When I moved to my new home this past spring, I quickly discovered the optimal route for commuting to work. For more than 3 months, I took the same road to work. It was faster than other potential routes, with less traffic and fewer lights. Then my car died and I’ve been stuck riding my bike to work. And what did I do? I assumed that the same route would be the best for commuting by bike as well.
Wednesday, one of my coworkers shook that assumption. She asked one simple question: were there any other roads that were flatter? The answer is a giant yes. My car route had some pretty substantial hills. It used back country roads where they didn’t spend to much time worrying about a level roadway. The end of the ride home included a mile long uphill that gained at least 100 feet of altitude. That particular route took be 70 minutes to complete.
There was another route I had rejected in the car because it contained 20 traffic lights along the 9 mile stretch to get to the old parking area. But it was a much more important road, so there was effort put into making it as smooth and flat as possible. I rode it yesterday and shaved 15 minutes, almost 20%, off my commuting time.
I felt, to put it mildly, like an idiot for assuming that my car route would be the best way of getting to work on a bicycle. But it got me thinking, what other areas of our lives do we make stupid assumptions? When studying physics, you make a lot of assumptions, very unrealistic assumptions, to simplify problems. One of my favorite jokes: you might be a physics major if… you assume a horse is a sphere to make the math easier.
But I’m talking about unspoken and unconsidered assumptions. Like that the best car route would be the best route for all modes of transportation.
With money, I know I make all sorts of assumptions all the time. Some I do believe to be valid after considering them, like that the time investment needed to learn enough to be an informed investor is larger than the improvement in performance I would see over current approach of choosing dividend funds.
Others just turn out to be silly and wrong. A great example is that I always assumed that adding collision coverage to my insurance would be expensive. Now that we are down to one car, my wife started getting worried about loosing it to an accident. It turns out that adding comprehensive and collision coverage to the one car was cheaper than the liability coverage on a second car.
It reminds me of the long-standing mnemonic device for remembering the spelling of assume: When you assume, you make an “ass” out of “u” and “me.”
Right now, I’m testing the assumption that using that phrase will help me get enough of the 120,000 global monthly searches for it to compensate for violating my no swearing rule.
What assumptions have you made that you later discovered were false?
- Common Barriers to Bike Commuting (theurbn.com)
- Study Reveals Women More Prone To Road Rage Than Men (baltimore.cbslocal.com)