Tonight, I sat in the park and read while people watching. I've passed by this "Isla de Cozumel" sign dozens of times but never really stopped to experience it.
It's not just a large, colourful lawn ornament; it's a veritable jungle gym. In my hour or so of sitting here I saw people of all shapes, sizes, colours, and ages scramble up, on, and around the sculpture.
My favourite was this one dude in his late teens who was trying to get his friend to take a photo of him doing something cool in front of the sign. He kept doing hand-stands or other break-dance-type moves, but either his friend was too slow on the shutter, or the resultant photos weren't cool enough, because he must have tried a dozen times.
The funniest part is that each time he went upside down, his phone, wallet, and keys would all fall out and clang on the cement. Once he was right side up again, he'd put them back in his pocket, do another handstand, and they'd all fall out again. It took him waaaay too many times before he finally set his things on the grass.
It's so much easier to see this sort of irrational behaviour in other people. We humans are completely blind to it in our own lives.
There's a great episode of the "Cautionary Tales" podcast called "DANGER: Rocks Ahead!" It's about a captain who ran an oil tanker directly into a deadly reef when he had ample time and opportunity to avoid it. The scariest part? In a debriefing of the incident he was asked "Why didn't you just take the other, safer route?" His response? "The thought never crossed my mind." Yikes.
The thing is, he had made a plan, and even though that plan was obviously falling apart, rather than make a new, better plan, he just kept trying to jerry-rig the existing plan until it was too late. This is called the Plan Continuation Bias aka "get-there-itis". It's a special case of the Sunk Cost Fallacy where we "throw good money after bad" instead of cutting our losses.
Sometimes when things are going awry, we just need to slow down, step back, and see things with fresh eyes, rather than wasting time and energy trying to make things work.