One day I was at Burger King with some friends.  One of them brought his 14 year old son. We were sitting there over lunch, minding our own business, eating our hamburgers when a Lay’s potato chip truck drives by.  The 14 year old looks up, and says “Hey guys, let’s knock over that Lay’s potato chip truck.  I get all the barbeque potato chips.”  I looked at him and I said “Ben, if I’m going to do hard time in prison, it’s not going to be for the leftover Sour Cream and Onion.”

I can imagine it now, standing in the chow line with other convicted felons, when one looks over at me and asks, “What are you in for?

Here’s the thing that I think about that story, and I think about all time: he was willing to do a crime to get potato chips, which has a very low reward. The potential cost for this exceedingly low reward was very, very high.

So whenever you are tempted to do the wrong thing, I always ask myself, “Do I want to do hard time, in the big house, for the leftover sour cream and onion?” And when people come to me and they are about to make a bad decision, I tell them this story.

And I say “Before you can be tempted into doing something wrong, you need to ask yourself is the potential benefit big enough to outweigh potential cost?”


© Roger Hall, PhD, Compass Consultation, Ltd.,
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