A Lesson In Sunk Costs (or How I Left a Company In Very Good Terms After Only Two Months)

A Lesson In Sunk Costs (or How I Left a Company In Very Good Terms After Only Two Months)

After only two months working with Book In A Box, I’m leaving the company and in very good terms. You can read why I joined in the first place here.

When I told my family and friends that I was leaving, they assumed that something went horribly wrong. Well, it didn’t seem that way to me, and I’m confident that management agrees that we ended this short partnership in very good terms.

I realize now that when people think of a job, there’s all kinds of preconceived notions of how long it must last and that an end must always mean a loss. This mental model of a what a job must look like is an unnecessary constraint for most people; it prevents them from discovering and testing many collaboration opportunities if only they could be more flexible with their idea of work.

I’m a big believer in the “tour of duty” framework: a job should be seen as an experiment that must be validated often. It’s an ongoing co-learning experience for everyone involved, and when it stops working, it’s only healthy and advisable to end the relationship. Book In A Box believes this too; one of their principles is “the glass is already broken”.

Here’s a summary of why I joined, and how we realized we should stop the experiment:

  • Book In A Box developed a hypothesis of what the businesses needed to do to grow, and what kind of person could do that job.
  • My friend and founder of the company told me about their search and what that experience would look like, in terms of responsibilities and benefits. I decided the experiment was worth pursuing, and after going through the interview process, I joined the company.
  • After the first month, we learned that the hypothesis behind the role’s whole raison d’être was flawed, so we looked for new possibilities to bring results to the company while still leveraging my skillset and providing the experiences and opportunities I expected when joining the company.
  • After another month of painful lessons in bad match-making we agreed that it was time to cut our losses.

A case could be made that we should have stopped after the first month, because at that point many of the reasons for working together were gone, but I’m still glad we tried a few more experiments.

The main takeaway for anyone reading this is how to deal with sunk cost in relationships. I think most companies and people would have kept trying to make this work, despite the lack of evidence to justify the effort. Kudos to Book In A Box for doing their part in making this “breakup” a healthy one. I leave with many great lessons (some of which I’ll share in a future post), very smart new friends, and a renewed clarity of what I need to be doing with my time.

A clarity that I validated precisely thanks to experimenting yet again.

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