Wants, Needs and The Quest for the New Shiny

iPhone 4SBig doings today in the world of tech as the overlords of Cupertino, California (Apple) rolled out the newest/shiniest/most-gotta-have-it device in their arsenal, the iPhone 4s. I will be the first to admit I am definitely a bit of a gadget/computer sort of nerd where all the newfangled gizmos and doohickeys fascinate me. And yes, I know that’s some heavy jargon to be using, but I just can’t help myself sometimes.

But for just a second… let’s get past the hype of the announcement that surrounds any release by Apple and the near-endless debate between the cult-like followers of Steve Jobs and those who hate anything Apple because… well… it’s Apple.

Instead, let’s focus a bit on something that I can barely believe my fingers are typing out this very moment… what in the world is really necessary?  I know, it’s borderline heresy as a gadget geek to focus on necessity versus “Dude… that’s just freakin’ cool as hell.”

What got me thinking about all of this was a post by Leo Babauta (of Zen Habits fame) on his refreshingly stripped down blog mnmlist.com, which if you have never seen, is devoid of nearly everything but text.  Heck, it’s hard to even tell Leo writes the thing since you have to search around a bit to figure that part out.  I should know… I just did that myself.  Leo wrote something today on the release of the iPhone 4s and it’s accompanying fanfare.

But it was one line, in particular, that stuck out at me more than most:

Five years ago, the iPhone didn’t exist. It wasn’t a need in your life. You were able to live perfectly without it. And now that it does exist, all of that is true.

There you have it. If I sat here thinking critically about the numbers of things I’ve purchased and truly thought about what I could live without… yikes. It’s not a short list.  True, I really enjoy my iPad 2 and use it all the time, but it’s not as if my life would have a gaping void within it absent it. I am not somehow a different human being for having that device… or my XBox… or my big screen TV… or… you get the idea.

As silly as it may sound to some, I think my gym equipment has allowed me to make fundamentally positive changes in my life in a way that the nearest replacement (belonging to a commercial gym and paying dues for the rest of my life) does not approximate. That feels like a pure win to me, even if it was not a cheap investment.

But overall, it’s rare for me to find many things… scratch that… material things that I simply could not go without if required. I learn this lesson most acutely a number of years ago when I looked at a credit card bill with a balanced that had carried over for a little while and thought, “Damn… I’m not even sure I can remember what I bought that I am still paying off.”  People, if you cannot even remember it, how critical could it be? That was one of my big financial epiphanies for certain… it’s bad enough to buy with credit… but FAR worse to still be paying for them when you can’t even remember what those things are.  Just… I mean… ugh.

This will remain part of my struggle going forward… fighting the allure of the shiny bauble of tomorrow. My self-awareness is good on this, but certainly not great. Hopefully it just gets a little better all the time.

In spite of the glossy finish, sharp lines, crisp details and seemingly unbeatable functionality found in any new gadget that is rolling our way down the consumer highway… if we let it pass by, we usually only “miss out” on something we never even knew we “needed” in the first place.

And that’s a curious place to be indeed.

Let’s Make a Deal… With Yourself

Since I started this blog, my real goal was to hit one post per day and try to keep that up over time.  Clearly that has not happened and of late, it’s lucky when I get one a week.  So what to do… what to do.

Well this here guy decided he would fix this problem the old-fashioned way: self bribery.

img_8941In case the photo above is not glaringly obvious enough, I am getting a new computer and it’s going to be a Mac.  ‘Twas no easy decision for me as the son of 30 year IBM employee.  I was there during the heady early days of home PCs when the mighty IBM PC was battling it out with the Apple IIe.  It was a pitched and vicious battle, for sure.

But those days are long gone and I’ve been in need of a new computer as my trusty Dell desktop begins to sputter and fade a little more every day.  So a brand spanking new 15” MacBook Pro is en route to me right now.  FedEx still shows the damn thing in China with a Thursday delivery date… but damn it, I WANT IT NOW! *ahem*

hipsters_coffeeThe deal I made is that this would be the tool through which I build this blog and my overall on-line presence… umm, which is basically this blog and my Twitter account.  I have told myself with a powerful laptop, I will be able to blog and do all this groovy social networking anywhere the moment I am struck by the muse’s song.  I think this will be true for the most part… but I also know a decent chunk of me just likes having a new toy to play with.  So I am expecting more posts on a regular basis to coming flowing from my gray matter down through my fast-typing fingers (seriously – I am uber-quick) and onto the Interwebz for your reading enjoyment.

Now excuse me while I Google the best coffee bar to take my MacBook and fully immerse myself in my new hipster persona.  I’m writing the great American novel and pontificating on all things cool… obviously, you bourgeois swine.

Don’t fight the future… ’cause ya ain’t gonna win

Throughout the news these days, it’s become all too common for those who bring us the news to actually be the news.  Traditional print media is taking a complete beating these days because of a fundamental failure to evolve.  Newspapers were killed by free classified sites like Craiglist’s and never figuring out a good way to make money with their web sites, where they typically gave away the same content as their hard copies for free.

But this is interesting to me:

Sports Illustrated really looks like they could be onto something.  I mean, in terms of “WOW!” factor, this has it.  Everything you love in your favorite magazine, automatically updated to a slim device you can bring everywhere?  With video?  And sharp photos and color?  Bring it my way.  I am already ridiculously in love with my Amazon Kindle (which if you know me, you know I can hardly stop talking about it at times).

But here’s why I am talking about this in the blog.  Three reasons really.  First, I am a sucker for ideas that seek to push the envelope from what we commonly accept as “the way it is” and seek to do things bigger, better, cooler and so on.  Great ideas are endlessly fascinating to me.  Second, whether or not this device ends up panning out, it’s those who seek to bring forward these ideas that I give a ton of credit to.  It’s easy to see all the questions that go along with this tablet: What will be the price point for the device?  How about for the magazine subscription?  Will I be able to get other magazines besides Sports Illustrated on it?  What kind of competition will this bring out and will the competitors do it better, cheaper or both?  But to go ahead and push forward with a product that changes the way we understand a commonly-accepted item to take them in entirely un-thought-of directions (iPods with music, the Kindle with books, Google with search, me with dead-sexy bloggers… you get the idea) is the inspirational piece to me… even if done by a gigantic media conglomerate like Time Warner/Apple/Amazon/Google.

The third reason has to do with the subject of the post.  I think we all seek to fight the future in some ways because change can be pretty scary.  I had lunch with a good friend today and we both talked about how we struggle with that at times.  I find change both scary and thrilling… it just depends on the kind of change.  For instance, when I see chances within the workplace to tear down old ways of doing things?  I am all over it.  Love it.  Gets me fired up.  But if you suddenly asked me to do the same, but uproot my life and move far away?  That’s when you would probably hear the longest “Welllll….. seeeee…. the thing is….” ya ever heard in your life.  The change might be great for me, but my appetite for it may be in the small tossed salad with a nice house dressing zone as opposed to the 32 oz. cowboy cut ribeye zone.

The moral of the story for me?  Go for the steak, baby… go for the steak.

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