In the 1950s, psychologist Herbert A. Simon described a distinction between two types of humans, “maximizers” and “satisficers”. Wiki says:
“A maximizer is like a perfectionist, someone who needs to be assured that their every purchase or decision was the best that could be made. The way a maximizer knows for certain is to consider all the alternatives they can imagine. This creates a psychologically daunting task, which can become even more daunting as the number of options increases. The alternative to maximizing is to be a satisficer. A satisficer has criteria and standards, but a satisficer is not worried about the possibility that there might be something better. Ultimately, Schwartz agrees with Simon’s conclusion, that satisficing is, in fact, the maximizing strategy.”
It’s a fascinating distinction and as we are presented with more and more choices to make in our increasingly complicated lives, a more and more important one. It perfectly explains the power of the Fruit! If you just accept (like the Lord!) that Apple is the best, the only choice to be made is which size gadget you have to buy! One of my best friends is a perfectionist, but realized the smoke screen and thus decided to go Android for his first smartphone. His process of narrowing down his choice had become almost unbearable! I understand the attraction of simplicity……
What brought me here was an article in the Volkskrant about Barry Schwartz’ book called “The Paradox Of Choice” which deals with possible negative effects of having too many options. There is even a Voluntary Simplicity movement out there, I guess competing with religions if you will. I have this discussion often with people who are against religion: people need a reduction of options, that’s where faith has its greatest strength! We humans simply cannot get rid of God or Allah without implementing a different set of rules that cannot be simply questioned.
A very interesting part of the Wiki about Schwartz’ book is the following statement:
“Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues have shown that what we remember about the pleasurable quality of our past experiences is almost entirely determined by two things: how the experiences felt when they were at their peak (best or worst), and how they felt when they ended.”
It should serve as a lesson to performers who are perfectionists! Oftentimes, musicians are incredibly hard on themselves, mostly focusing on all the things they did wrong at a performance. It has its advantages, because if you want to get better, you need to know where you can improve. At the same time, the performance is the product, and if Kahneman is right, the mistakes will not be remembered, as long as you reach a good high, and end strongly. That means, NO long face at the end of the gig, because you fucked up, but a confident smile and attitude for all the things that went right!
But I digress! This piece is about choice, and every year we have more choices to make: what to wear, what to watch, what to eat, what to buy….. A lot of people are getting overwhelmed, but we have to relax about it. Remember the last two sentences from the first quote?
“A satisficer has criteria and standards, but a satisficer is not worried about the possibility that there might be something better. Ultimately, Schwartz agrees with Simon’s conclusion, that satisficing is, in fact, the maximizing strategy.”
Right in there is some of the best advice I’ve read in years! I know it’s hard to be satisfied; it’s human nature to want more, better, faster. This exactly is the danger of advertising: it plays on one of our greatest weakness. In a world where so much unhappiness comes from unmet expectations, the last thing we need is to create more, isn’t it? Why does my buddy, who has a perfectly good (perfectionist, the thing is MINT!) Galaxy Note II desire a Note IV? I mean, why spend $750 for something that does essentially the exact same thing? The improvements are measurable, but really, in every day life even my Moto G does the same thing, albeit with a smaller screen. It’s because the TV told him to!
One more related thing. On the John Cleese episode of Dutch TV show “College Tour”, on which you get a full one hour interview with a singular guest, in front of lots of University students who get to ask some of the questions, the topic became the dumbing down of James Bond movies which Cleese blamed on their popularity in Asia. There, most don’t get subtle Enligh-language humor, but they do love explosions! The most fascinating part of the discussion was the statement he made about Americans not understanding the phrase “enough money”. He explained that you need cash to make movies, and up to a certain point, more cash means you can make a better flick. BUT, at some point, you don’t need more! As a matter of fact, it might make the movie worse, because it needs to be made back, which means appealing to a lower common denominator.
The exact same applies to the record business and it’s where I think Los Angeles has really missed the boat. You see, with technology having advanced as much as it has, these days the gear necessary to make great sounding albums is extraordinarily low. The whole system I used to record XR7, the computer, interface, mics, preamps (16 channels!) cost $2000! That should give tremendous freedom to us to make the music we want and still be able to recoup the investments. Instead, you’d be amazed how many musicians, living month to month by the way, still believe one should buy the most expensive Mic Preamp one can afford! “Because it’s better!” I personally know people who can’t afford their lives, but are saving for $2000 units that do 2 channels…… they end up so far in debt after doing ONE album, so disillusioned with their inability to ever recoup, they will never do another!
Or, like Schwartz says: “Why more is less”