Childhood was once a truly carefree time. Remember the days when the greatest obstacle to happiness was simply forming a quorum among your friends to reach a decision about what to do with your free time that day? Even sitting on the curb negotiating a plan of activity required us to engage in sophisticated banter far beyond our years. “What do you want to do? I don’t know, what do you want to do? I don’t care — what do you want to do?” It was another Algonquin Round Table.
EVEN KIDS FEEL PRESSURE AND COMPLEXITY
Childhood may not be so carefree anymore. New research shows kids as young as eight feeling the weight of the world on their shoulders. The study discovered that eight out of 10 children find the pressures of modern life are too complicated. The figures also showed that 55 percent of youngsters believed growing up today was harder than it had been for their parents. Psychologist Aric Sigman said, “We assume worrying about abstract world issues is reserved for grown-ups but it’s now clear this burden has moved down the age range.” The survey’s findings are a sobering commentary on 21st century life. With our children so afflicted, can you imagine the sheer percentage of adults who find modern life — be it social, political, emotional, individual, financial, familial, cultural, etc. — to be far too complicated?
THE TYRANNY OF CHOICE
It’s a safe bet that 99 percent of today’s adults (especially business owners and those in management) would declare this life to be endlessly complicated. Those among the 99 percent might find the following examples of over-complication to be wincingly familiar: There are nine versions of “The Dark Knight” on DVD available for purchase. Nine different versions of the same movie! The extra features in each package boost the number with extra discs, widescreen, blue ray version, alternate endings, collectible figures and Dolby digital sound. One format is even the old pan and scan full screen version. In the book Complicated Lives: Sophisticated Consumers authors discuss a UK pharmacy with 14 different types of dental floss on their shelves and how (and why) there are eight different kinds of orange juice under the single Tropicana brand. Each of us has been confronted and bullied by this dense tangle of complicated choice: the knot of investment options open to each investor, tube upon tube of toothpaste types, cough medicine for every possible combination of phlegm, mucous and sputum. These are just a few examples of over-complication in consumer choice.
Our lives, both personal and professional, and most things in between, are overcomplicated by choice and by the sometimes out-of-reach ideals we are presented by Madison Avenue and the media in general. We are bombarded by products, services and messages that can make us feel left out, letdown, unsuccessful, unimportant, weak, irresponsible, uncaring, wrong in our opinions, stupid in our investments and stinky in our underarms. In the 21st century, we are challenged to seek social acceptance and self-acceptance more through acquisition than natural achievement. Unfortunately, the acquisition path is embedded with certain failure as there is always something new to acquire.