Thursday, November 20, 2014

Rocking Your World.....NOT!

Externalizing is a powerful marketing tool.   If you've ever watched an infomerical, and really paid attention, you'll understand what I mean.

The major premise of these informercials is that if you buy product X, your whole life will change.   You will look at your life as two parts - the dark, dreary, grey period, before you bought the "Abdominaizer," and the sunny, bright future you now have, having had bought it.

Or it could be a juicing machine, or one of those rotisserie ovens, or whatever.  Your life will be so much easier now that you can seal-a-meal and what's more, you'll save so much money that you'll become a millionaire.

Now, this isn't what they explicitly state in the video, but what is implied.  Everything from the tone of voice of the announcer, to the tone of the music, to the lighting and shading of the images (particularly "before" and "after" images) is setup to show the world in two radically different views.   The lady stupidly using a real knife to cut a tomato is shown struggling and trembling, in a nearly black-and-white photo.   The lady with the Ginzu knife is confidently cutting through a penny, in an image that has the colors saturated to comic-book levels.

And the same is true for any purchase.  Imagine how great your life will be with that new Camaro!  Or the Jet Ski!  Wow Jet Ski Guy!  You're Amazing!   The ladies will be all over you, right?  Maybe not.  Maybe you'll be the same old schmuck you were before, but with a Jet Ski (and more debt, which the ladies really find sexy).

This is how they try to persuade us.   But it doesn't begin and end with our friends at Ronco.  Many people fall into this trap, and I have written about it before.   Politics, for example, uses the same imagery and techniques to sell you the idea that 'if only' you elect candidate X, the world would  become a heaven-on-earth and none of us would have work anymore or pay taxes or whatever.

And people believe this.   They believe that the world would change if we elected Barack Obama.   That it would change again, if we elected Mitt Romney.   We are told, time and time again, that "if only" one political party could assume all power, that our country's "problems" would all be solved, magically, overnight.

Because, you know, all of our country's problems are caused by the government, right?   That is the premise.  You and I had nothing to do with it.  External forces and forces of nature are not accountable.  If only we could elect Party X, we could pass a law rounding off Pi to 3.

The reality is, of course, that while politicians can really screw things up, more often it is our own malfeasance that causes real problems.   What caused the recession of 2009?  If you are a Democrat, you'd say it was George Bush.  If you are a Republican, you'd try to argue it was Bill Clinton (out of office for 8 years) and the "Community Reinvestment Act".  Both are pretty tortured arguments.

And of course, both would be wrong.   It was 330 million people deciding that their homes were gold mines - and mining them accordingly with refinance loans and a buy-and-flip mentality.

Actually, gold mines is an apt analogy, as people tend to go beserk over gold every so often, and light out for places unknown (Sutter's Mill, the Yukon) and go hunting for gold.   The only ones who make money are the fellows selling them blue jeans and shovels (Mr. Levi Strauss, of course, which feeds that whole Jewish conspiracy thing, right?).

In my previous posting, I also alluded to this with regard to trollies, Zeppelins, and trains (and monorails or whatever).   "If only..." people say, "we could bring back those high-wheel bicycles, then the world would be a paradise on earth!"   But of course, this isn't true.   Our problems with urban blight, pollution, energy usage, and the like, are not going to be solved by replacing a few buses with a horrifically expensive "light rail" line.   It just will spend your money and profit the company selling the equipment - and saddle local government with an expense that will have to be paid into perpetuity.   Watch the Simpsons "Monorail" episode, it pretty much tells the story.

These are all forms of externalizing, and they are not helpful to you personally.  Pining for the days of the Zeppelins isn't going to help your personal life.   "Fighting for a Living Wage!" isn't going to get you one, so much as going to Medical School will.    Protesting banks isn't going to pay off your student loans - a better bet is to not take them out in the first place, or to study something of merit.

It is easy - it is weak thinking to believe (and it is belief, which is dangerous) that "if only" they would pass a staggering bond issue and put in a trolly line, the crack addicts and homeless would go away.   "If Only" they would legalize marijuana, life would be perfect! (from what I can tell, living in places like Aurora Colorado still pretty much sucks, even if pot is legal).

And it doesn't matter what the "if only they would..." thing is.   These things are usually traps for weak thinkers, who concentrate more on external problems in their lives than the internal ones.

You do have choices.   And those choices make all the difference in the world.  Or at the very least they make more of a difference than these externalized deals do.

For example, if you read my last three postings, you realize I am pissed off at Fidelity.  I got mad and vented some steam.   But then I realized that no matter how pissed off I am, they are not going to change their behavior.   My only choice is to do business with them or not do business with them.  And that is where my energies should be directed - to researching, really for the first time in my life, how these investment firms really work.   It is a fascinating subject!

But you'd be surprised how many people fail to see that.   They try to salvage bad deals from bad vendors, rather than give up and move on to someone who is honest and decent.   You have to know when to walk away and not look back.

By concentrating on the choices you do have and the actions you can take you can accomplish so much more than if you waste emotional energy trying to "fight the system" or get things to change, when in reality, you really can't change them.

Sure, you should vote.  You should contribute to a political campaign you believe in - in an amount you can easily afford.  Those things do make a difference.   Worrying about who will get elected, however, and blathering on about it, really doesn't accomplish so much.

Take action in life - pull the levers in your own life, and worry less about "larger issues at stake".

Advice I need to keep reminding myself of.  Which is why I started this blog.