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Loyalty or Happiness

Brand loyalty demands that you keep buying products from a specific company no matter what. You like the brand, so why wouldn’t you support their efforts?

Think about that for a moment. Brand loyalty means that even if another brand has a superior product, you’ll continue to buy the inferior one. In fact, it generally means you won’t even acknowledge the other product’s superiority (or existence) in the first place. You’ll spend your money where you’ve spent it before because that’s where you’ve spent it in the past.

This is why most companies dream about winning the loyalty of their customers. They needn’t compete quite so hard with their rivals when they know you’ll buy regardless of how their product measures up.

Loyalty, while often considered to be a highly desirable trait, results in our ignoring better opportunities in favor of the ones that are more familiar.

Instead of taking the road that’s most favorable for us personally, loyalty instructs us to take the one that’s most favorable for the company we currently work for. Instead of being with the person we want to be with, loyalty compels us to stick with the person we once wanted to be with because they got there first.

Instead of focusing on loyalty, I would suggest we approach both our product purchases and relationships more analytically. If we take the time to figure out what we want, and what is best for us based on those wants, the companies selling to us may just realize they’re selling to the wrong demographic (or making the wrong product), and the people we’re with may realize that we’re not ideal for them, either.

This is not to say that we should all be opportunists, moving from shiny new thing to shiny new thing regardless of the company or person in question. But it does mean that, if properly thought through, a change in direction is not an ignoble act. In fact, such a shift could be the most beneficial thing for everyone involved.

Update: February 22, 2017

Want to make a lot of people feel uncomfortable? Question the value of loyalty in their presence. This nobility of loyalty is so ingrained in most cultures that the very idea that it might not be a good thing can spark righteous anger or holy terror in some.

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Not Capitalism

It’s not capitalism when a company or industry hamstrings new competitors. Capitalism means competition in value creation, not lawsuits and abusive legalities.

It’s not capitalism when non-competitive products or services are given advantages to keep things ‘fair.’ Capitalism isn’t fair. The superior products and services win out, and those who can’t keep up are outpaced and scrapped for parts.

It’s not capitalism when a dominant product or service maintains high prices due to a lack of competition. As costs decrease, so should prices, which makes everyone’s money more valuable over time.

It’s not capitalism to grow and defend an obsolete industry just to wring as much money out of it as possible. Growth for growth’s sake is not in line with the spirit of capitalism, and a smart capitalist focuses on improving the end result (say, power) not protecting the means (say, coal).

It’s not capitalism when an economy depends on purchasing for the sake of purchasing. Endless shipments of intentionally flawed products which perpetuate a cycle of ‘purchase, break, purchase’ is a system destined to collapse under its own friction. Ever-increasing quality, absolute quality, should be the goal of all businesspeople.

It’s not capitalism when unions are necessary. In a true capitalist system, employers would be competing for qualified employees and unionization would be redundant. The employer has the employee’s back, because if she doesn’t, her competitors will.

It’s a popular pastime to rant and rave against the evils of capitalism, but in most cases we’ve chosen the wrong culprit. We should be ranting and raving against whatever it is we’ve actually got, instead.

Update: February 22, 2017

I don’t agree with everything I wrote here, but I think the central theme, that what we have isn’t pure capitalism, is true. I also think that a lot of things that we philosophize about make sense when all human beings act a certain way, but do not make sense in real life (like many tenets of Libertarianism and Socialism) and as such require imperfect slapdash solutions which in some cases only worsen other issues.

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Offenseless

The best way to shut down a discussion is to become offended.

Taking offense halts the distribution of ideas, and further interactions are clouded by one or both parties trying not to cause further offense, or steeling themselves against perceived onslaught.

And that’s the issue: the onslaught is perceived, not legitimate.

An insult about our religion, politics, families, opinions, or some other aspect of ourselves can seem like a truly heinous act in the moment, but ask yourself: is it really? Is there any real harm done by someone using foul language in your presence, or questioning your faith? If someone disparages your mother, is any harm done (to you or your mother)?

No. Of course there isn’t. For offense to be taken, there must be two parties involved. The person who decides whether or not it’s an offense is the one on the receiving end.

I’d like to propose something here. The next time you have the opportunity to be offended, don’t.

It seems like a simple enough concept, but all too often we sit and wait for an affront so that we can scowl with righteous indignation and wait for apologies or sympathies. It’s a sort of high, really, whether or not any apologies or sympathies are forthcoming.

But what will not result from such an exchange is new knowledge or new perspectives.

It seems like we can’t discuss religion or race or government without someone immediately playing the ‘I’m offended!’ card, at which point conversational participants are forced to tip-toe around any real issues, afraid of being labeled prejudiced or anti-something. It would seem the best way to offend someone (and get away with it) is to first take offense yourself, and this is a tactic used and used again in all public discourse.

It’s difficult to control what talking heads say to each other in the forum, but we can control our own interactions. Instead of gasping in shock the next time someone says something that offends you, continue the discussion. Learn why they feel that way, and why you feel differently.

In all likelihood no indignity was intended, and though you may not walk away with anything new, you may find yourself able to see things from a slightly different angle from that point forward. That is a massive advantage in life.

You may not agree with them afterward or learn anything new, but you might, and it’s worth the gamble: that’s exactly where you would be if you got offended.

Update: February 22, 2017

I’ve also found, after maybe five years of applying this idea consistently, that it’s a huge weight off your shoulders. Not feeling the need to defend yourself or wondering whether you should get upset frees up a lot of mental bandwidth and detaches your ego from a lot of frivolity.