What if it were Sex?
The Coronavirus has created a world where nearly everyone has been at home, for 30 days.
In that time, many people have turned to technology for a distraction. They may even feel as though they've reached the "end of the internet" by this point as they try to stay occupied...and it certainly feels like I've seen damn near everything on Netflix.
And yet, I still don't feel any better - do you?
As this experience evolves more people are seeing that time spent consuming content on the couch each week doesn't feel gratifying in large doses. Which makes you wonder...
Do Small Doses Really Do Much?
Consider the instagram life of someone you know - yep, that person - the one you immediately pictured in your mind.
They probably spend a week in Croatia, or some other exotic sounding location - maybe it's Orlando (Florida) for all you 'Disney Freaks' out there LOL ;-) and then three months later you see them jet-setting off to ANOTHER foreign land.
Instead, if you're like most here in the Philadelphia area, that kind of jet-setting life feels pretty foreign and out-of-reach. A way of life reserved for the elite few.
My childhood experience with vacations was different.
If we were lucky, we spent two weeks at the beach in the summer, and several weekends of skiing in the winter - and boy, I loved every minute of it! I made fantastic memories in Sea Isle, and Ocean City and all sorts of other places.
Maybe your experience is similar (if you're able to afford a getaway), and you grew up enjoying a week or two at the Jersey Shore each year...and maybe you even got away for a long weekend(s) in the Poconos.
Still, I can't help noticing that every time I go to the beach I see some of the same people...
Those Instagram people...
The ones who were JUST in Croatia. Can you hear them? They're discussing their next trip coming up in 8 weeks - to Milan.
And it makes me want to scream HOW DO YOU GET TO LIVE LIKE THAT?!
No, seriously...I want to know. And I do, but for now let's get back to being at the beach.
Ok - so you're at the beach, and after a week (or two) at the shore it's time to head home and it's back to work.
A few weeks later, as you pull up Instagram, you see that same instagram friend deplaning in Milan and think "F--k them!" (as you double-tap the photo) or if you're a little less jaded you simply remark, "Must be nice"!
And as you toss your phone aside and glance back at the TV, Netflix asks "...still watching?" much in the way a needy toddler would - and you settle in for that 4th episode of the 5th season of Friends. You know...The One where Phoebe Hates PBS.
C'est la vie. Big doses of work, small doses of Netflix, and not enough medium-sized doses of vacation.
But, what if it were sex?
Mediocre or "More..more...more!"
If you had the option to have mediocre sex for 5 minutes each day - or have 35 minutes of mind-blowing sex each week - which would you pick?
I hate to use such a base analogy, but it is probably the only thing we pay attention to: money, sex, and lately our health.
Of course you want the Mind Blowing 35 Minutes!!
And if you don't, here's a link to somebody you should talk to - your partner will thank me!
In fact, emotional considerations aside, this blog post from AshleyMadison.com (famous facilitator of extramarital encounters) clearly points out the clear link between sexual boredom and marital infidelity. I'm neither endorsing or shaming any of this - just saying: it's a fact.
And so is this: Nobody wants the 5 minutes of mediocrity.
Nobody has a fantasy that they think about at work, or school, or anywhere that resembles "I just want to experience five brief moments of utterly forgettable and totally unremarkable, plain, vanilla sex."
But while we (allegedly) refuse to settle for that in the bedroom, most Americans - as evidenced by our overall happiness index - are all too willing to make that compromise with the rest of their life.
I know I was.
Are We Addicted to Mediocrity?
Our voyeuristic entertainment culture is the equivalent of mediocre sex. It takes up a void in time, and is a momentary distraction from life, but ultimately doesn't make us any better or any more fulfilled.
"What will Kim and Khloe eat next?" on tomorrow's episode of Keeping up...
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, CRIBS, "Housewives" etc.
Any awards show...literally any of them.
I could write a whole other piece about our "celebrity worship" and how dangerous it is to devalue practical skills that help society and elevate completely irrelevant skills because we find them "entertaining" - but that's for another day.
The truth is, we placate ourselves from a "hard day at work" with a few minutes of distraction here, a few hours there, and outside the world marches on - while we occasionally pop onto instagram and click "like" on pictures of other people living the lives we fantasize about. We say things like "must be nice".
The most damaging phrase I hear uttered all to often around Philadelphia, and told to others by well meaning people is: "Hey, whaddya gonna do?" - it's a variant of "It is what it is."
Basically, the verbal equivalent of: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The fact is most successful people*** are successful simply because they refuse accept the world as it is; to "settle for mediocre sex"...and they certainly don't spend as much time as the average American consuming content.
Rather, they see things like reality TV for what they really are - distractions.
"But Greg" you say "I work hard and need a distraction" - and I agree.
You do work hard...and you deserve a distraction. And there are plenty of successful people who use TV as a distraction from time to time. In fact, I would bet that if you're still reading this article and you earn over $200,000*** per year you're either:
Nodding your head as you read this and thinking "PREACH"
Or, stopped reading after I started bashing reality TV - because statistically 6% of wealthy individuals really enjoy it. I have to think Kim and Kanye make up a full 3% of that number. LOL.
No matter who you are, it's important we have distraction on occasion (well, unless you're Bill Gates) - BUT - what if that distraction were something that made you better?
What if your distraction were something that <gasp> made the world around us better?
Let's Put it to "The Test"
Ok, ok - MAYBE Netflix binges will inspire you to create the next hit TV show...but how many pages of that script have you written?
What have you done with that great business idea you had a few months (years?) ago?
Likely, nothing. Because something got in the way. This illusion that we're supposed to come home each day and take a "break".*****
To be sure, there is a lot of money to be made from this illusion, but I doubt it is going in your pocket. Here's who's getting it (and no, it's not some white guy who vaguely resembles Santa):
It's going to people who refused to waste their five-to-nine******* - that's the time you have before work (5am-9am) and after work (5pm-9pm).
It's going to people who will gladly sacrifice 5 minutes of mediocre sex for 35 minutes of mind blowing sex later.
There is a very famous psychological experiment called "The Marshmallow Test" which looked at the behavior of children, and measured their ability to delay gratification (sacrifice).
They were told if they waited, and did not eat one marshmallow now, then 15 minutes later they'd be given two marshmallows. Here's a cute video of a similar experiment involving kids and cookies.
With the actual Marshmallow Test researchers followed up years later, on multiple occasions, with those children from the initial experiment and found that the capacity to wait - the capacity for delayed gratification - had a correlation to greater happiness.
So in the spirit of The Marshmallow Test, I'd like to invite you to try an experiment with me.
The "Un-Scientific" Method
With our little experiment, let's discover the answer to this question together:
1. What might happen if you eliminated consuming content, or indulging in activities that aren't asset-developing****, for an entire week?
You might have no idea what to do with yourself (here are some examples).
You'll probably feel tremendous discomfort - maybe even experience anxiety - for the first few days.
2. But, would you agree to try it - to take a "mental diet" of sorts - for this 7 day period if at the end you got a reward? If at the end, you got your "two marshmallows"?
That's right, at the end of 7 days, you would be able to binge - without interruption - and consume as much pointless content as you could consume for 48 hours.
What do you think might happen?
Well, you don't have to wonder. Because you're (sort of) already in my experiment.
You're just experiencing it backwards.
Most of you have spent the last 30 days voraciously consuming content.
This unique "experiment" (pandemic) we're in the middle of right now is already starting to show that life doesn't get any easier the more content you consume.
It gets easier when you create.
People are bursting at the seams to get back out into the world and create. To add value.
Frankly, my concern is that we all have rather short memories...and I worry that the power of effective advertising and our notoriously short attention span will cause us to fall back into that rut of "just trying to get through the day" and see us merely slink back onto the couch to binge away our feelings of dissatisfaction and helplessness.
Because after all: "It is what it is"
A New Hope
But what if when we do get back out there, when everybody gets back to work, you decide to make a permanent change?
Well, the first thing is that "the system" (consumer culture, celebrity worship, peer pressure) is going to do everything it can - and it can do a LOT - to break you and make you fall back in line. But you just went through 30 days (as of 3/15) of HELL - you're tough as nails and resilient as f**k! And I'm here for you when you need moral support.
But the simple truth is this, and it's the thing I've wanted you to buy into and really take away from this whole article.
It's the concept that I hope changes your life:
If you aren't passionate about how you spend your 9-5, you damn well better do something you are passionate about with your 5-9; AM and PM - lest your life will have only served to enable someone else to live your fantasy!"
All you'll have done is enable someone ELSE to enjoy 35 minutes of mind blowing sex...while you settled for 5 minutes of mediocrity.
So...do you really give a damn about Joe Exotic...or would you rather spend a week in [insert aspirational destination here] later?
The choice is yours.
About the Author: Gregory Offner is an internationally known dueling pianist, who just happened to have a 17-year career in corporate sales and insurance. When vocal trauma cut his sales and singing career off at the knees, he underwent 14 surgeries to save his voice. In a strange twist, nearly losing his voice has amplified it; making him a sought after keynote speaker, coach, and trainer on the methodology of making and managing Disruption. If you'd like to know more, email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his frighteningly un-curated instagram at @gregoryoffnerjr
ASTERISKS - EXPLANATIONS - FOOTNOTES
*Instagram is curated, and not to be believed as a true picture of someones life. I can't believe I have to type this as a footnote. I have a friend who puts all the "glory" on Instagram but what you don't see are the "guts" - the really hard (often boring) stuff he does every day that affords him the opportunity to experience all that "glory"...and none of it includes marathons of consuming 'recreational' content on TV. He does, however, voraciously consume content that makes himself, and his business better, stronger, and faster.
**There's truth to the statement that "jealousy isn't a good look" - but frankly I'm being honest that as a human sometimes I feel envy...but instead of letting it consume me I have surrounded myself with mentors and strategies to try and turn that envy into energy to contribute and create more...because by creating more value for others, we get the opportunity to create and obtain what we desire out of life.
***Income, Lavish Trips, etc are not a de facto determinant of success. Defining success is very subjective, and if you have a personal definition of success that doesn't include the opportunity to travel or involve income you've probably stopped reading this and I wish you all the best in life. That said, many people would argue that it would be nice to earn a six-figure income, and so to establish some basis for "success" I'm going to use monetary figures and travel for some examples.
****Asset Developing is anything that creates value. This could be reading non-fiction; taking online courses; sports; creative arts (creation, not consumption); starting a side-hustle; learning a new language etc.
*****If you have children, spending time creating, playing, and stimulating their imagination (not watching TV) with them is one of the (if not THE) greatest value creating activities you can do.
******It's not that I didn't care about the job, it's just that I didn't "care" about the job - I cared about the income. To be clear: I NEVER did anything to besmirch my employer, or shortchange the customer - in fact the one place I did go above and beyond was in taking care of the customer - I just wasn't cut out to work for someone else's business. I generally found things that were inefficient, didn't make sense, and didn't add value - and the management generally didn't appreciate me bringing all those things (and my proposed solutions) to their attention...I was usually told the equivalent of "know your place, and wait your turn" - and that s**t doesn't fly with me. Perhaps that's just another reason why I'm a disruptor :)
That also doesn't mean that I wasn't successful at my job(s). In fact, in some cases, I ranked up among the top performers in the entire organization - which is kinda saying something astounding I suppose if I was just better than most without really putting the effort in. But if I write any more about this here in the footnote it's going to become its own post...in fact - this is definitely a future post :)
*******That concept, "...9-5...5-9..." was co-imagined by myself and Ari Kushner; and I am thankful for his beautiful brain that helped us create that idea one day over breakfast.