards their car, and my hope of ever seeing my phone again had all but diminished.
At this point you might be wondering, “Is this story really about learning when to cut your losses, or a recollection stemming from post traumatic stress?” I can assure you with partial confidence it’s the former of the two. You see, that first punch I received to the face should have been a clear indicator that it was time to cut my losses and let the phone go. However, like many entrepreneurs do with their business, I became too vested in my phone. To me, the thing was brand new and was fully touch-screen, still a relatively new concept at the time. I became so caught up in the costs I had already incurred purchasing the phone, that I failed to notice what it was currently costing me: time, pride, money for bandages, and a lot of blood (the stuff we need to live).
Psychologists often refer to this as an aversion to sunk costs. These are the resources you’ve invested in an endeavor that will never be recovered. This doesn’t just apply to entrepreneurs either. It can apply to the crappy job you’ve invested so much training into, the boyfriend who still hasn’t proposed after 8 years, and so on. All we can focus on is what we’ve already lost, and not what we’re losing.
So, how do we get over this? As Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson discusses in the article linked above, we need to adopt a promotion focus rather than a prevention focus. Promotion focus means focusing on the things you’ll inevitably GAIN from cutting your losses, rather than focusing on the things you lose. While this may not be as easy as it sounds, simply knowing that this is how the human brain works and that we are more inclined to focus on the bad rather than the good will go a long way. Next time when you feel like you’re in a situation where you’ve invested too much into something and aren’t getting the returns you had hoped for, try to think about the positive aspects that will come as soon as you cut those losses. Doing so will not only make you a better entrepreneur, but a better person all around. At a minimum, it should help you to not get punched in the face.
Have you ever been punched in face or not known when to cut your losses? Please share in the comments below.