I love reading Malcolm Gladwell and other authors like him, but especially his collection of New Yorker articles in the book "What the Dog Saw." What's funny is those ideas all swim around in my head freely and create new associations and sometimes when he references some one's research I look them up because I get curious. One example of this was the article about sales, and he starts out talking about the door to door people, and I think somewhere in there he talks about the taste-testers and the supermarket, and he referenced something called the Jam Study. I found a TED talk by the lady who ran the Jam Study, and then I found a youtube clip of a panel she was on, so you could say I was obsessed for a minute. I found this fascinating from both a professional (sales) point of view and of course also from a personal point of view. Let me quickly summarize the key points, some of which were counter intuitive.
Here in the US, we prize our freedoms, especially freedom of choice. We vote on elections, american idol, dancing with the stars, you name it. And we *think* more options make us happier because we *think* we want all that control. But there's a tipping point (ooh, maybe it was in that book instead) past which options are not freeing, in fact they are paralyzing. They've done studies with customers customizing their cars, it's fascinating but we can skip the long story and just go the toothpaste aisle at the grocery store. Now we have to choose not only brand, flavor, tartar control, whitening, but also size, pump versus tube, and those can all come in combinations or for sensitive teeth or sensitive gums...just walk away. Same with almost everything. Salsa, or tampons, or the gourmet jams in the jam study.
The bottom line is more choices stress us out, so that we defer making the decision altogether or we default to the familiar groove or rut. It's why we order the same food at restaurants, or the same drink at the coffee shop.
hot or cold?
espresso or drip?
soymilk or regular?
whole milk or two percent or nonfat or cream?
sugar or splenda or stevia or nutrisweet or equal or agave or honey or no sweetener OR flavor syrup and what flavor?
Each choice on its own is straightforward or easy. And we think it makes us happy to have them. But maybe it tires us out so that when we're faced withe real decisions we default or defer until later because it's just too hard. And it gives us the illusion of control.
So as a sales person, it has shifted my thinking tremendously from my naive beginnings when I would have resented the sheer number of assumptions going on in every either or proposition. Partly because that was the Sophists method of dialectic in many of Plato's records of Socratic dialogue, an the either or is so limiting by nature and manipulative...and I hate feeling like I'm being lead down a garden path or trapped into saying something when they arrive at a punchline and I feel stupid. So I try to avoid those 'closing' feelings when I'm in a sales situations on either end of a sale. But when I am selling someone now, I carefully limit the options in favor of what I think is probably best going to serve the client in front of me, without burdening them with options that are not relevant to them. And I no longer feel conflicted or guilty about doing that, now that I know how stressful it gets.
The big decisions sometimes need to be buried in smaller ones.
But sometimes default is addiction or habit, and sometimes it's a little bit toxic, but not enough to make you die just enough to make you sick, so something has to shift but not until you reach that tipping point.
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The Double Meaning behind the blog title 'Dream Follower:'
First, for 14 years I was a ballroom & social dance instructor, and have studied both leading and following. I feel that learning to follow is full of nuance and is often misunderstood. I made it one of my personal goals to become a really excellent follow on the dance floor, and will probably talk a lot about the art of following - both in and out of the context of dance.
Second, I am a huge fan of author Michael Ende, probably best known for The Neverending Story. The book is incredible, and the first film captured some of the essence. (Please don't watch the other two films...I urge you to read the book though!) Anyway, at least twice in my life I have been caught in a storm of my own indecision, and my inner Moon Princess yelled to my inner Bastian...'Why don't you do what you dream?' I tear up even now as I write this little blurb. The tension between being practical, keeping my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds (at the risk of compromising my inner vibrancy, true self, and who knows what else)...and reaching for my true dreams (at the risk of losing everything) is still a very real struggle. In fact, one of those struggles lead to my 14 years of teaching dance, so we can see which voice won the battle that fateful day when I was staring at the want-ad...
And so I strive to be two kinds of Dream Followers in my life. One has to do with connecting with others, and the other has to do with connecting with my inner Moon Princess and the world of possibility that opens when I do...