A Burst Pipe and My Big Fat Maine Decision

small bird perched on frozen branch with icicles

Earlier this week, temperatures here in Maine dropped into the negatives, with air temps landing around -20 with wind-chill dropping to -30 and beyond. My home is almost 200 years old, and while in remarkable condition, frigid temperatures require specific attention.

Books, blogs, and YouTube were each tapped, and as the thermometer dropped, my checklist activated, and every precaution was made to safeguard the house, shed, and barn with their various systems. High on the list was preventing water pipes from freezing, bursting, and causing all manner of problems.

Thursday night came and went with no issue. Friday started with one valve in the master bath not working, but by noon water flowed again and, like every faucet in the house, was set to drip the slightest stream. The sun rose Saturday morning to our coldest temperatures, and the kitchen faucet stopped utterly. As the pipes to the kitchen run from the basement up an exterior wall, this wasn’t a total shock. I brought buckets of water from the powder bath, and life went on.

The weather forecast called for temperatures to return to normal by noon Sunday. The worst was almost behind us.

Early Sunday morning I checked every faucet to make sure each was set to a tiny trickle. With this confirmed, I drove into town for an 8 am service. Church committee tasks after the service, errands in town, with a brief stop at the grocery store on the way home put me back at home around 11.

Coming into the kitchen through the shed and mudroom, I heard the problem before I laid eyes on it.

The sound of splashing water hitting 200-year-old wide plank pine floors greeted me. The chandelier in the dining room was a dazzling Vegas-styled water feature. Water poured through the ceiling medallion, cascaded down its arms, and finally splashed over the hanging crystals before dropping 10 feet to the wood floor below.

The wallpaper was already pealing off the dining room walls—Ditto in the library and back stairs. Water cascaded down the basement steps like in a garden water feature. My shoes splashed in the standing water on the basement floor, and waterfalls dotted the basement’s north side, adding to the audio and visual experience.

Standing in the basement with water splashing everywhere, I felt panic inch it’s way up my spine. I was conscious of a decision requiring my attention. It was even more important than the calls I was planning to my insurance agent and contractor.

The decision demanding resolution was whether or not I would find the gift and opportunity in this situation.

Would I allow my inner judge to hijack my mind and spin me off into fear, frustration, anger, blame, panic, and a long list of negative emotions already queuing up, or would I choose something different?

I’ll continue that part of the story a little later, but I’ve been eager to share with you a book I’ve been devouring…with some of its highlights (all applicable to the choice ahead).

Thinking, Fast and Slow

“Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman explores how humans make decisions and perceive information. Timely, right?

Here are some highlights:

The Two Systems of Thought

Kahneman introduces the idea of two systems of thought: System 1 and System 2. 

System 1 is intuitive, automatic, and effortless, while System 2 is deliberate, controlled, and effortful. He argues that these two systems are in constant interaction, with System 1 working quickly to provide initial reactions and judgments and System 2 serving as a check on these reactions to ensure that they are accurate and rational. Flash to me standing in rising water in my basement.

Availability Bias

Inaccuracies and distortions prevail, as people may be influenced by examples or anecdotes that are most memorable rather than representative of the broader data set. One of the most well-known biases identified by Kahneman is the availability bias, which refers to the tendency of people to rely on readily available information. The availability bias is an example of how System 1 thinking can lead people astray, as the quick and intuitive judgments of System 1 are often influenced by what is most readily available.

Confirmation Bias

Another key idea is confirmation bias, which refers to the tendency of people to seek out and give more weight to information that confirms their existing beliefs and opinions. This can make people more entrenched in their views, even with evidence that contradicts those opinions. Confirmation bias is often the result of System 1 thinking, as the intuitive and automatic nature of System 1 makes it more susceptible to the influence of prior beliefs.

The Hindsight Bias

The hindsight bias is another of his well-known concepts. This bias refers to the tendency of people to believe that events that have already happened were more predictable than they were. This can lead people to overestimate the accuracy of their predictions and can have implications for decision-making and risk assessment. The hindsight bias is an example of how System 1 thinking can create a sense of false confidence, as the intuitive and automatic nature of System 1 can lead people to believe that they have more information and understanding about a situation than they did.

The Anchoring Effect

The anchoring effect is a phenomenon in which an initial value or reference point influences people’s estimates and decisions. This effect can be seen in various settings, including pricing, negotiations, and risk assessments. Kahneman argues that the anchoring effect is another example of how System 1 thinking can be biased and lead people astray, as the initial reference point can profoundly impact subsequent judgments and decisions. This gets deep into pricing and sales techniques for business owners and is worth the effort to understand and apply.


Finally, he argues that people are often overconfident in their judgments and decisions. Overconfidence is often the result of a combination of the abovementioned biases, including the availability bias, the confirmation bias, the hindsight bias, and the anchoring effect. This can lead people to make mistakes and take unnecessary risks, as they overestimate their ability to predict the future or make accurate risk assessments.

If you’re a business owner or manager and haven’t read “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman, add it to your reading list. You won’t be disappointed.

With all this great information on decision-making in mind, my developing meditation practice, and my recent study of Positive Intelligence and Mental Fitness, if ever I was primed to make a decision, it was now.

The short version, I’m pleased to report, is that I made a good (if shaky) decision to weigh heavily on the Sage side of my brain. As I cleaned up the house and made calls to the insurance company, contractor, and close friends, I clung to the idea that in this experience was the possibility of a gift and opportunity.

My job, which I just accepted, is to find out what shape that gift and opportunity will take.

I don’t have the answer tonight, but I’ll keep you posted as they take shape.

If a coaching conversation might support you in decisions you are facing, use this link and let’s speak.

Complimentary Coaching Conversation

After a public shaming over a business mistake, I lost everything. Over the next four years, I fought my way back to hope, joy, and a vision for the future. Today, my mission is to help others who, just like me, had been knocked to the ground by personal or professional failure.

Each month, I create a handful of opportunities to show up for hurting individuals who are serious about radically changing their life. I provide judgment-free conversation that helps you stop feeling like a failure.

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