Posted by Don Griffing on Apr 09, 2018

While catching up on one of my favorite podcast series last week, I listened an interview with Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman.  Dr. Kahneman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2002 for his pioneering work integrating insights from psychological research into economic science.  Amos Tversky, his partner, and he would create thought experiments to explore their notions.  These two men destroyed many assumptions of rational economics though demonstrating that people routinely walk away from good money and explaining why we often keep digging once we are in a hole.  One their thought experiments included the question, “You can have this lollipop today or two lollipops tomorrow.  What do you prefer?”

As a fellowship of business and professional people, each of us have honed our decision-making abilities.  In this cognitive process, we identify and choose alternatives based on our own values, preferences, and beliefs.  This process occurs in our frontal lobes.  This lobe also plays a role in self-management and future planning.  Aside from the fact that it does not become fully develop until we are in our twenties, it works with the amygdala in decision-making.  This almond-sized node is responsible for emotions, survival instincts, and memory.  The action in this node, such as the fight or flight response, can override the thoughts in the frontal lobe.  It is the interplay between these two regions of our minds that make people “endlessly complicated and interesting,” as Daniel Kahneman wrote in his Nobel Prize biography.

We were taught from an early age the importance of deferred gratification.  As adults, it is easier for us to wait for the two lollipops tomorrow rather taking the one today.  As a child, that decision was more difficult for me.  As I matured, I learned and adapted my own set of values, preferences, and beliefs which I use throughout daily life.  There is a catch.

Gratefully, I am in a point in my life where I have enough.  For example, when I am hungry, I can go to my kitchen and prepare something to eat.  If I cannot find “that special something” that I am craving, I can get into my car, drive to a grocery store or restaurant, and purchase what I desire.  Many people go about their day in with some amount of scarcity.  Scarcity creates tunneling.  Tunneling tends to magnify the costs while minimizing the benefits.  The aphorism, “A bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush,” will begin to hold greater sway in one’s beliefs than deferred gratification.

I can struggle with scarcity in each week – the scarcity of time.  Lewis Carrol put it best with, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”  I found that when I begin to transition being focused from a deadline to becoming tunnel driven my enjoyment of Rotary service wanes.  I can let the daily/weekly/monthly tasks of managing the Club dominate my thoughts and begin to lose focus on our potential.  I suspect that I am not alone in dealing with time scarcity.  Our Club cannot reach its full potential with the valiant efforts of a few individuals.  Your Club needs your help to adapt and grow in this everchanging world.  The fourth Object of Rotary is “[t]he advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service.”  The choice is yours.  Do you want to play a role in making a difference?  Are you satisfied with “a bird in the hand” or do you want “two lollipops”?