Were things better when things were worse?

by | Dec 6, 2020 | Life Lessons & Leadership | 0 comments

Fault vs Responsibility Shawn Trautman Lessons in Leadership

“Everything was better when everything was worse”

I heard this in a Ted talk once (the paradox of choice) and it stuck with me… so here’s my take.

The reason things were better when things were worse was that when things were worse, we expected that they were bad and every now and then we got pleasantly surprised, which made it seem better. Now that things are beter, our expectations are higher and it’s easier to feel dissatisfied as the best we can do is meet them.

Satisfaction’s a funny bird.

Satisfaction’s a real feeling, though it’s hard (impossible) to truly quantify. I mean, sure, you can do surveys out the ying-yang, but you will NEVER truly know.

Dissatisfaction, however, is more troubling and it’s degrading our society as we’re unhappier as a whole than we were 20 years ago, 50 years ago, etc.

And, here’s what happens, marketers play games with your senses. They adjust & play with qualities that make you “feel” something or envision yourself using it or looking a certain way that others will envy. Your perceived status will rise and everyone will like you! Yeah, no.

Simultaneously, they also take short cuts on quality and they get you to buy in to this new “feeling” and the way they do that is to introduce every possible option that might get you buy.

The sales process is all about the “front end”, the “sizzle” the “flash”. Get it today and be successful overnight.

What you see is no longer what you get.

Y’all, listen, there are probably millions of examples that will fit this once you understand and see where this stems from.

So, let’s circle back to the original statement “things were better when things were worse”. Think of how you used to feel about each of these items before each had seemingly unlimited choices and how it seemed to “be better” way back when:











Fast food

Customer service

Cable TV


You see, when there was only one choice (or limited choices) for a particular thing/item/service/whatever, and it wasn’t perfect, it was easy to blame the world for not having something better.

We didn’t take ownership of the problem. We were just happy to have it.

The more choices we have, the blame shifts to the chooser for not getting the right one or the latest model, etc. I.e., we blame ourselves.

And, interestingly, the more choices we have on something the harder it is to “make a choice” even though that’s what we wanted. It actually slows us down on one hand & increases our chance of buying “something” on the other. Perhaps the one that best suits our senses?

Marketers in the Western world are all about the sizzle and the “selling” of their product, at any cost.

And, to further twist the thought process, trust, based on quality, has nearly diminished. In fact, I’d dare say our expectations of long-term quality have now been lowered as we expect things to break and that we’ll just have to get a new one or upgrade.

Great, now the buying (selling) cycle begins again.

If you feel like you’re constantly being sold on new things, it’s because you are.

Most people have been conditioned to get a high from getting new things. Heck, think about Christmas. What is it now versus 50 years ago? Holy crap.

The more you see that’s out there, the more you realize you don’t “have enough.”

And, you’re led to believe it’s what everyone’s doing and that if you don’t do it, you’re a “loser” in the eyes of others.

No wonder people are so anxious and depression is so high.

How could anyone feel good about themselves?

Social media plays right into this too – when all you’re being shown is the beautiful pictures of friends and celebrities “doing” everything under the sun, you feel like you’re the only one not doing anything.

When you see “everyone” out looting or rioting or storming stores on Black Friday, you think “should I be out there too?” “What do they know that I don’t?” Lemmings are real and each of these companies know it and spend fortunes trying to get you to fall in line & follow the crowd.

So, to wrap this up, were things better when they were worse? Yes and no. We sure felt better, but that’s only because we didn’t have expectations of our senses being tickled the way they are now.

Are we more satisfied with more choices? I don’t think we are. We sure think we will be though.

“Here kid. Try this.” The old “get ‘em hooked on drugs’ sayings leaked into every major industry and into the board rooms of all those companies looking to make a quick buck.

“Thanks, but no thanks” is going to be my new mantra as I roll into 2021.

I’m tired of feeling anything I don’t intentionally want to. Less time shopping. Less time watching media sites. Less time “surfing” and letting the feeds get to me. More time spent on creating my own internal satisfaction and being mindful of things that truly bring me happiness.

React, share & connect with me on more ways to disconnect. (pretty ironic, huh?)



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