Monday, August 18, 2014

Can I Live Without This?

But Wait! Order Today and . . .

This is a simple question I ask myself every time I go into Costco, Walmart, Kohl's and other stores I patronize. I ask the same question as I read all the product "newsletters" I receive from Rakuten (, New Egg, Sweetwater, B&H Photo, BSW (Broadcast Supply Warehouse), Kohl's, Ben's Bargains, etc. that I receive on line. The same question applies as I glance through numerous magazines and other periodicals from my various areas of interest. And, of course, there is the incessant pounding from the TV home shopping networks and the commercials and infomercials on most TV channels and even Sirius satellite radio channels.

"But, wait! Order today and we'll double your order and send you two chartreuse, endlessly expandable, unbreakable, lifetime warranty muffler bearings for your Formula Go Cart Racer just pay separate shipping and handling of $495.00 each.

Blah! Blah! Blah! It never stops. It's called sales. It's the action part of marketing. Yes! They are actually separate functions. You are being sold something constantly - even those, ever more, frequent pleading and begging pledge drives for public television and public radio is simply another form of selling.

One has to wonder how the entire world, at least in the U.S. and some of the other developed First World countries aren't all blithering idiots. Then again . . . maybe they are. If they weren't our houses, apartments, businesses, caves, whatever, wouldn't be full of so much stuff we need to keep looking for larger places to live. Well, more accurately we should say more accurate places to "warehouse."

The Jolly German Elf

Over this past weekend I watched (walking through the living room of my friend's home) a jolly, stout, German man, with a cute German accent, sell upwards of $5,000,000 + of his namesake, Wolfgang Puck, stainless steel cookware and pressure cookers in two days by incessantly jabbering, along with the host of the various time slots, about his cookware while performing a sort of cooking vaudeville act. Please understand, I didn't watch him all day. I would have ended up sitting in a corner with my eyes rolling in my sockets, twiddling my thumbs and drooling all over myself. I only caught him in small increments as I passed by the TV. And, (thank God) he wasn't actually on continuously, just for an hour or two at a time, multiple times throughout the two days.

There was a counter at the bottom of the screen keeping a tally of the number of these items sold and it just kept going up and up. The supposed retail price of this set of cookware is $412.00, but it sold on Saturday for $199.99 and on Sunday for $249.99. The pressure cooker was $99.99 but was probably close to a $200.00 retail price. Now, it's not that this cookware isn't good. I know first hand that it is. My friend bought a set of it several months ago and I've used it.

The point is more than 15,000 people bought this through the incessant pounding away at their "reptilian" brains. But, you say, 15,000 is only a tiny number with respect to the fact that perhaps, millions of viewers will be tuned in at any given time during the day. My question is simply this, were these 15,000+ people not cooking before they saw this cookware on TV? Again, I know for a fact that my friend has at least (that I've seen) three sets of cookware - two before she bought Wolfgang's. 

Can I Live Without This?

That is a question I started asking myself about ten years ago. You see, I have been involved in both the marketing process and the sales process most of my life, even when I was a newspaper boy at age 12. While I'm far from the greatest marketing guru or salesman, I have read and studied the fields, attended seminars and workshops and have learned from the best.

But, let me tell you that I am no better than anyone else. I have bought so much stuff during my lifetime that I could have lived without very well, thank you very much. But, I, like the people who watch the home shopping networks or fill up their shopping carts with thing that aren't on their shopping list of needs, have been there. I've succumbed to the sales pitch - whether live, print, TV, radio, whatever.

I was living in a house including a partial basement, a two car garage and a small storage area in a small barn totaling about 3,000 square feet. I was single, basically occupying a single room, the master bedroom that I had turned into a sort of "studio apartment" and the house was FULL. Believe it or not, I was getting claustrophobic. When I'm traveling now, I have my 50 square feet of living space (with all the storage I need included in that area) and I never feel claustrophobic.

I finally learned, as I noted, about 10 years ago that I really didn't need all the stuff I had, yet I kept accumulating more. Yes! Our capitalistic society is based on consumers consuming stuff. But, consuming means using it up. We just keep getting more, never using up much of what we already have and adding to it.

I finally began asking myself the simple five word sentence, "Can I live without this?" Invariably, when I took the time to ask that question and was honest with myself, I realized I could live without whatever it is.

It took a while to make that a habit. Now, that question is the first thing that crosses my mind when I see something that catches my eye. It's very easy to just grab things or order things because at the moment, it seems the right thing to do. But, I've found that maybe I began rationalizing a "supposed need" for a particular item because it was on sale. Now I'll say, let me think about it for a couple days. Well, the days come and go and the real need never materializes.

Some people buy things they don't need just because they are a bargain. So, I say to that, you see a size 4 bathing suit at a super bargain price, but you wear a size 12, so you'll buy the size 4 bathing suit just because it's a bargain? Or you see a dump truck for sale and it's a real bargain, but you're not in the dump truck business. So, you'll buy the dump truck anyway, because it's a bargain? Believe it or not, I've heard people attempt to rationalize that kind of mentality.

Will the economy crash because you don't buy everything some fancy salesperson or ad campaign waves in front of you? Absolutely not because you will be in the minority of people thinking straight and the other 14,999 people will buy that Wolfgang Puck cookware.

Two Go Out For Every One Brought In

Here's another idea for you. I know people who do this very well. Before they bring any new item into their home, business or life they must divest themselves of two items they are no longer using, are worn out, depleted or are surplus to their needs.

I've even heard of people who have parties and tell their guests they have to take two items home with them from a selection of "stuff" the host has set out for the guests to select from. What a great idea. The host gets to downsize and get rid of stuff and the guests, who still crave having more stuff get it at no cost.

Everyone wins, more or less (well, actually the host wins).

The Ultimate Snow er, Sales Job

Let me make a couple final points.

Think about this. I read an interview with one of the former "hosts" for HSN or QVC, the two main TV shopping networks. He said when he went to audition for the job, a producer handed him a regular, yellow, No. 2 pencil with an eraser at one end and said, "Tell me about this pencil for ten minutes." If you never have, tune into one of the TV shopping networks sometime and just imagine the host blathering on and on about that No. 2 pencil, because that's exactly what he or she is doing.

Here's my second point and it's another thing to ponder regarding the power of sales and marketing. After you read this, regardless of where you stand, honestly ask yourself - Why?

Imagine placing a person into a very high level and extremely powerful position. This person has a sketchy background, some of which doesn't seem to make sense. The person came from a somewhat strange heritage, also. The person is supposedly highly educated, yet you can't examine his or her educational credentials. The person never held a real job based on his or her profession as most people define jobs but dabbled in a few areas including teaching. The person managed to get him or her self into one position of power and authority, but never did anything truly remarkable, memorable or all that effective and left before completing the third term of that assignment. The person left the first assignment incomplete to take on another position of even higher power and authority where he or she also did nothing remarkable, memorable or effective and left the position early to take on the ultimate position of power and authority. This person, by many people's estimation, has either been ineffective or possibly made things worse during his or her tenure.

I am, of course, talking of the current President of the United States. Now, to be sure, he is not the first and only POTUS of questionable credentials (in my personal opinion) to attain this position of, arguably, the most powerful head of state in the world. But, consider that few knew much about him (and still don't) before he was elected to the office. Also, consider that he has associated at various times with people of very questionable character. Additionally, he never served in any manner in any military capacity (not that every past president has), yet he's the Commander-in-Chief of the largest, most powerful and expensive military force in the world with control over massive numbers of weapons of mass destruction.

How did he achieve this?

This is the power of Sales and Marketing. Whether orchestrated by himself or someone behind him, there was a massive power of defining the market and it's several facets, then focusing extremely targeted sales pitches designed to persuade and to sell to those who were persuaded, if you will, the product named Barrack Obama to a large enough part of the market to take home the prize.

It's really not all that different from selling Wolfgang Puck's stainless steel cookware to people who already had some kind of cookware and then taking home his prize - the profits. In both cases, they pitched it and made us believe we couldn't live without the product.

Any questions? Can you live without (whatever) it (is)? I've learned to and I'm happier and freer because I did. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

R.I.P. Mork, Patch, Adrian, Mrs. Doubtfire . . .

I am, of course, addressing only a few of the characters portrayed by the late Robin Williams. Yes! Rest in peace, Robin!

Tonight, the world learned of the passing, apparently by his own hand, of this entertainment genius. I'm not going to make this a long, maudlin discussion of his life, his talent, his characters, TV shows, stage performances and movies, his humanity or philanthropy. All the news channels and entertainment shows are and will continue to do an excellent, over the top job of that.

What I want to make note of is the Demon that took his life at the young age of 63. That demon has a name and that name is Depression.

I am, personally, well acquainted with this horrific affliction. I, myself, have experienced some depressive states from time to time over my life, so I have a limited knowledge and understanding of the despair and darkness that depression can drag someone into. But, on an even more serious level, my father suffered from depression. I was a senior in college, having not quite attained the age of 22, when my father apparently found himself in a similar place as Robin Williams did today. Unfortunately, my father didn't even make it to 63, he took his life at 42.


I cannot begin to describe the devastation my father's suicide caused for our family, his friends, professional colleagues and me, in particular. The causes of his dive into the depth of despair were likely several. Unfortunately, those who were left behind are scarred for the rest of our lives, ever wondering why we didn't see it coming and what we could have done to prevent it. But, there is never an answer.

So, here is what I'm saying to you, my loyal readers, and to those who may find this blog someday in the future and read this article, be aware for yourself, your family, friends and colleagues. Depression is often genetic, so if someone in your direct family bloodline suffered from depression and/or hurt himself or herself or took his or her own life, talk with your doctor about it. Depression is very stealthy. You may not even realize you are dealing with it, perhaps, until it's too late.

If you have a family member, friend or colleague you suspect may be dealing with some depressive demons, talk to them. Be a friend. Suggest they bring it up with their regular primary care physician. Physicians can do some tests to rule out things it probably isn't before considering that a person may be dealing with depression.

Preventive Action

Do everything you can to prevent your life from dragging you into the pit of despair. We live in a very stressful, complicated, often unfair world. There is a lot of negative all around. The news and talk shows and many of the TV crime and drama shows as well as movies proffer this negativity 24 hours a day. While this stuff may be reality, it doesn't have to be your daily reality.

There is so much to love about life. Watching your kids or grandkids growing up if you have any. Enjoying time with your spouse, if you're married, as well as family and friends. Exploring hobbies. Learning new things. Experiencing the beauty of nature, places of interest and meeting new people, whether locally or through extended travel to new places. Volunteering to help in any of many ways, the disadvantaged, disabled and hurting people in your community or around the world. Get involved in the arts - whether theater, performing in a choir or something else. If your job or occupation is bringing you down or stifling your life, consider what you'd have to do to change to something you'd be attuned to and love doing.

Be A Friend

Tell your loved ones that you love them. Call distant family members and just say you were thinking about them and wanted to let them know. Call friends, those you regularly see and/or talk with, but especially those you don't see very often or perhaps for years or decades, and tell them you were thinking about them. Smile as much as you can. Try to make others smile regardless of their relationship to you or their station in life as a clerk in a store, a ticket agent at the airport, the receptionist at your doctor's office, etc. Attempt to make everyone you come in contact with each day feel just a little better because you spoke on the phone or crossed paths. You may lift them out of a little depression, but you'll do yourself a world of good at the same time.

There is ALWAYS a Way

Finally, remember, there is ALWAYS a way out of the darkness. There is always someone you can talk to who cares. I'm here and I care. Email me and let me help you find some light. Even when you don't believe anyone loves you, believe me, there is someone, just reach out. Whether you have a strong religious faith or not, there is something bigger than any of us and you were born into this world for a reason. You are needed. Learn to let go of negativity. Learn what it will take to live free and find the happiness and contentment you seek. It's there. I know.     

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Enough Is Too Much

I'm sure you reached a point of frustration at some time during your life when you just threw your hands up and declared, "Enough is enough!" Everyone reaches that point at least once, if not multiple times during his or her life.

But, let me pose this question . . .

When does enough become too much?

Here is what I mean and I'll use a series of questions to make my point.

How long does it take until you have accumulated "enough" stuff that it becomes too much and begins to weigh you down emotionally, psychologically, physically, spiritually and financially?

How long does it take for you to stay in a job you dislike or despise "enough" that you'll tell your boss "to take this job and shove it?"

How long does it take until you spend "enough" time on the Internet or glued to the TV screen watching sports or pulp TV content or even news programs living vicariously through other people's lives when it doesn't add anything to your life, but is likely detracting from your life?

How long does it take for you to realize a relationship is toxic "enough" to have a negative impact on your emotional, psychological, financial and/or physical condition?

How long does it take for you to realize you've given up "enough" of your life to meet everyone else's expectations and demands that you've never lived up to or met your own personal expectations and dreams?

How long does it take to accept that there is only "enough" time and "enough" of yourself to serve one master . . . one captain of your own destiny?

How long does it take to reach the point when your finally realize that "enough is too much?"

We ALL Reach The Same Destination At The End Of Life's Journey.

It doesn't matter whether you, like me, were fortunate enough to be born in the United States of America or any other country considered a "Western" or "Developed" country or you were born in a small, primitive village somewhere in Asia, Africa, South America, some small island nation in the Pacific or Caribbean or any other undeveloped or underdeveloped place in the world. Your basic needs are the same as every other human on the planet. You need food, water, shelter and a sense of security from prevailing danger. We were all born with nothing and we'll take nothing with us when we leave except our memories.

The areas we, as individuals and societies, differ in begin with the "wants." The wants of a person in some small, remote primitive village might be a bright, yellow Hanes Beefy-T shirt or maybe a basic pair of, what we used to call, sneakers. Meanwhile, your wants might be a bright, yellow Ralph Lauren polo shirt or a pair of Air Jordan's. If you're a woman, similar comparisons apply. Depending on the part of the world, you may want a mule, horse or camel for your transportation. In the developed world that might translate to a hot Mustang, Camaro or a tricked out SUV.

The point is simple. The people in the undeveloped or underdeveloped societies needs are the same as yours, but their wants are much more modest. The wants in the developed world are much more extravagant. Not only are the wants more extravagant, but there seems to be an insatiable desire to accumulate more and more of these "wants" requiring more and more space to store it when one tires of it and moves on to something else.

Luxuries is another completely different category. A luxury for someone in an undeveloped society might be to have a dwelling of their own with perhaps three or four rooms and some kind of simple indoor toilet facility. This dwelling would be for only the immediate family. The parents, grandparents, siblings and grandchildren would live somewhere else.

You may feel a need for 5,000 to 50,000 sq. ft. with multiple bedrooms, bathrooms, special areas for entertaining, gaming, exercising, tinkering, playing and even indoor swimming pools, Jacuzzis, bowling alleys and theaters with surround sound. And let's not forget the multiple vehicle garages filled with Mercedes, Ferrari roadsters, Hummer H2's and a variety of exotic motorcycles.


Why the great disparity between the wants and luxuries of the undeveloped societies and your (my) developed society? The answer is actually pretty simple.

Because you can and they can't. It's really no different than that simple statement.

Why do you want all this "stuff?" Again, the answers are simple. First, because you see others with it and you want to keep up with the Jones's (or Vanderbilts). Second, because someone makes this stuff and through aggressive marketing makes you believe you "need" it, so you have to consume it. Third, because from a very early age in our modern, advanced, developed society, you were conditioned to be ready, willing and able to sell your life and soul into "indentured slavery" to get as much of the pie as you could accumulate. It's your way of spreading your wings and saying, "Look at me, what I've achieved and what I have." It identifies your position in the pecking order of society.

If you seriously looked at all your stuff today, how much of it could you really live very comfortably, happily and contentedly without? Would a nice Ford or Chevy get you to and from the same destinations that your Beamer or Mercedes does? Does a bright, yellow "house brand" shirt cover and protect you the same as the $75 or $100 designer label shirt?

Who Is Happier?

This question is subjective, of course. I don't know you and maybe you're the happiest person on the planet, in which case, I'm very happy for you. I'm not envious or jealous of you. I don't particularly want what you have. But, that goes back to the "different strokes for different folk," concept I've mentioned before. 

In general, studies seem to indicate that societies that are undeveloped and have very little of the kinds of material things we want or the luxuries we aspire to, seem to be happier societies. Within our own developed societies, those who choose to live simpler, less materialistic lifestyles, also seen to be happier. I am neither a psychologist nor an anthropologist, so I can't give you specific scientific data or statistics. I'm just relating what my readings and observations of the human condition are as I travel the U.S. And, to be honest, most of what I see and feel is nuance not overt demonstrations of happiness or unhappiness.

I certainly do not consider myself to be the judge or jury to condone or condemn your behavior or anyone else's. I am the judge over my own life and that's a big enough responsibility. If, in your heart of hearts, you're happy and free and living exactly the life you've always dreamed of, then carry on. I believe you have something most others don't have, but pretend they do. However, if you're not living the life you've always dreamed of, then maybe you need to go into your heart of hearts and ask the hard question . . . "Why not?" The answer is there. If you're an honest judge of your life, you'll know the answer and begin to make plans and choices and take actions to change it. If you're not an honest judge of your life, then you'll likely carry on the rest of your life always wondering why it's just not as you dreamed it would be.

So, when is enough too much? When you finally realize that enough is enough and it's time to make some changes. Any thoughts on this? I'm always open to your ideas.