Thursday, September 07, 2006

Life Investments

I read an article in some economic or money-oriented publication earlier this year about investing strategies and stupid mistakes that people make... Like thinking that just because you've already lost $10,000 in some investment you should stick it out because you've already put in so much. The author's argument was that you can't consider prior losses when making current investment decisions. You have to consider the future performance independently because your emotional investment relative to the loss has no impact on future earnings. A valid point entirely.

I see the same scenario at work frequently. Take the cases of those patients who perhaps start off with a decent prognosis but become critically ill. At admission the owners leave their initial deposit, listen to us ramble about possible complications, and leave thinking things will go fine. But let's say they don't go fine, and each day we call and we say, "Fluffy doesn't look so good, we need to do x, y, and z to decide how to direct further therapy. Unfortunately that will cost $### so we'll need to increase your estimate accordingly." Most owners will agree and some pets will recover, but other pets will continue to decline to the point where then both veterinarian and owner are invested emotionally and financially. There's no real way to separate the decision to pursue further therapy from those investments. No veterinarian wants a client to spend $10,000 only to have the pet die, but I've seen it happen countless times. I can't yet discern how much of it is purely owner insistance and how much is driven by our investments as doctors.

Of course, this theory applies to lots of life situations as well. Somewhere in my first year of veterinary school I had the sneaking suspicion that maybe this profession wasn't 100% what I was looking for... But I do enjoy the science of it, and I'm good at it, and as time passed I became more and more invested in it. I've spent my entire early twenties in training so I feel like I have to be a veterinarian just because of that sacrifice. The logic of the prior discussion, though, argues that when I have to make employment decisions in the future I should, in fact, not consider prior investments, only future potential. That's tough though.

So what brought all this on? One of my friends at work today said in response to my justifications of being good at this work, "I feel like you could have been good at anything you wanted to do."

Well yeah, maybe. And that's a fantastic compliment, but it really hit home.
I could have been good at a lot of other things.


At 7:45 AM, September 08, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have no doubt you would be good at whatever you set your mind to. But something drew you to becoming a vet. Life is not so simple that you can always look in the rear view mirror and say, well if I had done xyz, I would now be able to choose abc. What if you had chosen to work on Wall Street. Sure you might not have to invest years of study, but you also might not be so happy or ever get that good feeling when you save someones pet.
While looking back is human nature, I think it is better to look forward and see the opportunities.

At 11:35 PM, September 08, 2006, Blogger Dr. Claw said...

I've had a lot of jobs in a variety of fields, but only veterinary medicine has made me happy :)

At 12:36 PM, September 15, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also try to find answers in the past but I found out that somehow you always end up with what you were supposed to (either in the first place or because of your developement).
If it is meant to be it will come and haunt you, right until you have dealt with it. It doesnt necessarily have to come in the same shape but the structure will be similar.
But it always only makes sense after some time. Often when you dont expect it! =)


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