musings

Reveal your True Value

Feeling Under-appreciated?

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Modern society undeniably fosters the germination of a few bad seeds, and more than a few seeds that never blossom at all.   On the bright side, most of us don’t fall into either of these categories, and actually have quite a bit to offer the world.   We’re kind, giving, talented (insert any other desirable adjective here).  Yet, for many of us, there is a perceived shortage on the demand for our presence, companionship, or skill sets, whether in a professional setting or a purely social one.  We become discouraged when we see individuals far less talented than us get the jobs we want, date the people we want, and get invited to the events we ourselves would be grateful to attend.  It’s hurtful to be perpetually underpaid, or all dressed up on a Friday night with nowhere to go, knowing all the while that we add value to any situation we have the opportunity to take part in.

If any of these scenarios serve to describe your own life, it’s likely that you are unaware of the concept of lifestyle marketing, and how society deliberately, and successfully, reprograms our minds to make all of our selections, either socially or professionally, in accordance with this concept.  Becoming more intimately acquainted with how this form of marketing operates causes a fundamental shift in our decision-making processes.  With this knowledge, you will be enabled to manipulate the odds in your favor, and in doing so, make it utterly impossible for society at large to overlook you as the precious commodity that you know yourself to be.

Lifestyle Marketing

img_0895Lifestyle marketing is the primary factor guiding a modern-day consumer’s purchasing habits.  When someone goes out and spends $1000 dollars on a handbag, or a smartphone, the intrinsic value of the product itself is insufficient to justify making a financial investment of this size.  So what’s the true reason manufacturers can demand such a premium for these items? 

Elaborate advertising campaigns have programmed us to believe that each product also comes with the promise of a luxurious lifestyle, or at the least the ability to portray ourselves as an individual living a life of luxury; in our minds, this becomes an inseparable component of the physical product.  To put it in a straightforward way, an iPhone has a cool-factor, and most humans are willing to pay more for a product boasting this factor, than they would for the product in isolation.  

Don’t get me wrong– there are plenty of great products sold in conjunction with provocative imagery,  and it’s this synergy between the two that leads us to perceive these products as commodities. If we wish to make ourselves as desirable as some of the hottest products around, we must recognize that the all-pervading presence of lifestyle marketing forces us to do more than simply develop ourselves into a desirable product.  On a planet with 7 billion people, it takes something extra to stand out, even in the places that we frequent, and we must learn to market ourselves effectively to accomplish this. 

(Any sales pitch you have ever been unfortunate enough to endure was backed by extensive scientific research.  This article isn’t meant to give you a lesson in sales techniques [of which there are a staggering number], but if you wish to expand upon the few examples provided here, you can be confident that researching virtually any popular marketing techniques will provide strategies that can be readily adapted to benefit you directly.  My intention here is to provide only a small taste of how you can begin to sell yourself more effectively. I will start with an example in a professional context, as it provides a nice introduction on how to approach the science of lifestyle marketing. I will then move on to a few examples aimed at demonstrating techniques much more broadly within the arena of human socialization.)

Supply and Demanding the Best for Yourself

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Pretend that all of us share the same disdain for job interviews that I do, dreading both the anxiety of the interview itself, as well as the feeling of rejection that comes along with being passed over for the position. An error this anxiety has led me to commit in the past, and that interviewees commit frequently, is appearing too desperate to get the job, and answering the questions in a way that makes it clear they are saying whatever is necessary to gain employment in the relevant position.  If we are to portray ourselves as a commodity, we must generate the appearance that we are trying to determine whether this job, and this company, prove the ideal fit for us, every bit as much as the interviewer is attempting to ascertain whether we are the best fit for the position.  

Internally, we acknowledge we would likely settle for a position far less than ideal for the privilege of a weekly paycheck. Simultaneously, we comprehend that the ability to project an image of ourselves as an individual who could easily obtain employment at a variety of businesses is the strongest weapon we have to convince the interviewer we are a worthwhile prospect to invest his or her time in.  The Apple corporation is eager for your business, but they don’t need it; if you walk by the display without grabbing a copy of their newest development to take with you, they can be confident the person walking in just after you will.  Subconsciously, the knowledge that everyone else wants this product, that an extraordinary demand is placed upon it by society as a whole, contributes significantly to your desire to possess one as well.  

Dress nicely, be courteous, and express gratitude that the interviewer has taken the time to meet with you, but dedicate most of your efforts to making it clear that you are not simply there to obtain employment, but to learn whether this specific employment opportunity is the best of many at your disposal.  This is not accomplished by being cocky, or acting uninterested, but by asking thought-provoking questions of your own, pertaining to the particulars of the position, that demonstrate you are not the only individual in the room that possesses the luxury of demanding the best for yourself.  

Limiting Production

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The image brought to mind when we visualize a modern factory is likely one of an entire building set to overdrive, cranking out the maximum volume of a given product the machinery can handle without bursting into flames.  In reality, companies often limit production as a means to limit access to the product.  The belief that we are privileged to possess a product that is inaccessible to the masses elevates its appeal to us, and this illusion of exclusivity is an indispensable component of lifestyle marketing.  Similarly, when we wish to forge new social alliances, we must manipulate our availability to highlight the fact that our services are in constant demand.  

This cannot be accomplished by repeatedly cancelling plans, or declining invitations, because there are many other wonderful products coming to market every day, and they are waiting eagerly on the shelves to be selected as our replacement.  We must learn to maintain some availability, while prioritizing the existing obligations in our life first.  Rearranging an entire business model to accommodate a single new customer cultivates the impression that sales are dwindling, when the public belief that business is thriving at all times is paramount to actualizing this reality.  People will agree to being put on a waitlist, if they are convinced the product is worth exercising patience in order to attain it.  In return, they must be placed at the top of the waitlist, as a means to prove to them that their business is every bit as important to you as gaining access to your product is to them.  

Packing is the Product

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No product of significant value will be set out where the public can break it, smudge it with fingerprints, or slip into their pocket to take home free of charge.  To safeguard against these contingencies, most commodities are completely enclosed within packaging, often excessively so, long before you are granted access to them. Our first true interaction is not with the product at all, but with the packaging itself.  Likewise, when we meet new people, they lack the background information to help them judge whether we are a worthwhile investment, and must make their initial decisions based solely on the packaging.  (In this case, the concept of ‘packaging’ serves to describe our outward behavior- the ways that we carry ourselves readily observable through social observation. However, it should also be noted that physical appearance significantly affects individuals’ initial determinations of each other, and it’s always a good idea to put time into looking presentable.)

A common mistake individuals make in self-marketing is attempting to garner attention by displaying themselves in the brightest, boldest packaging imaginable; in the  dating world, this is often referred to as peacocking.  Successful products sell themselves, so the packaging should only enhance the overall purchasing experience. When consumers see a marketing campaign that is clearly a desperate plea for attention, they assume the product doesn’t possess enough intrinsic value to warrant being plucked off the shelves by its own merit.  

Efficient packing should be thoughtful and provocative, but the true genius of the presentation lies in the diligent consideration afforded to the smallest details.  Slight behavioral shifts can manifest vast results, especially in a world where most individuals don’t make the time to be courteous to strangers.  Maintaining eye contact slightly longer, smiling a little wider, and asking, “How are you?”, not out of habit, but out of sincere interest, are just a few subtle social cues that humans are programmed to recognize.  Consciously, the potential consumers we engage won’t be cognizant of the effort placed into each detail, but they will notice that on a shelf filled with similarly packaged products, yours is the only one their attention repeatedly returns to.  

Find your Niche

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Even the most successful business ventures acknowledge that their products won’t appeal to everyone.  You won’t find a steakhouse catering to vegans anytime soon, nor vegan products advertised in the latest issue of ‘Guns and Ammunition.’  It is essential to the successful outcome of your marketing campaign that you find your target audience, and then develop strategies that pertain specifically to them.  Discovering your appropriate audience depends upon self-reflection and an honest evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses.  We must remain focused on selling the product we are, and not the one we sometimes desire to be. 

A somewhat quiet, reserved person, such as myself, will not find it in their best interests to pander to a boisterous, aggressive crowd.  The beauty of competing in a saturated marketplace is that it relies on a highly diversified customer base to support it.  For every product susceptible to frequent bouts of shyness, there is a consumer with similar attributes looking to spend money on something that was manufactured with them in mind; closing the sale hinges upon finding a way to break through and appeal to this customer directly. 

For personality types falling at different points on the spectrum, the strategy must be adjusted accordingly.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with harboring an obsessive pre-occupation for fast cars and all things that explode.  Simply recognize these as your preferences, and accept that the cute boy or girl you always cross paths with, endlessly engaged in discussions of Nietzsche or writing sad poetry, might not be the ideal candidate for your sales pitch.  And you know what? That‘s perfectly alright.  Every lucrative business relies on a loyal customer base that returns to their products repeatedly, and concerns itself very little over consumers in the marketplace searching for something drastically different than they have to offer.

Profit and Potential

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Everyone (well, almost everyone) works hard for their money, and no one is going to fork out more at the register than the number you stick on the price tag.  Thanks to lifestyle marketing, perhaps somewhat counterintuitively, the higher the price is, the more favorably a consumer may perceive a product’s intrinsic value.  It is in your best interests to demand a high price for your time, company, and access to your skills, but it equally essential that you have the confidence, as well as the ability, to provide a service that justifies insisting upon such a premium.  If others conduct a cost-benefit analysis on you, and find the cost beginning to exceed the benefit, they will dismiss you as someone with an over-inflated ego, lacking the features to back-up their claims.  Lifestyle marketing is not about crafting an ideal image of yourself in lieu of being an excellent human being; it is about recognizing your own worth, socially and professionally, and then taking advantage of the supreme effectiveness of this marketing strategy to make it obvious to others how much of a commodity you truly are.  

musings

Sir Isaac Newton’s Motivation 101

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Inertia Helps us Reach our Goals

Some of the stories we hear about historical figures are a bit, exaggerated.  It is doubtful that Sir Isaac Newton, one of the brightest minds ever known to the world, was inspired to develop the theory of gravity when getting bashed on the head by a falling apple.  Regardless of the particulars, the rest of us are quite fortunate that he was introduced to some stimulus that catalyzed into the  ‘three laws of motion,’ , albeit in a less whimsical fashion.  The first of these, the law of inertia, states that “an object at rest tends to stay at rest, and an object in motion tends to stay in motion (at the same speed and direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.)”   This article will find it sufficient to ignore the portion in parentheses.

You don’t have to be a scientist to profit from this knowledge; this law’s application extends far beyond the realm of physics.  Our mental and emotional states are subject to the same rules as the physical world, yet we often fail to realize this because our thoughts and feelings are intangible.  If every other object in the world is subject to a particular phenomenon, our thoughts probably are also. Better understanding how these forces operate in relation to our minds leaves us more prepared to approach our goals in an optimal way.

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Just Start Pedaling

I’m sure we’ve all seen that Nike commercial where a variety of professional athletes perform some incredible endeavor, followed by the screen dramatically fading to black as bold letters materialize to give the command “Just Do It”.  While most of us aren’t likely to “Just” dunk a basketball anytime soon, there is actually some sound advice promoting the realization of our own goals buried within this marketing ploy.  Most of the time, when the inkling to start a new endeavor invades our minds, we initially feel lost, like a child in the supermarket who’s misplaced his mother.  We don’t know what to do, we don’t know how to do it, and we don’t know what to expect even if we do get to the place we don’t know how to find. 

All of these things serve to prevent us from getting our most ambitious plans off the ground, the simple remedy to this dilemma being routinely overlooked. The most effective course of action is to start trying anything, even if it’s the wrong thing, without thinking so much.  In time, this first step will allow us to clarify a more specific direction to head in.  The law of inertia easily proves this to anybody who’s ever ridden a bike; it’s much easier to build some momentum and then turn in the direction of the destination, than to get the bike to turn whilst remaining in a stationary position.  Concern yourself with beginning to pedal, and initiate the motion making it possible to steer to the next course of action, prior to worrying about navigation .

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Browse the Menu First

Most of life’s tasks are pretty straightforward, so we don’t give much thought to planning them out before engaging in them.  Going to the grocery store, we don’t plan every single step from our car to where they keep the carts just beyond the entrance.  Even if we did, the parking spot we initially planned on utilizing might be taken, and our path might have to be adjusted to accommodate this fact. Otherwise, some pesky shoppers engaged in conversation, directly in front of the door, no less, might require circumnavigation. Trusting ourselves to be able to make these small adjustments on the fly,  limited effort is wasted on preparing for each contingency, thus allowing us to be at full speed by the time any decisions need to be made. 

Yet some events in our mind, usually the ones we consider to hold great influence over the course of our future, coax us into the trap of preparing for every conceivable outcome in an effort to avoid the apprehension of uncertainty.  Thinking this will alleviate our anxiety, it actually makes it worse; this behavior is tantamount to planning what you’re going to order at a new restaurant without knowing the type of cuisine they serve.  Once you’ve entered the situation with momentum, and you’re seated at the table, flipping through the menu, it’s quite easy to choose a desirable entree.  But until personal experience has given you access to the requisite information, trying to prepare for an infinite set of potential outcomes creates for more stress than it serves to alleviate, leaving you to fight an uphill battle, in lieu of using Inertia to your advantage.

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Unlocking Your Potential

In the majority of motivational speeches successful individuals deliver, they state that you must fail many times before you can succeed even once. Personally, I don’t believe this to be the case.  For something to be described as a failure, you must have made such a catastrophic mistake that all the work you’ve done to that point proves pointless, starting from scratch remaining the only way forward.  This is exactly the type of occurrence that destroys our momentum, an unbalanced force pushing back against the inertia that has been aiding our progress. Realistically, many attempts labeled as failures are the very endeavors we set out to accomplish in disguise.  

Conceptualize achieving success as opening a big padlock with a comically large set of keys in every conceivable shape, size, and metallic hue.  Having no idea which key opens the lock, there is no reasonable way of ascertaining the appropriate key short of engaging in a simple process of trial-and-error.  Trying one to find it doesn’t work, are you going to engage in self-deprecation, immediately labeling yourself a failure? (I certainly hope not.) Making a mental note of each key that doesn’t work, each new attempt may be considered a necessary step that brings you mathematically closer to your desired outcome.  

Adopting such a healthy, pragmatic attitude towards unlocking our life goals proves challenging because we consider ourselves to be fairly intelligent, and despise setbacks that challenge this opinion.  We certainly are intelligent, but most of us share a fundamental misunderstanding of exactly what this means.  Intelligence is measured as the ability to evolve our current abilities to learn a new task, to collect knowledge and then apply that knowledge in a concerted effort to improve at a given endeavor.  Intelligence cannot be measured in terms of how ‘naturally’ adept we feel during our first engagement with a new pursuit.  Humans are born into the world naked, knowing nothing but how to cry, and having any intimate understanding of what it takes to achieve a particular goal is impossible before going and participating in it directly.  General life experience does not automatically prepare us to succeed at specific tasks, so we must gather up the strength to gain some initial speed, and learn to view each incorrect approach as a force that helps us adjust to travel more precisely in the direction of our goals.  

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Fall on Success

This article is only an entry level course, but I hope it assisted in helping you feel at least slightly more comfortable in calling yourself an amateur physicist- at least in terms of your own mind. Objects in the material world have little influence over the laws of motion exerting forces upon them, but you have significant control over the forces that promote achievement within yourself.  Start as soon as you have the impulse, don’t over-plan, and realize that building momentum, even in the opposite direction of your goals, makes finding the correct path much easier than hesitation.  Taking these few simple steps will ensure, in due time, that you’ll be descending upon success at an even faster rate than the apple that most certainly did not fall on Sir Isaac Newton’s head.