Lesson: Buying skinny jeans will only make your butt look big!

Have you ever experienced buyer’s remorse? Sure you have, we all have. You saved up all that hard-earned money to buy a new car or that new iPad. At first there is nothing better – the feeling is a heightened sense of elation. In our professional lives the same things happen, only the ramifications are much more serious and the choices we make can undermine our ability to strategically prove, model and create a value proposition that is meaningful. In what follows I will define a couple of tips built on strategic needs and differentiate them from tactical wants or flavor-of-the-month desires that encourage instant gratification.

Back to that new car – it seemed like such a great purchase, but it finally becomes a financial burden and doesn’t smell quite so new. And as for that iPad, wouldn’t you know it, Apple announces an iPad Version 2 (with a camera) a couple of months later.

How are you feeling now? Hm, thought so.

Professionally, and in our new data-driven, technology-rich economy, it’s easy for our field of vision to be regulated by blinders. Need gets overcome by want. The right now moment = immediate gratification…that newest tool, that newest App, that newest [insert anything here].

My dad always told me, “Maturity is putting off what you want today so that you can have what you need tomorrow.” It’s just common sense really. Why live for the instant when tomorrow will be more fruitful if you focus on the need? Why buy that new 2011 model car when 2010 is just fine? Why buy that iPad now when you know in a few months it will be better with cooler features?

The point is this: If you pursue the wrong direction, you will ask the wrong questions and come to the wrong conclusions, eventually leading to remorse.

The bottom line is that want vs. need creates a clear directional divide inside all of us and inside all of our businesses. You want that new Facebook page to launch, but you need a strategy first. You want to reinvent your brand, but you need to research your options. You want to start tweeting, but you need to build a schedule. You want that hot stock, but you need a mutual fund.

Wants vs. Needs

Most people go for instant gratification. I’ve done the same, we all have (side thought: a Snickers would be great right now but I’m trying to lose 10 lbs). We buy skinny jeans to fit the new hot trend even though all it does is make our butt look big! It’s the same thing in business.You launch that social media tool without a strategy, but all you really end up doing is showing your a*s, often and unfortunately, to the world. That’s the Internet for you.

1. A want is a tactic. A need is a strategy. Don’t mistake the wolf in sheep’s clothing. You want a Facebook page, but you need a strategy for how to speak with customers. You want to Tweet with customers, but you need guardrails and a policy to guide your 140’s. If you ask smarter questions you will realize what you need is simply to communicate with the customer and that may be via Facebook or Twitter or the phone for that matter, but a strategy will allow you to leverage cross-platform.

Many a woman will crucify me for this next statement, and I’ll preface with I believe this person is a wonderful and gracious individual, but Oprah is the Queen of Instant Gratification and it has permeated our lives and businesses. You want a trip to Australia? You get a trip to Australia! You want a new car? You get a new car! You want, you want, you want…you get, you get, you get. But, did you earn anything? Did you plan that next step? Every day is something new – there is no focus on a strategy so the elation quickly fades and you are on to the next thing you want but not focused on what you need.

2. A want is unstable. A need is balanced. We want a raise, we want the Titans to win the Super Bowl, and we want the love of our life to show love this way – not that way.

3. A want is cause and effect. A need produces lasting results. Needs contain all the elements of strategic vision, in fact they require it. Remember, wants and needs look similar but the result is very different.

A want is a moving target and what we want always increases; so the elation or high needs to be greater each time. Sounding more like a drug? Well, it is. Meanwhile a need is balanced and provides for stability in difficult situations and challenging times. A need helps to define us; it provides meaning and quality.

Examples: We get a raise, we spend more, we want another raise. Titans win the Super Bowl, the next year we want another win and the Division Championship isn’t good enough anymore.

“Today’s contentment is the source of tomorrow’s complaining.” ~ Greg Surratt

Finally, don’t be dissuaded by the facts. Facts can be wants in disguise. Want proof? In the United States nearly everyone’s satisfaction rating of the government and President are largely based on economic indicators and factors. Consumer Index is up – everyone is happy, consumer index is down – everyone is sad.

Wants are a moving target.

Remember those skinny jeans? Well, they were a size 34 (said so on the tag) but the thighs certainly didn’t fit – another wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Ask smarter questions, focus on the need and the result will amaze you.