As I’ve written before, I’m arguably the world’s worst potter, but I love working with clay. I took a class on the wheel the other day. This was my second class on the wheel (I mostly hand build because I find that more fun but am gradually learning the wheel to be well rounded — pun only intended after the fact).
And the instructor said something while we were working that I’ve heard before but hit me particularly hard that day: “If you mess up on the wheel, it’s quicker to start over than to try to fix it.” He encouraged us to scrape off our clay and start again with a new lump.
Because if we didn’t, he advised, you could spend all class working on the same mistake, never really getting anywhere. And in the same time, you could have made multiple items that were perfectly fine.
None of us students really liked the advice. It’s very easy to get attached to your clay and want to make every piece a success. It’s the new students’ curse, really. My classmates ignored him — this was what I did for my first wheel class, too. This time I took a different tack. Even though I was doing well with my piece this time around, I started to take risks, to try to feel out where the failure zone was.
I 100% ruined my piece. And the one after. But I learned so much that class. I didn’t take anything home, but I didn’t care. Not really. Because I have a clunky little piece I made already at home, from my first wheel class. One that I clung desperately to and fussed over. It’s hideous. Has ugly thick walls. Not really good for anything but a paperweight (I used it to test some glazes in the kiln).
This Is Bad Advice for Relationships Though… Or Is It?
I found myself thinking about that pottery advice later, well after the fact. “Good advice for clay, but terrible advice for relationships,” I concluded. Because just throwing away a perfectly good relationship at the first sign of trouble is a bad way to go. That doesn’t make any sense. Conflicts happen, and not every one is a death knell.
But then later in the week, I was talking to a friend who has been working FOREVER on this terrible relationship that she gets nothing out of. The person she’s dating is a taker. They just hurt her over and over, and it’s obvious — you can practically see it from space.
But she’s definitely down in the trenches in fixer mode. She’s been working and working on it, falling prey to a little something called sunk costs. The sunk cost fallacy is a psychological principle that states that it’s harder for us to walk away from something when we’ve invested a lot of time, money and/or energy into it.
The trouble with sunk cost fallacy is that it’s logical in one sense — it is aggravating to throw away hard work and investment, no matter how doomed the current prognosis is. But it really does us no favors as the overall loss can be much greater if we don’t walk away.
However, it is extremely common and definitely could be a factor in situations where someone spends years on the verge of a breakup that never happens.
And it’s extremely common in pottery class — where after you’ve spent the trouble wedging your clay and getting it centered, you’re desperate to make sure it ends up as something that goes into the kiln.
Anyway, sometimes it really is a quicker way to find happiness to start over than to fix and fix and fix.
It’s more straightforward when you’re talking about clay, but real life is messier. So how can you tell? Well, it’s tricky, but here’s an article with 4 clear signs it’s time to end your relationship to get you started.