Knowing when to fold ‘em: a tale of pot holes and humble pie

I was reminded of a wonderful line from one of my favourite songs earlier today. In his classic single ‘The Joker’, Kenny Rodgers says “you’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run”. To be honest, the entire song is a genius commentary on life, but an incident today on a Scottish road really took me back to this specific line which basically means “recognise when to cut your losses”.

Kieran and I were leaving the Isle of Skye after five days of walking, site seeing and driving. In a last minute decision at an unseemly intersection we decided that instead of taking the coastal route home, we’d turn left and zip over the mountain range. We didn’t know for certain that this was the right way, but it felt like it was in the direction we needed to head.

Well, lol.

A few hundred meters down this road we hit metal. Then pot holes. Then it got narrower. Then we hit more pot holes.

After about 10 minutes driving it was clear we were on a road that was only suitable for four wheel drives; our two door, city hatch back wasn’t going to cut it.

Now, for the record and the ease of my mother’s mind, at this point I did suggest we should turn around. But the counter argument was “it’ll be fine, let’s just go a bit further. It could get better”.

As was to be expected it didn’t. Instead this road proceeded to get steeper, rockier, and caused more panging sounds and rocks to fly up against the under belly of the car.

Then, as we turned a corner, we were met by the bit that would seal the deal on us not turning back: two work men on the side of the road. I just knew that now we had been seen, there was no way Kieran would turn the car around. We would look silly.

As the story went, we carried along this road for about another twenty minutes before realising it was a dead end and we’d have no choice but to go back. The irony.

On the return route, which was just as uncomfortably bumpy, I hit Kieran up about not turning back sooner. I wanted to know, as I had hypothesised, that the work men had played a key part in his decision to press on despite it clearly being a stupid idea. And bless him and his ability to eat humble pie, he said “yeah of course!”.

Class Act Rodgers.

Looking back on this now, it’s amusing. The car was fine, we were fine, the workmen laughed at us in a friendly way on the way back down, everything was all good. But when you look at it from a behavioural influence point of view, it becomes very hard to justify any of the actions.

To think we might have risked the car and our lives (I’m being dramatic) for fear of being laughed at by two strangers who live in a remote area of Scotland and probably have the word of mouth potential of seven, categorically doesn’t make sense.

I’ve talked about quitting vs giving up before, and it’s often a hard distinction to make. However, there are ways to make it easier. For starters, understanding and being able to evaluate what the influencing factors are when we are making a decision is a start. In the example that played out earlier, while the Scottish spectators were a factor, they should not have influenced our decision. They were peripheral to what we really needed to take into account.

Employing this kind of thinking can really help us become better at making decisions. Who and what is crucial to consider with my actions? Who and what will be affected by the results of my choice? This skill of really being able to understand what is and isn’t important is a useful one to master. It gives us clarity and greater objectiveness in our opinions and actions. Which doesn’t seem to be a bad moral from a bumpy wrong turn in the Scottish highlands.


Comments from Kieran since reading:

“That makes me sound stupid!”

“Can you say that I navigated the difficult road really well?”

“Well at least I gave you something to blog about.”

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