T Nation

Your Lifestyle Has Been Designed


#1

.........................................
Well Iâ??m in the working world again. Iâ??ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like itâ??s returning to normal after my nine months of traveling.

Because I had been living quite a different lifestyle while I was away, this sudden transition to 9-to-5 existence has exposed something about it that I overlooked before.

Since the moment I was offered the job, Iâ??ve been markedly more careless with my money. Not stupid, just a little quick to pull out my wallet. As a small example, Iâ??m buying expensive coffees again, even though they arenâ??t nearly as good as New Zealandâ??s exceptional flat whites, and I donâ??t get to savor the experience of drinking them on a sunny café patio. When I was away these purchases were less off-handed, and I enjoyed them more.

Iâ??m not talking about big, extravagant purchases. Iâ??m talking about small-scale, casual, promiscuous spending on stuff that doesnâ??t really add a whole lot to my life. And I wonâ??t actually get paid for another two weeks.

In hindsight I think Iâ??ve always done this when Iâ??ve been well-employed â?? spending happily during the â??flush times.â?? Having spent nine months living a no-income backpacking lifestyle, I canâ??t help but be a little more aware of this phenomenon as it happens.

I suppose I do it because I feel Iâ??ve regained a certain stature, now that I am again an amply-paid professional, which seems to entitle me to a certain level of wastefulness.

There is a curious feeling of power you get when you drop a couple of twenties without a trace of critical thinking. It feels good to exercise that power of the dollar when you know it will â??grow backâ?? pretty quickly anyway.

What Iâ??m doing isnâ??t unusual at all. Everyone else seems to do this. In fact, I think Iâ??ve only returned to the normal consumer mentality after having spent some time away from it.

One of the most surprising discoveries I made during my trip was that I spent much less per month traveling foreign counties (including countries more expensive than Canada) than I did as a regular working joe back home.

I had much more free time, I was visiting some of the most beautiful places in the world, I was meeting new people left and right, I was calm and peaceful and otherwise having an unforgettable time, and somehow it cost me much less than my humble 9-5 lifestyle here in one of Canadaâ??s least expensive cities.

It seems I got much more for my dollar when I was traveling. Why?
A Culture of Unnecessaries

Here in the West, a lifestyle of unnecessary spending has been deliberately cultivated and nurtured in the public by big business. Companies in all kinds of industries have a huge stake in the publicâ??s penchant to be careless with their money. They will seek to encourage the publicâ??s habit of casual or non-essential spending whenever they can.

In the documentary The Corporation, a marketing psychologist discussed one of the methods she used to increase sales. Her staff carried out a study on what effect the nagging of children had on their parentsâ?? likelihood of buying a toy for them. They found out that 20% to 40% of the purchases of their toys would not have occurred if the child didnâ??t nag its parents.

One in four visits to theme parks would not have taken place. They used these studies to market their products directly to children, encouraging them to nag their parents to buy.

This marketing campaign alone represents many millions of dollars that were spent because of demand that was completely manufactured.

â??You can manipulate consumers into wanting, and therefore buying, your products. Itâ??s a game.â?? ~ Lucy Hughes, co-creator of â??The Nag Factorâ??

This is only one small example of something that has been going on for a very long time. Big companies didnâ??t make their millions by earnestly promoting the virtues of their products, they made it by creating a culture of hundreds of millions of people that buy way more than they need and try to chase away dissatisfaction with money.

We buy stuff to cheer ourselves up, to keep up with the Joneses, to fulfill our childhood vision of what our adulthood would be like, to broadcast our status to the world, and for a lot of other psychological reasons that have very little to do with how useful the product really is. How much stuff is in your basement or garage that you havenâ??t used in the past year?
The real reason for the forty-hour workweek

The ultimate tool for corporations to sustain a culture of this sort is to develop the 40-hour workweek as the normal lifestyle. Under these working conditions people have to build a life in the evenings and on weekends. This arrangement makes us naturally more inclined to spend heavily on entertainment and conveniences because our free time is so scarce.

Iâ??ve only been back at work for a few days, but already Iâ??m noticing that the more wholesome activities are quickly dropping out of my life: walking, exercising, reading, meditating, and extra writing.

The one conspicuous similarity between these activities is that they cost little or no money, but they take time.

Suddenly I have a lot more money and a lot less time, which means I have a lot more in common with the typical working North American than I did a few months ago. While I was abroad I wouldnâ??t have thought twice about spending the day wandering through a national park or reading my book on the beach for a few hours. Now that kind of stuff feels like itâ??s out of the question. Doing either one would take most of one of my precious weekend days!

The last thing I want to do when I get home from work is exercise. Itâ??s also the last thing I want to do after dinner or before bed or as soon as I wake, and thatâ??s really all the time I have on a weekday.

This seems like a problem with a simple answer: work less so Iâ??d have more free time. Iâ??ve already proven to myself that I can live a fulfilling lifestyle with less than I make right now. Unfortunately, this is close to impossible in my industry, and most others. You work 40-plus hours or you work zero. My clients and contractors are all firmly entrenched in the standard-workday culture, so it isnâ??t practical to ask them not to ask anything of me after 1pm, even if I could convince my employer not to.

The eight-hour workday developed during the industrial revolution in Britain in the 19th century, as a respite for factory workers who were being exploited with 14- or 16-hour workdays.

As technologies and methods advanced, workers in all industries became able to produce much more value in a shorter amount of time. Youâ??d think this would lead to shorter workdays.

But the 8-hour workday is too profitable for big business, not because of the amount of work people get done in eight hours (the average office worker gets less than three hours of actual work done in 8 hours) but because it makes for such a purchase-happy public. Keeping free time scarce means people pay a lot more for convenience, gratification, and any other relief they can buy. It keeps them watching television, and its commercials. It keeps them unambitious outside of work.

Weâ??ve been led into a culture that has been engineered to leave us tired, hungry for indulgence, willing to pay a lot for convenience and entertainment, and most importantly, vaguely dissatisfied with our lives so that we continue wanting things we donâ??t have. We buy so much because it always seems like something is still missing.

Western economies, particularly that of the United States, have been built in a very calculated manner on gratification, addiction, and unnecessary spending. We spend to cheer ourselves up, to reward ourselves, to celebrate, to fix problems, to elevate our status, and to alleviate boredom.

Can you imagine what would happen if all of America stopped buying so much unnecessary fluff that doesnâ??t add a lot of lasting value to our lives?

The economy would collapse and never recover.

All of Americaâ??s well-publicized problems, including obesity, depression, pollution and corruption are what it costs to create and sustain a trillion-dollar economy. For the economy to be â??healthyâ??, America has to remain unhealthy. Healthy, happy people donâ??t feel like they need much they donâ??t already have, and that means they donâ??t buy a lot of junk, donâ??t need to be entertained as much, and they donâ??t end up watching a lot of commercials.

The culture of the eight-hour workweek is big businessâ?? most powerful tool for keeping people in this same dissatisfied state where the answer to every problem is to buy something.

You may have heard of Parkinsonâ??s Law. It is often used in reference to time usage: the more time youâ??ve been given to do something, the more time it will take you to do it. Itâ??s amazing how much you can get done in twenty minutes if twenty minutes is all you have. But if you have all afternoon, it would probably take way longer.

Most of us treat our money this way. The more we make, the more we spend. Itâ??s not that we suddenly need to buy more just because we make more, only that we can, so we do. In fact, itâ??s quite difficult for us to avoid increasing our standard of living (or at least our rate of spending) every time we get a raise.

I donâ??t think itâ??s necessary to shun the whole ugly system and go live in the woods, pretending to be a deaf-mute, as Holden Caulfield often fantasized. But we could certainly do well to understand what big commerce really wants us to be. Theyâ??ve been working for decades to create millions of ideal consumers, and they have succeeded. Unless youâ??re a real anomaly, your lifestyle has already been designed.

The perfect customer is dissatisfied but hopeful, uninterested in serious personal development, highly habituated to the television, working full-time, earning a fair amount, indulging during their free time, and somehow just getting by.

Is this you?

Two weeks ago I would have said hell no, thatâ??s not me, but if all my weeks were like this one has been, that might be wishful thinking.
..........................................

Thoughts?


#2

I don't know how to fix it but I can't read all that cut and pasted text with all those extra ?? and stuff in it.


#3

I read it but Im currently having a seizure.

I probably made it all the way through because it congratulates me for being the cheapskate that I am.


#4

Open notepad/word/wordpad
copy/paste into notepad
ctrl+c â??
ctrl+h
-paste â?? into find
-put a ' into the replace
-replace all


#5

I totally agree with that, when I met the business owners at the place I was working I wasn't really impressed with the money they were making but I was very impressed by how few hours a week they spent maintaining what they had built in the last few years.

ree time > more money/stuff especially if you're a gym rat like most of us are :P. Can you imagine being able to take a nap multiple times a week? That's heaven my friend.


#6

Edit: I typed a lot here but it sounded like bragging so I nixed it. Here goes attempt 2

Im aware that Im a young punk with no rreal responsibilities but heres the gist of what I wrote:

Im self employed. Im running a small time dog care business that has expanded basically accidently. I make just enough to get by. In my freetime, of which I have a lot, I work on my hobby which involves actually making things and isnt passively watching tv for example. Someday I hope to sell these things.

If this works out I wont have to be a wage slave although I am about to finish a teaching certification that I hope will provide stability to my life (insurance etc) while still doing something worthwhile. Summer vacations, or should teaching fall through, I can fall back on my other things.

happiness is choice, options, control. I think thats what I was trying to say.
nothing to do with what fancy things you buy.


#7

Mo money Mo problems?


#8

That's really the ticket isn't it? You've got to build something of your own if you want to run your own life. Props for making your own business work, that's inspiring even if it's small now.

I'm hoping that getting through school will allow me to eventually gain some decent employment, but making something of my own would definitely be worth the risk to me. I just need an idea...


#9

More like having more money isn't that great when you have very little spare time, and that lack causes you to spend that excess money to entertain yourself in the short amount of time you have off when in reality if you had more free time you'd be doing more 'simple' things that would make you a healthier and happier individual. But that wouldn't drive our fattened economy very well, hence 40 hour work weeks with very limited time off is the norm.

Atleast that's my understanding.


#10

That's good to know, thanks, but still sounds like too much work.


#11

or you can choose option #2 and click on the fucking link he provided in the original post!!!

What the CIA got you pushin' too many pencils?


#12

That is what I got out of it too. It blows my mind how "advanced" marketing really is in regards to urging a consumer to buy. Take a typical Wal-Mart, everything from the colors on signs, to the layout of the store are specifically and strategically placed like they are for one reason, to encourage spending. When you go to a checkout line, look at all the convenient "add-on" items hoping to catch your eye (chapstick, gum, a pop, batteries, mags, everything!) Like Admiral Ackbar says "It's a Trap!"


#13

You sound like a returned Peace Corps volunteer, and believe me probably 75% of all Peace Corps volunteers are in fact anomalies, maybe more.

I have a potential job offer in one of Florida's most secluded beaches, actually driving down today to a friend that lives about 45 minutes North of it to spend the weekend there because I have an interview on Monday. Its not the most glamorous or highest paying job but I'll be able to get a 1 bedroom on the beach and not have to worry.

I've got 3 other job interviews lined up all paying the same or more. One is in DC that would pay double what this job would pay. But its longer hours and even double the pay doesn't get me anywhere in DC but stress. Granted if I don't get the beach job I will take any job I'm offered at this point.

I'm really hoping for this job on the beach though.

But yeah coming from the simpler life and returning is often the hardest part of being a Peace Corps volunteer. I know many who stayed overseas, some married there, some married and brought them back here. One of my friends just booked a plane ticket to go back, he's been miserable ever since he's returned. Two of my other friends went to Thailand for a few months right after they got back and now they're going to grad school specifically for degrees that will help them find overseas employment such as a Country Director for the Peace Corps.


#14

That's just the tip of the iceberg. Most marketing campaigns use very subtle yet powerful modes of suggestion, hypnosis and NLP. It's not geared at "buy my product because it will make you feel good" it's geared at, "you are bad, pathetic, and miserable so you NEED this product".

It really is insidious. I don't have cable or watch television anymore. I get netflix for my "entertainment". Living below one's means truly IS a major key to happiness, wealth and security.


#15

No doubt, make the consumer fell worthless and then trick them into buying more shit! Of topic a little bit, but something I found fucking amazing; I went on youtube to watch the Old Spice commercials mentioned in another thread (the ones about being a man's man) and before it would let me watch the commercial, I had to watch a fucking commercial. Awesome.


#16

Nice one!


#17

That happened as soon as one of the most powerful companies on earth (Google) purchased YouTube. It hasn't been the same since. Now it's full of advertisements (one on every video you always have to click away) and pre video commercials. It's painfully annoying.

One thing I saw the other day was that new 'series' on watching people quit smoking. I thought it was incredibly funny when the sponsor were the people who made "Nicorette" which are the same people that own the ciggarette companies. Those guys are the geniouses. Wether people start smoking, or quit smoking, they're still making money.


#18

you dont expect me to read all them words do you?


#19

I've been preaching it from the roof tops and I'll never stop, people would be 1000x more happy and 1000x more productive and live 1000x better if they'd just stop being so f'ing needy. "I NEED that new iPod." "I NEED a smartphone that I only use for texting." "I NEED a $180 a month cable plan."

Debt in our society is viewed not only as a completely natural, acceptable part of life, but it is also viewed as necessary, it is viewed as our only means of survival, it is viewed as our only means of happiness.

I am 23, self employed, making a very good salary with very little living expense. I get berated by people if they find out about this (and for sure I don't go giving this info away, but usually my mother does because she's proud of me/headdesk again). Here are some of things I take crap for:

  • Not having cable.
  • Having a 16" TV instead of a 50+" (I used to have a 70+, but got rid of it).
  • Making a grocery list of what I NEED before shopping.
  • Using the same laptop for 4 years (I upgrade parts as necessary/it still looks new)
  • Not knowing what happened on the latest TV show (What part of I don't have cable don't people understand?)
  • Being self-employed.
  • Not having debt.
  • Having hobbies (yes, people have gotten angry at me for having hobbies! Who has time for hobbies?)
  • Taking vitamins (I was told this was an unnecessary waste of money from someone who impulse buys hundreds of dollars worth of CRAP every month, usually junk food).
  • Having a budget ("life's too short to budget", I was honestly told this)
  • Not living a 'normal' life.

I bought a house in 2008 for $40k, spent $1200 converting it into a duplex, now I rent it for $800 per apartment for a total of $1600 a month; it will be paid off in 6 more months. When not traveling, I live in an RV on my parents property (200+ acres, I pay them lot rent). People berate me for this, try to rip me to pieces; I'm talking, I have people shout and get red faced and angry just for finding out where I live. WTH?!

Here's reality. #1) It is a luxury RV with more than enough space for one person (amazing how little space you need when it isn't filled with junk). #2) It's more luxurious than most homes and apartments (like this - http://www.vagablond.com/images/marquisinterior.jpg). #3) My electricity bill is $5 in the summer and $8 in the winter. #4) I can pack it all up in 10 minutes and spontaneously drive to Vegas or Canada or wherever whenever I want.

Does it sound like I live in squalor? If you ask anyone who knows me, they'll make it sound like I do. "Oh, she lives in this little RV parked at her parents place, does these little Internet things for money and calls it a job."

Yes, I live like a homeless person. A homeless person with a luxury RV surrounded in hundreds of acres of trees near a lake with $80k in savings and with a 1:5 monthly expense to income ratio. When will I recognize that true happiness comes from the American dream?

When will I become like these people around me, these modern-day zombies, the exhausted, miserable, trapped people who spend their entire lives working towards happiness, never realizing that it's not a product that can be purchased on a shelf?

Anyone can live a happy and comfortable live, whether in a house or condo or apartment or RV if they'd just get their priorities straight.


#20

How true is that.