“Getting the money is the easy bit; it’s when you try to spend it that the world wakes up.”
The Lavender Hill Mob
<4 guys steal gold bullion to turn it into Eiffel Tower paperweights>
I believe we talk about “stuff versus experiences”, i.e. “people buy experiences, not stuff”, all wrong. In fact. How we talk about how much people like, and value, money versus ‘other stuff important in Life’ can often become so absurdly theoretical it can become, well, pretty absurdly unreal. The absurdity usually begins with how we discuss money & people.
“show me the money”
Sure, if you can offer them the stuff they need or want in lieu of cold hard cash, well, of course they would sacrifice the money because for god’s sake you are giving me what I would have used the money for (that’s a transaction).
Anyway. I say all that to get the practical aspect out of the way (which “people buy experiences” experts seem to forget).
Money, or how we spend money, is changing. More & more we buy less stuff just for the sake of having stuff. Instead we tend seek to spend our hard earned money on ‘experience’ <or let’s say … the value we associate with the money we spend is evaluated more on experience gained than on the tangible aspect>.
This has some odd implications. Like it or not we have always actualized a significant part of our identities with the stuff we buy. A portion of that identity is associated with how we feel about the price we pay <we feel better if we have arrived at a good price in pursuing our own personal interests> and a portion of it is simply the brand & appearance we symbolize.
Uh. That is also called ‘self-interest.’
Point to ponder:
If self-interest drives our purchase pursuit and increasingly we feel a growing certainty that we will never be happy through the purchase of stuff that kind of suggests that the overall act of consumption is self-defeating <therefore not really in our self-interest>.
Retail certainly understands this, as well as shifting interest in experiences, & many have responded by, uhm, discounting.
They know, as well as we do, that we have become more and more dissatisfied with the “money we lay out-to-value received” equation <hence our interest in experiences> therefore they use promotions and discounts in store to try and make you feel like you ‘got the edge’ on the price and feel better about the takeaway value <in other words, retailers are banking on their sales and sales marketing to bring the inner spontaneous shopper out of you as a consumer >.
It kind of works and it kind of doesn’t.
It works in that it does drive more purchasing, but it kind of doesn’t work because the farther we get from the actual store & purchase the less better we feel about the price we paid and the value received <this is where I believe most ‘experience experts’ miss the larger value argument>. Let’s call that “the takeaway value.”
Why? It is the value equation created in our heads.
Stuff is … well … stuff. It’s value may be amortized over time, but that is a value equation based solely on ‘usefulness’ which, by the way, certainly has value it just lacks ‘added value over time.’
Experiences, on the other hand, are something we enjoy in the moment and in the future <let’s say ‘infinity’>. That’s ‘takeaway value.’
When purchasing shit or doing something a positive experience creates at least a chance we find some value for money as its spent>. Thne there is that infinity thing — the lifetime value of an experience <which is significantly higher than stuff>.
Next. I could suggest <argue> that it has become relatively mainstream accepted wisdom that a life well lived accrues experiences <some may call it ‘memories’> rather than stuff.
Now. That doesn’t mean we will not buy ‘stuff’ to make personal statements <because we will>, but we actually prefer to buy ‘experiences’ to create happiness <a sense of a Life better spent>.
Therefore maybe the culprit in all of our happiness-seeking is how we think about things and how we think about self-interest. Traditionally the standard operating procedure in Life is to constantly think of ‘adding shit’ as the path to happiness … or is it about subtracting things?
Look. We can all get sucked into the materialistic <stuff> world because the people who sell stuff, even experiences by the way, are incredibly good at figuring out ways to monetize it.
“We too often let the material things serve as indicators that we’re doing well, even though something inside us tells us that were not doing our best. That we are avoiding that which is hard, but also necessary. That we are shrinking from rather than rising to the challenges of the age.”
The problem is that in our heads, whether we admit it or not, stuff really doesn’t define whether we are doing well or not. Each generation is moving more & more away from ‘keeping up with the Joneses” as a concept for validating success. And even experiences don’t really define success, but at least experiences reflect ‘expanding the mind and everyday Life boundaries’ <whereas stuff sits in the current boundaries resting>.
I will devolve to a trite question to make an obvious point. If you walk around your house or your office and look at your stuff, then look at your photo gallery or have dinner with family of friends, well, it is kind of obvious which is more fulfilling and which has higher ‘lifetime value’. I don’t know where I read this: you can love your stuff but your stuff will never love you back.
Personally, I think while what I have written about experience versus stuff sounds very individualistic and self-actualization driven I would suggest it is an overall societal ‘push back’ to what feels like ‘too much emphasis on materialism.’ Materialism is actually an easier path for us. it is a nice simple tangible way for everyone to evaluate each other – it almost hearkens back to Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts … I can judge you based off the badges you have.
But I think in our heart of hearts we balk at this simplistic approach to life. That certainly doesn’t mean we aren’t easily sucked into it, just that a little part of us chafes over it.
“How are you going to meet life when you have passed through here and are so-called educated?
Do you want to be swallowed up by the society, the culture in which you live, or are you going to oppose it, revolt against it, which will be a reaction and not a total action? Are you going to step into the easy way of life, conform, imitate, adjust to the pattern, whatever that pattern be, whether it be the establishment, or an establishment of a different kind, and so on?
Or are you going to be a totally different human being, who is aware and knows he has to meet adversity and opposition and that, therefore, there is no easy way to satisfaction?
Because most of us want a life of ease, of comfort, without trouble, which is almost impossible. And if you do meet opposition, will you run away from it?”
I would argue this whole ‘experience instead of stuff’ idea is almost like a version of revolution. We are revolting against the status quo validation/actualization measurements, yet, we are not strong enough to completely seek inner validation as the sole measurement. Ok. Strong enough was a little harsh.
Let’s just say it is a natural instinct and a healthy instinct to seek validation and if we are to choose some sort of validation I imagine we feel better, and it chafes less, if we seek it thru an experience rather than ‘stuff.’ We will always buy ‘stuff’ its just now we seek some experience as part of the value equation.