In a review of a biography of economist Albert O. Hirschman, the New Yorker includes this quotation:

“Creativity always comes as a surprise to us; therefore we can never count on it and we dare not believe in it until it has happened.  In other words, we would not consciously engage upon tasks whose success clearly requires that creativity be forthcoming.  Hence, the only way in which we can bring our creative resources fully into play is by misjudging the nature of the task, by presenting it to ourselves as more routine, simple, undemanding of genuine creativity than it will turn out to be.”

The reviewer continues, “People don’t seek out challenges, he went on.  They are ‘apt to take on and plunge into new tasks because of the erroneously presumed absence of a challenge—because the task looks easier and more manageable than it will turn out to be.’  This was the Hiding Hand principle . . . . The entrepreneur takes risks but does not see himself as a risk-taker, because he operates under the useful delusion that what he’s attempting is not risky.  Then, trapped . . . people discover the truth—and because it is too late to turn back, they’re forced to finish the job.”

Malcolm Gladwell, “The Gift of Doubt,” The New Yorker, June 24, 2013, pp. 74-5.

This explains the Octopus phenomenon rather well.  I don’t think projects are going to be such a big deal until I’m well into them.  And then they’re much harder and less manageable than I expected them to be.  But I love the notion that this hassle will force me into being more creative and brilliant than I would otherwise have been!  It’s an empowering way to approach a task that has turned daunting.

His wife (Sarah Chapiro Hirschman) has a good quotation, too.  “It is impossible to know what is best and . . . the present is so much more important—because if the present is solid and good it will be a surer basis for a good future than any plans that you can make” (p. 76).

So, since nicoleandmaggie take Thursdays off, here’s your economics-related post for the day!

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