Why do I have these Old Math Textbooks?

by Jeremy Powers on July 29, 2010

Do you have shelves of reference books in your office?  Do you have the ongoing problem of running out of usable shelf space, or even worse, running out of space for new shelves?  My office is filled with books on a variety of business topics:  leadership, communication, sales, writing, branding, e-business, networking, coding, negotiating, finance, metrics, color theory, and more specific topics.  I reference many of these books frequently.

However, the bottom shelf of my largest bookcase is filled with old arithmetic textbooks.  These textbooks cover a wide range of math topics and levels such as algebra, finance, calculus, and statistics.  One day I was given a tip sheet of the most commonly used formulas and plug-ins for Microsoft Excel, and I essentially stopped referring to my old textbooks.  With the improvements of online help and search functions for various software, I no longer look at the tip sheet either.  In fact, with the explosion of online calculators, I often don’t even bother to figure out what formula I even need to use.  So why do I keep these old textbooks?

You are probably thinking I have some sentimental attachment to the books.  You think I have some “remember that time in Mr. Smith’s class when . . .” type of need to keep the books.  Nope, sorry, that is not the case.

Maybe, you think, Powers uses them for instructive purposes.  He uses them to teach others the fundamentals of math so they can understand their businesses better.  Again, you are mistaken.  My clients have little interest in learning the minutia of calculating marketing or finance metrics.

OK, you say, Powers is just using them as a prop.  When people visit his office, they see these worn books and he hopes it impresses them.  He is showcasing knowledge, like a large agency showcases the logos of their large clients.  You, dear reader, are not only incorrect, but I think you might be projecting some of your insecurities . . .

The truth is I am foolishly stubborn.  I bought most of these textbooks while in school.  I paid handsome amounts of money for them, and today, they are nearly worthless.  I could maybe get $10 for some of them.  Despite their complete lack of value to me, I cannot let go of the sunk cost I have invested in them.  I cannot cut my losses.  In fact, the carrying cost of them is now forcing me to purchase another bookshelf.  The teacher has not applied the lesson.

Maybe I could repurpose the books as door-stops.

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