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Self harm and own goals

Self harm and own goals

The Darwin Awards are one of the longest running internet jokes, celebrating the fact that humans have an unceasing ability to invent new and unique ways to do themselves harm.

Asphyxiating as a result of flatulence in a poorly ventilated confined space? It’s there.

Playing Russian Roulette with a loaded bazooka? It is probably there too.

Regardless of whether they are true, every cautionary (though often hilarious) tale documents a creative method that somebody supposedly applied to remove themselves from the gene pool.

This tendancy to self harm is prevalent through all walks of life.


Boxers and NFL stars who play their sport despite knowing it causes them irrevocable harm.

Athletes from all codes who load themselves up on pain killers so they can get back in the game, regardless of how much additional damage they will do to whatever injury was hurting them.

We have all known dieters who shun proper meals like a martyr, then sabotage themselves by tucking into snacks in between meals. How many of us have chowed down on a dodgy kebab or greasy cheeseburger after a night at the pub, purchased from establishments that we would never consider frequenting while sober?

Financial self harm

Then there are the obvious financial “own goals”.

Consumer debt like credit cards and car loans.

Having a vast tribe of kids, without the income required to support them.

Remaining in a relationship with somebody who has a gambling or dependency problem.

Less obvious own goals

Running up vast amounts of student debt to qualify for a career that has poor earnings prospects, no matter how noble the calling. Nurses. Teachers. Scientists. Forestry workers. Police.

Earnings by major occupation group 2017

Earnings by major occupation group.

The sunk cost fallacy of hanging on to an underwater investment because to sell would realise an “on paper” loss, or the avoidance of selling a winner because of the capital gains tax a sale would incur.

Less considered own goals

Choosing to reside in a country where the cost of healthcare makes the determination about whether to seek help from the medical profession a business decision.

Healthcare spending per capita

Healthcare spending per capita

Pursuing an education at a tertiary institution where earning a degree requires the student to incur the equivalent of a new car (or a paid off residential property!) worth of student debt.

International Tuition Fee Comparison

International Tuition Fee Comparison

Following the conventional advice of pouring all your savings into age restricted pension plans when you are planning to escape the rat race in your 30s or 40s. Doh!

Margin lending. To buy commodities futures. Or bitcoin. Is there such a thing as a financial Darwin award? There should be.

Macro level self harm

No I’m not talking about the economic cost of  Brexit or Catalonian independence here, though both would qualify.

How about pursuing a career in someone else’s business, as opposed to starting your own?

What about climbing the career ladder within your current firm, rather than pursuing more attractive offers elsewhere?

The self harm of opportunity cost

Sucking up an epic daily commute, wasting your life in traffic or on a train “for the family” when you could actually be spending that time with “the family” instead.

Avoiding taking holidays while the kids are young, or extending your house, until the point where your kids have left home or no longer want to holiday with you.

Sucking up a job that makes you miserable every day on the promise that things will somehow magically get better without you doing anything to help yourself.

Postponing actually living your life until some arbitrary future date… only to be felled by a cancer diagnosis, or a divorce.

Every choice has consequences, not all of them obvious. Make considered choices, do what makes you happy, and try to avoid scoring own goals or receiving the next Darwin award!

Next Steps

  • How many of your lifestyle or investment choices are doing you more harm than good?
  • If the answer is not zero then help yourself by doing something about it. Today.
  • If you liked this post then please share it with your friends.
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