Career Advice from Better Call Saul: The Sunk Cost Fallacy

Opportunity costs of not changing your career will haunt your future self.

“Have you paid off your law school loans?” asked a lawyer friend when I told him I was leaving the practice of law.  My “no” response didn’t need a follow up as it was clear that he thought I was making a mistake.  Here’s what interesting: My friend knew me well enough to believe that leaving the law was definitely the right move for me.  Indeed, he wanted to quit the law or at least big law firm life as well.  But the thought of not seeing the investment cost pay off did not make sense to him.

There is some logic to this thought.  I had invested 3 years of law school and 8 years of practice as well as $150,000 into law school.  I still had $70,000 in outstanding loans.  So, my friend’s finishing thought was that I spend another 4-5 years unhappy in my work, pay off my debt, and then leave legal practice.  To be clear, I had every intention of paying off my debt (and did!), just not through work as an attorney.

While Netflix’s acclaimed series Better Call Saul is not my first source for wisdom, the main character Jimmy (who eventually changes his name to Saul) describes the sunk cost fallacy when he explains to a friend why he is leaving the law.  He points to gamblers who chase good money after bad.  They think I’ve already lost $10,000.  So I may as well spend a few thousand more trying to win it back.  Bad idea.

So is spending more of your life in a career you don’t like.