Are You in the Wrong Line?

During the build-up to today’s election, I kept seeing articles and threads about the lines for early voting.  As a result, I carefully chose the day and time that I would head to polls to cast my early ballot.

All told, I waited a little over an hour.  It was a pleasant fall afternoon in East Tennessee and my Kindle helped the time to pass quickly.  I’ve been re-reading Les Misérables which is as good as I remember.

I also took a moment to ponder all situations where I’ve had to wait in a line: the airport, the grocery store, the DMV and elsewhere.  I don’t know about you but it drives me crazy when I have to choose between one of several lines.  As soon as I pick one line, the other line(s) always seem to move faster.  And I know that if I leave my current line to join a different line, my new line will suddenly come to a standstill.

There’s a field of study in mathematics called “queuing theory” which examines the formation, function and congestion of lines.  In fact, there’s even a concept called the “Inspection Paradox” or “Renewal Theory” that explains why the wait time experienced by those waiting for a bus can be longer than the average time between buses.

If I’ve piqued your curiosity, this video explains the Inspection Paradox in 3 minutes using Legos!

Sociologist Scott Feld used the ideas behind the Inspection Paradox to investigate the Friendship Paradox which demonstrates that your friends have more friends than you do! Abundance vs. scarcity indeed!

Observational bias is almost unavoidable.  Have you ever learned a new word and then suddenly see it all the time?  That’s because of a combination of selective attention and confirmation bias known as Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.

Or, as Simon & Garfunkel sang, “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

For financial advisors and financial planners, the 24-hour news cycle, your social media feed and even the conversations with your clients will shape your perception of what’s happening around you.

Rather than jumping to a conclusion, sometimes you just need to take a moment to just wait and see what happens.

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