Feeling Down? Make a Joyful Choice.

As seen on Facebook (from an 18 year old):

“People buy things they don’t need,
with money they don’t have,
to impress people they don’t know!”

Now, there’s an enlightened teenager — with wisdom far beyond her years. Let’s just hope she’s able to remember what she said last week on her Facebook wall when it comes to spending “her” money.

Why? Because the vast majority of the advertising messages we see and hear each day are pushing us to buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t know. It’s as if we can’t POSSIBLY be happy without blemish-free skin, rock-hard abs, a full head of non-gray hair, and an awesome car in the garage. Right?


There’s a completely different choice — but I get ahead of myself.

All Advertising is Inherently Deceptive

Quick rewind. I’m reminded of something one of my college professors said in a “mass media” class I took. He said, “All advertising is inherently deceptive.” Roll that around a couple of times.

Stop Buying Things You Can't Afford, SNLTo drive this whole point home, here is a link to a Saturday Night Live skit starring Steve Martin and Amy Poehler from several years ago. It’s focus? “How Do I Get Out of Debt?” (click on the image, and you’ll be taken to Hulu.com where you can watch the video):

Okay — so maybe it’s not so funny. But, its message of “quit spending money on things you can’t afford” is not popular in our culture. Instead, we’re conditioned to spend our way to happiness.

But, Bob, “Even You” Need to Market and Sell!

(Self-Disclosure Alert): Okay, so I can be a little cynical when it comes to sales and marketing. However, I do both all the time — in fact, this message is my “brand” of marketing. I like to bring the “light of insight” to my clients, and hope that leads to action on their behalf towards transformational change. I love helping in these kinds of situations — and I need to tell people about that from time to time. Call it marketing — which leads to sales — which allows me to eventually feed my family.

Also, I realize that my dreams of changing planet earth for the better will require funding my volunteer activities (“no margin, no mission” as the old saying goes). Consequently, I can’t just expect current clients to come “knocking” at my door on their own every time, nor can I expect future clients to “hear voices through osmosis” about checking out my consulting, speaking, or facilitating solutions when they have a need.

Yes, I need to market and sell.

But, it’s “how” we market and sell that’s important. I believe that if we have a genuine interest in helping others with REAL issues, and if we have authentic solutions to apply against those issues, we’re doing the world a disservice by NOT telling everyone about what we offer. It’s the old “why would you put your lamp under a bushel basket” thing. Does that make sense?

I just get tired of the 95% of sales and marketing out there that’s designed to MANIPULATE us to spend on things just to make us happy…

What’s in Your Wallet?

Here’s an example — how many times have you heard the phrase, “What’s in Your Wallet?”

What does it imply? That we need to spend on a credit card in order to accumulate rewards. That would be GREAT if we were able to pay off our cards each month (I think there’s about 5% of the population that does that), but for the vast majority we wind up building debt (and profits for the credit card companies)… Here’s the more interesting question — Why do we need credit cards to accumulate double miles on airlines? How about we don’t spend the money on the credit card in the first place, and just give it to the airline? Wouldn’t that make more sense?

Alas, I developed some of my marketing and sales cynicism during a very interesting time in my career — about 10-11 years ago. Back then, I spent a little over a year managing a large marketing, branding, and advertising agency in San Francisco. (It’s a LONG story — and one that I needed years of therapy to deal with…)

Our clients were global brands (you’d recognize ALL of them), and during that year, I sat in dozens, maybe hundreds of meetings where the focus was “influencing buying behavior.” Our agency, and all the others across the world, was paid to come up with creative approaches to get people to spend.

The Pursuit of Happiness?

And the whole thing was based on a flawed theory — “Happiness is the answer, and my product is the path to happiness…” Hold on a minute (I can hear many of you saying). Don’t we have a constitutional right in the USA related to the “pursuit of happiness?”

(enter 8th grade Civics class reminder)

We hold these truths to be self–evident,
That all men are created equal,
That they are endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable Rights,
That among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Yes — that is in The Constitution of the United States, and I think it’s flawed.

Why? Because happiness is NOT the answer. Happiness is based on external circumstances — and the pursuit of happiness NEVER ends as a result. We are never truly happy — because the source of our feelings is temporary, and it comes from outside of us.

Make a JOYFUL Choice Instead

The REAL answer is joy, because joy is our CHOICE — a choice that’s available even in the most seemingly “unhappy” circumstances. I’m sure you’ve seen some dire situations, where you thought, “how could those people be happy?”

I remember seeing some kids in Mexico, playing soccer on a dirt field, using a rolled-up t-shirt as their ball (wrapped with tape), and their joy-fill laughter filled the air. Or another time in rural China — I saw a family in terrible poverty that was filled with pride as they showed me their meager possessions. This family even offered me something — of theirs — because they believed it would bring me joy.

Here’s the lesson: no matter the situation or circumstances, we can choose to be joyful. Even if we’re not currently happy, joy is always just a choice away. No need to accumulate more stuff, using money we don’t have. No need to impress someone we don’t know.

Just make a joyful choice.

What do you think?

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