Friday, April 15, 2011

The Consumer Mentality is Bankrupt

I've been reading some interesting things lately, and I'm not sure how much they have influenced my thought on the topic of the day, but I thought it was important to mention them right off the bat.

First off, billionaire Mark Cuban's weblog. I think the idea of my blog referring to his is funny, because it would never happen the other way around (never say never?). He writes about the stuff he knows best - entertainment, business, success, etc. I love his account of his rise to success.

Second, Altucher Confidential, written by entrepreneur James Altucher. While he has many striking ideas that I appreciate because they seem to go against collective wisdom, the most fascinating thing about his blog is Altucher himself. He comes across as eccentric, which again is probably why I like him. He reminds me of me. Rough edges abound. Anyways, check him out. I guess his post on "8 Alternatives to College" sparked some thinking on the topic for today.

What I've realized lately is that my approach to life has been largely inadequate due to the hyper-prevalence of one major ideology - that of consumerism. I've approached life, people, education, the search for a career, everything, from a consumer mentality.

By this I mean, I have expected the "product," whatever that may be, to be presented to me, to be brought within easy reach for my easy consumption. In terms of life in general, this means that I've falsely expected to have the sort of life I want to live laid out for me like in a 30 second commercial, and all I would have to do is "sign up," purchase the product. As if my life was already out there somewhere, and I just had to select the correct one from a store shelf.

In terms of relationships, this has meant that people are largely there for my enjoyment, emotional satisfaction, etc. It means that I haven't given enough of myself (I realize I'm being overly critical, and many would disagree, but I'm trying to trace this out in stark terms).

I've viewed my education largely as the process of dumping as much merchandise into my mental shopping cart as I think I can manage. I've never been good at contributing to class discussion (often because I feel like I have nothing to say, which I know is wrong). But as a consumer, I'm not there to give, I'm there to take. If knowledge is a commodity, I want to purchase as much as I can (but hopefully get it for free). This consumer mentality has probably kept me from truly engaging with ideas, with texts, and with my classmates.

My search for a meaningful career has probably suffered most from this way of thinking. The right job, the right career, should present itself to me, with all the warm glow and feel-good sentimentality of an insurance commercial with soldiers and American flags. It's out there, it's just on a shelf I can't quite reach, or in one of those pricey warehouse clubs I don't have a membership to. The problem is with the marketplace, not my attitude. The "economy" has failed to plunk into my lap my next thing in life. I'm a consumer. This is what I've been taught to do, trained to do. I've been waiting for life to happen to me, to give me something to work on and with. The market will weed out any weak or bad options, and I'll only be left with the best, which will be presented to me in all its shimmering glory.

Clearly, this is all so wrong, so crippling. But it's hard to see the subtle workings of forces that inundate us, hammer away at our sub-conscious, and turn us into drones. If we're ever going to be anything more than the "hive-mind" (another post I want to write soon), we need to make the important leap that I want to make, which is the move from a consumer mentality to a producer mentality. And since I'm still working that one out, check back for subsequent thoughts on the topic. Right now I thought it was important to identify the problem before constructing the "solution".

What are your thoughts on this? Does this resonate with you? Do you have suggestions for moving to a "producer" mentality? Comments are most welcome.


  1. I'm with you. I think another thing to add to that whole "what's my destiny (AKA career)" struggle is that we never, ever, ever, have to make a real, lasting decision until college is over with. Most of us grow up with most of our decisions made for us or at least presented to us with help. Going to college might have been, once upon a time. Which college you go to is closer to it, but it's more like choosing from a bunch of trains that all take you to the same place. The same angsty, deep-in-debt place - the place where most of us consumers find ourselves. I've noticed my consumerism of late, too. I eat a lot of fast food. When something breaks, My first impulse is to buy a replacement. When I'm bored, I go to the internet to consume info and amusement. People didn't used to do this. People used to produce, or at least made do. They made their food. They fixed stuff. They made conversation. I never really thought about this, but I guess people have always started out as consumers and transitioned into producers. It's natural. I think nowadays, we're just doing it later in life.

  2. Great points, Jim! I really wish that I had started thinking about how to set myself up for a career in high school, even, as it seems some kids are being taught today. I definitely didn't think about it much during college. I was so focused on what I was doing day to day that I didn't think about the big picture. And that just got me thinking about a new blog post. Thanks for the inspiration!