Things I wish I’d known when I was a teenager — Part 1.

This entry is a beginning of a series of posts in which I will share with you concepts, phenomena, phrases, thoughts, about which knowledge can help each of us greatly. These will usually be things we may already know a bit about. Maybe we’ve already noticed them in our lives, but we’ve never been too careful about them. I will try to create a short opportunity to slow down and think about things that I wish I’d known when I was a teenager.

I’m not giving you a specialist’s view here, just my thoughts. Therefore, if you think that something in these thoughts is not true or not quite right, then I will appreciate the information! I’m discovering some of these things myself, while writing about them. I thought it might be an interesting experiment to share it all with you. We’ll see.

The idea for this series came up recently when I learned about a phenomenon called „alternative cost”. I was struck by one thing: why didn’t anybody mention this – basically quite a trivial but very interesting thing – in over 15 years of school and college? Of course, I would have found out about it if I had studied economics or law, but wouldn’t such things be worth teaching earlier and more people? As it turns out, there are many such phrases or phenomena, and probably only very inquisitive people look for them and use them to learn; to live, to get to know their loved ones, to get to know their co-workers. Our life, even though it has now moved drastically to „Zoom”, consists largely of contact with other people, that’s why it is so important for me not to let the days pass, or actually run away, but to set myself the goal of making progress every day. In what? In being human! And in respecting other people.

That was a short introduction. We’ll see how it develops. Meanwhile, it’s time for the first 3 concepts and a few thoughts and explanations from me. I encourage you very much to let me know if you knew these terms and if you have any thoughts about them.

  1. 1. Opportunity cost

You walk down the street and see a stand with a long queue leading to it. There is an inscription above the stand: „free ice cream.” Perfect! You had a great desire for ice cream, and additionally these are free. You stand in line and wait. You’re waiting 10, 15, 30 minutes, waiting for these… free or not free ice cream?

Ice cream can be considered free if you consider your time free. This is probably not the case – if, for example, you had the opportunity to earn 10 EUR while you were standing in line, it seems that you probably bought the most expensive ice cream this season. Of course, this example is not perfect and it is a bit overcolored, but I wanted to use such example.

But let’s look at it another way. They say that „time is money”. What is worth paying attention to, and what this example may not fully show, is the fact that every investment of our time means rejecting the investment of the same time in something else. That is, when you spend 30 minutes walking with your wife, your investment will not only be beneficial because of the walk, but also because you didn’t spend those 30 minutes at the same time scrolling Instagram or watching pranks on YouTube.

However, it’s probably easier to understand it with material examples – at least a little bit of our humanity has already moved into the world of virtual money, where 10 EUR is just a number, but as you can imagine a physical 10 EUR bill, although there are millions of them, everyone is different. With 10 EUR bill in your hand, you have something for which you can buy something of a given value. When you do that, you will no longer have that 10 EUR bill. You can reach for another 10 EUR bill and it will look practically identical to the previous one, but it will be a different bill and using it will be a different investment.

  • The Pygmalion effect

The phenomenon that the expectations of others about a person have an impact on their performance or productivity.

Research done and presented by Rosenthal and Jacobson has shown that when teachers were led to expect better student performance, student achievement improved. The research confirmed the hypothesis that reality can be influenced in a positive or negative way. This knowledge was since considered valuable and was used to train teachers to present the right attitudes and expectations towards students.

I think that – for parents, employees or bosses as well – knowledge of this phenomenon can be useful. I don’t really know how to approach it properly, but what I think is key here is not to make someone feel discouraged by my expectations and feel worse or not worth developing. It is necessary to look for the right balance, a healthy approach, with the other person’s welfare in mind.

  • Sunk cost fallacy

You and a couple of friends have an appointment to go to the movies. Tickets ordered, you enter the cinema room. Here we go. You watch for 10 minutes – boring. After 20 minutes, there’s still nothing going on… I wonder when will it start? 30 minutes of the film behind you, there’s still some 75 minutes left, but you all know very well that this film was not a good choice. What are you doing? Are you going out, or are you going to watch the film to the end, because you have already spent 20 EUR on tickets?

This could explain the phenomenon of sunk costs – the fact that you spent 20 EUR on cinema tickets makes it harder for you to leave the cinema an hour before the end of the screening. All this, although you know very well that the film is not good and this time could be used in a much more interesting way! Leaving the cinema would be a „waste of money”. But would it? It’s completely illogical because the cost has already been incurred and nothing can be changed about it. But you now have more information that you can use to not waste any more time, but to make better use of the remaining time.

This is just a simplified example, many more – more complex examples – could be quoted from, say, business. However, I focused on the example in which each of us will recognize ourselves. After all, we live in times when countless applications, TV series, books, podcasts, films, videos, Tic-Toks, etc. fight for our attention. I wanted to share with you something that might make it easier to give up spending time on something you know is a waste of time – and time is spent on it, just because „I already have a subscription” or „I’ve seen the first few episodes already”.

For the first entry in a series, I think it’s enough. I need to flesh out the format a bit and see if such a series gives readers something to think about in any way. If you have suggestions of concepts or things I could cover in future posts – go ahead and write. I already have a dozen interesting ideas lined up, but perhaps my post has inspired you and brought something even more interesting to your attention? Thanks a lot for reading!

Oskar Pilch