Saturday, August 14, 2010



I was watching two lectures this afternoon. One was by Malcolm Gladwell. You may know him by his bestsellers, "Blink", "The Tipping Point" and "What the Dog Saw". He's very interesting and known for his observational skills and story telling prowess. He spoke about Howard Moskowitz and how he "changed the world" through spaghetti sauce. More precisely, how he changed the world by giving us choices. Moskowitz is a psychophysicist, which is a person that tends to measure statistics or trends yada yada. In the early 70s, Mo (forgive me Mr. Moskowitz) was asked to test for the exact, perfect sweetness for the new field of diet soda. Pepsi knew that the range existed between 8 and 12 on the sweetness scale, but would Mo be kind enough to run some taste tests, look at the resulting stat curves, and come up with a marketable number and product? One thing led to another and Mo figured that there is no "perfect" food of any kind. There is no perfect soda. There are no perfect salad dressings and there are for sure no perfect spaghetti sauces. There are only different "types"...options....choices. From the early 70s, when there was only one kind of spaghetti sauce, we now have over 32 different types of Prego alone. Turns out, people especially like chunky. And they like it to stick to their pasta. The original spaghetti sauce people, Ragu, were basing their sauce on the original cultural recipes out of Italy, which were extremely thin sauces that ran to the bottom of the bowl when poured over the pasta. Well...that's the talk...choices choices choices=happy, informed and satisfied consumers.

Then I happened to click on another lecture. This one by Barry Schwartz, whose book I happen to have and which is called, "Stumbling Upon Happiness". His lecture was called, "The Paradox of Choice"....okay....

Turns out that we have too many choices in the world. We've always associated choices with freedom, right? We get to choose. Freedom of choice is good, right? Wrong. A couple or 3 choices is good. 32 choices is bad. It leads to paralysis and regret, to name a couple of things. He cited a company that offered over 50 different retirement plans to its employees to choose from. Guess what happened? Over the next year, only 10% of the employees took advantage of the matched-funds plans. There were too many to choose from! Maybe if there had been 3 or 5 or 10, but 50?!? Paralysis and regret. We also get slammed with a thing called, "escalation of expectations". This leads to increased add THAT to your paralysis and regret. Ugh. His summation? You'll probably never be truly pleasantly surprised and the key to happiness?...lowered expectations.

My husband is picking out a new phone. His son is pushing for a high tech, super computer phone that can take underwater videos, fax, open the gates outside our apartments and turn off our neighbor's dialysis machine. I just need a phone that can handle the interior of my purse. Choices, choices, choices. This has caused no small debate in our house. If he gets the high tech phone, my guess is he will be very very unhappy. Cause there's no telling what will happen to that phone....what buttons will get pushed...what screens may pop often it will end up getting shut down/off...anyone getting me?

This cold is kicking my behind. I can reasonably expect to feel moderately better tomorrow, or can reasonably expect to feel the same as I do today. Either way, my expectations are low and I'm going to be okay with it.


That's me...the little engine on xanax.


Eli Bowman said...

"That's me...The little engine on xanax." <--- HAHAHA!!! I will quote you forever with this little diamond.

The Katzbox said...

*deep bow* You're welcome. :)