Why I only read $10 books on my Kindle- Using the Sunk Cost Fallacy to Stay Motivated

Using the Sunk Cost Fallacy to Stay Motivated

The other day I was reading a book on my Kindle and stopped to think, “Why am I reading this, instead of the ten books I downloaded for free?”

I also remembered that I had an interesting book that I had downloaded, but only ever read the forward. The book is Choose Yourself by James Altucher. James is nice enough to offer this book on Kindle for only 99 cents, but 99 cents might not be enough to motivate me to read the book.

I was recommended another book from a close friend under the hyperbolic statement, “Drop whatever you’re reading and pick up this book, now!” Knowing that my friend and I are of the same mindset and often agree on books and movies, I jettisoned James’ book. I proceeded to Amazon.com to blast over the latest copy to my Kindle. James, you really need to raise your prices!

I started reading the book which I won’t bother to name here. It was an incredibly detailed how-to and it contained a lot of info, but just not anything I was going to apply at the moment.

I got to a solid stopping point halfway through and thought to myself, “Why am I reading this?”

Then I remembered a psychology concept called the sunk cost fallacy. To sum it up, If we feel we have made an investment, we feel obligated to follow through with that investment. This becomes apparent in tanking financial strategies, bad relationships, and TV shows that have gone south.

This is probably why people continue to watch past Season 5 of The Office, even though the sexual tension between Jim and Pam has been killed-off by their relationship and the writers have promoted secondary support characters to play main roles.

Ok, enough on my Office rant and more on the sunk cost fallacy. I realized that I could use this brain programming to my advantage. I can apply it to my daily challenges and habit forming exercises. If I feel I have a vested interest in the last 4 days I went to they gym, I will feel more obligated to continue on day 5. Six days in a row is a streak and I’m the Cal Ripken of challenges! My brain craves continuity and patterns.

I use this strategy with writing and playing the guitar. I use the liftapp to track my progress.

So, I want to know: Have you ever continued something you didn’t like because you felt invested? What was the outcome?

How can you apply the sunk cost fallacy to trick your mind into doing something you aren’t thrilled about doing, but feel obligated? Like I do with exercise or writing. Keeping the streak alive.

And for those wondering, I was again distracted from James’ book to start a new book that my girlfriend recommended. The price? $10.

Maybe I need to start a 20 page daily challenge for Choose Yourself. Or better yet, @jaltucher, I’m PayPal’n you $9!

Author: Jeff

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  1. Jeff,

    This is a very interesting post yet very true. I have observed in my personal life that most people value “paid” items more than the “free” items even though sometimes the free is more valuable than the paid. I am guilty of this too.

    I am currently in college and have to take certain classes l do not enjoy but because l paid tuition, l go to these classes. Have a great weekend.


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    • Thanks for the comment, Marcus, I agree. The best things in life are free. Health, love, family.

      The question then becomes, how can we “invest” in them so we can value them more?

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  2. Interesting point Jeff and I find the same to be true. I have about 10 free Kindle eBooks, that I only grabbed because they were free for a few days and sounded like they might be relevant. I haven’t read more than the first page of any of them and probably only read the first page for 1 or 2. Definitely something to consider, especially if we try to release paid products at some point!

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    • Yeah, it’s crazy how the mind works. I think your expectations of the value of the content are proportional to the price you pay.

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  3. I agree too! We all have to evaluate – free or not – is this going to get me where I want to go. I dumped all the freebie books and I’m reading Crush It! by Gary V. right now :).

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