Why Believe the Simple Truth When Lies are more Appealing?

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.

  • Steve

    Interesting post. I’d seen that video already, it made laugh out loud. It’s amazing the ridiculous stuff people with believe.

  • Anon

    Thanks for wasting my time with this incredibly obvious dribble. Duh, people are stupid, especially bloggers. Why don’t you do something productive with your time instead of crowding the internet?

  • http://www.steve-olson.com Steve Olson

    John,

    Yes we all need to fight the desire to live in la-la land. Fantasy seems more apealing than reality, but I bet if someone really got his fantasy of having everything he wanted, he’d still be miserable.

    I try to do my best to stay grounded in reality. My wife is better at it than me, so she helps keep me in line financially.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/ John Wesley

    Steve,

    I think most imaginative people are prone to getting a bit carried away with fantasy. With me, once I get started with an idea it starts to grow and I imagining incredible possibilities. It’s only after my initial enthusiasm wears off that I can really look at a decision objectively.

    I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but everyone needs other people as a reference to keep them in touch with reality.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/ John Wesley

    Anon,

    I apologize if you think I wasted your time. I know this isn’t the freshest, most exciting idea, but I believe it important to think about the way me make decisions. ;)

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  • http://www.senia.com/2007/03/12/how-to-achieve-anything-in-life/ Senia Positive Psychology Coaching

    Agreed about taking action right away!!! Great post.
    Totally agree: http://www.senia.com/2007/03/12/how-to-achieve-anything-in-life/

  • http://www.MyCRMTips.com Irene

    I agree. There are things that we know that are not true but still we fall for them. One example is discount. Some businesses are just increasing the regular price of their products so that when discount is deducted to the price people will think it’s cheaper when in fact it’s just the same as the regular price.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    Very true, Irene. Discounts are usually an illusion.

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  • http://www.CorporateEventPlanningTips.com Marie

    I agree. Imagination is something we should control. I don’t know why we keep on falling for those lies. Some are clear enough, but there is something within us that makes us do it.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    Marie,

    I think you’re right about there being “something within us” we need to control. I don’t think it’s entirely bad though, our imagination is what allows us to create big dreams and ideals.

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  • http://facedestiny.com/blog Maggi

    There are fortunes being made because gullible people believe that if they wear the same shoes, watch, or clothes as certain celebrities, or drink the same stuff in the same places, their lives will somehow be more glamorous and successful.

    And more often than not this definitely means buying things they can’t afford, using store and credit cards that pretend they’ll save them money.

    They’d do better imagining how to really improve their lives, rather than which ridiculously expensive handbag will suit them best, but then how would all the marketing and advertising people survive?

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    I just cant stop reading this. Its so cool, so full of information that I just didnt know. Im glad to see that people are actually writing about this issue in such a smart way, showing us all different sides to it. Youre a great blogger. Please keep it up. I cant wait to read whats next.

  • http://www.ido-doi.com Stella Aghenie

    You will have times in your life when you will feel like you’re the most unattractive person to walk the Earth. You will need somebody to pull you aside and say – you will not reach higher with your hands in your pockets. You can set many records, if you do guarantee yourself that you will do what you promise yourself, and listen to your dreams, to self improve faster

  • http://avocat-oradea.weebly.com/ Teo

    Ciao tutti

  • http://amenajarioradea.weebly.com/ vio

    salutari tuturor si complimente pentru blog

  • http://customizedfatlossreview.net Jack’s Customized Fat Loss

    that’s why we must be observant. And i agree about the discount thing, we thought that it was actually cheaper when in fact it was just the regular price.

    - jack leak

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