An SNL video has been circulating the interwebs called Don’t Buy Stuff You Can’t Afford. The title basically says it all: an expert explains the most important rule of personal finance — spend less than you earn.
The funny part is that the people listening to the pitch don’t want to believe it. They’re dying for the finance guru to tell them how to buy everything they want right now.
The joke works because it reflects real behavior. A product can be an obvious scam, but people will rush to buy it because they enjoy believing pleasant lies. People pay for the pleasure of being deceived. For a brief period they can believe in an easy answer. The best part of the purchase is waiting for it to arrive, full of optimism and excitement.
It doesn’t even matter if a lie is particularly convincing or not. As long as it’s appealing there will probably be people desperate enough to cling to it. Our own desire for easy solutions does more to sell a product than the salesman.
To make good decisions it’s important to understand our natural tendency to deceive ourselves. Next time you get excited about something, step back for a second and try to identify the reason. Is it from genuine evidence, or the belief that you’ve finally found that missing puzzle piece that’s been holding you back?
Easy answers are exciting because they remove the burden of responsibility. Great! I don’t need to worry about my problems anymore! All I have to do is wait for the solution to be delivered and follow instructions.
If only life were that easy. Self deception inevitably feeds back into the cycle of disappointment, desperation, and delusion. We’re better off being brutally honest with ourselves.
Action is what we’re really afraid of. It’s uncomfortable and risky. It takes time and it doesn’t always work. But action is the foundational key to all success. Instead of looking for flashy new answers, take the simple ones you already have (they’re probably the best) and start taking action.