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.

Adventures in Self-Discovery: Snowboarding

Today I decided I would walk the walk and not just talk the talk.  You will certainly see me advocating all sorts of good positive change, going for it and such on this very blog.  Part of it is certainly because these are all things I am trying to do for myself.  If I speak of how people should put themselves out there and try some wacky things, it’s because I know I need to do the same.

Well, today was a day for me to do less yapping and a little more doing.  So, I took my jazzy new snowboarding outfit and headed on off to Ski Butternut up in Great Barrington, MA to finally give snowboarding a whirl.  It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for quite a while and did a ton more talking about wanting to go than just getting up off my butt and just going.

I figured taking a vacation day to extend my weekend to 3 days would be just the thing.

I’m not gonna lie to you… when I actually arrived and saw all those people who just effortlessly glided down the mountain on their skis or snowboards, I got pretty nervous.  I’ve been skiing about 5 or 6 times in my life, but it’s probably been at least… ohh… 12 years since I last went?  And snowboarding is really nothing like skiing.

But I pressed on, signed up for a lesson and off I went for my 1 hour lesson.  How did it go?  Well… much of my day looked pretty much like this:

2010-02-08 - Snowboarding

Yup.  On my butt and looking down the bunny hill, wondering how the hell I was actually going to get back on my feet.

So what did I learn on this brisk and sunny New England day?

  1. Don’t take yourself too seriously.  I knew going into all of this that if I was going to get all bent out of shape, it would be a wasted vacation day.  I hate wasting vacation days.
  2. Kids tend to be pretty good at skiing and snowboarding because they are too young to be afraid.  I could hardly count how many kids… and as young as 6 or so… just firing down the slope with complete ease.  It makes me chuckle to think as we age and allegedly get smarter or more “wise”, we also tend to become less playful and much more reserved.  Kids just go for it and worry about the consequences later.  While that approach is not going to be ideal for all circumstances of an adult life, I fully believe we can all benefit from having this more in our lives every day.  Yes, I said every day.
  3. It’s good to stop being “that guy”.  Oh and which guy might that be?  You know the one.  “Dude, I am totally going to go skydiving.  Seriously.  It’s gonna be aaaaawesome.”  Except he has been saying that for 5 years.  When it came to snowboarding, I was totally that guy… and that guy can be so annoying.  It’s fine to want to do something cool or fun or daring, but talking about it any longer than 1 year is just ridiculous.  And yes, I just made up that 1 year mark, but it now feels super-official to me.  I am the rule-maker… FEAR ME.
  4. Snowboarding gear is almost absurdly complicated. I love my snowboarding pants and jacket.  They are 100% powerful sweet, no doubt about it.  But damn, do they have a lot of pockets, zippers, vents, snaps and doo-hickeys.  I must say I do like the pocket with the vent hole so I can safely tuck away my iPod and run the headphones up through my jacket.  I am still convinced I overlooked a few features.  If the jacket had an emergency parachute in the event you fell off a cliff, I would not even be remotely surprised.

So that was my new experience today and it was pretty fun.  A few of the falls were tough and just getting back onto my feet was a challenge, but I kept at it as best I could.  I only decided to call it a day when one of my falls was a little TOO hard and jerked my neck and head pretty hard.  I figured that was my sign to stop.

I’m just happy I got off my butt, tried something new and shed my “that guy” title… at least for snowboarding.  Now if I can only get my running with the bulls in Pamplona plan in motion… and I am not even kidding about that a little bit.

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