Fear or Desire: what motivates you??

The Mack and I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking and talking about food.

The Mack’s one of those guys who’s always thinking at least one meal ahead.  We’ll be mid-way through a big cooked breakfast and he’ll start wondering aloud what we ought to do about lunch, smacking his lips and emitting deep belly groans at the thought of more food.  Worryingly Homer Simpson.

With me, it’s more the typical no-carb obsessiveness of someone who worked on the fringes of fashion and who has an entire wardrobe of size 8 clothes.  Dullsville.  But absolutely necessary.

primitive motivation

The Mack says that it’s simply his genetic coding.  He’s hardwired to be a hunter-gatherer, so it’s only right that he’s always planning where his next meal is coming from.  It’s usually coming from Sainsbury’s, but I guess it’s good to plan…

We’re all ultimately driven by two things: fear and desire.  The proportions vary from person to person and often from situation to situation, but whatever gloss you add to justify your particular actions, if you strip it back you’ll find plain old fear or desire (or a combination of both).

Marketeers have had this sussed for yonks.  They play us constantly on both sides.  The aspirational longing – if only I had that watch/car/phone, I would be instantly cooler.  The insecurity and inadequacy – I must buy all the anti-aging creams I can afford because no-one wants to be with a wrinkly old hag.

New-fangled marketing is no different.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, FourSnore, all are built on these two pillars of what it means to be human.  It is the desire to belong, to be connected, to share.  And the fear that if we don’t participate in these collective obsessions, then we are marginalised, we’re not really living.  You’ve probably noticed it amongst some of your friends too – they upload so much of their day-to-day existence: it’s as though they believe that if it’s not captured and published, then it doesn’t count.

Strange, but maybe that’s what those cave paintings were all about…?

fanning the flames

I’m largely immune to the normal desire sales triggers.  Show me all the magnum adverts in the world and I’m still not buying.  Even those ones with triple caramel and almonds all swirling around hypnotically.  Spare me.  I grew up in the 80s with soft-focus Flake adverts and the Caramel bunny.  Do you really think I’d fall for that lame old seduction routine??

So desire doesn’t really do it for me.  I know this because I contrast my approach to starting up a business with The Mack’s.  He’s a go-getting, nothing-stands-in-his-way, smash-some-walls-down, bish-bash-bosh (his words, not mine), laser-beam-focused, machine.  He has energy, purpose and clarity of thought.  He makes decisions quickly, moves on and gets shit done.  And then he howls at the moon and beats his chest.  (That last bit is, unfortunately, not made up – he hired a lion mask last weekend for my sister’s fancy dress party and seems in no hurry to take it back to the shop).

This is because he is driven by desire.  He wants to succeed and he enjoys the process of making things happen.  It’s quite impressive in action.

Whereas my approach is more stagnant puddle than flowing torrent of ambition.  Sure, I get the occasional burst of enthusiasm for my projects, where I’ll splash around happily in the puddle for a day or so.  But ultimately all that happens is that I churn up the mud at the bottom.  And no-one’s investing in mud.  So I stop.

scaredy scaredy…

But fear, now that I can relate to.  According to The Mack, the 3 little words that I say to him most often are, “Babe, I’m worried…”  And I have a really good scared face.

I think, on the whole, women do anxiety better than men.  Maybe it’s because we’re so adept at multi-tasking.  It means that we can worry about 821 things simultaneously.  What a gift.

The downside of using fear as your primary motivator is that it has a tendency to paralyse you, rather than spur you on to greatness.  You don’t often hear really successful people interviewed saying that what made them was sheer blind terror.  It’s always burning ambition, passion, desire for self-improvement.  Fear and self-loathing don’t seem to feature much in rags to riches stories.  Well, unless Oliver Twist is your mentor.

On the one hand, my lack of need to prove anything or to feel productive just for the sake of it, is hugely liberating.  On the other hand, it might be the thing that hampers me making a go of this new lifestyle.  I’ve chosen a path that requires me to be enthusiastic, proactive and self-starting.  And then I’ve basically covered myself in quick-setting tar and feathers and wondered why I’m struggling to move off the sofa.

I’m essentially living the life of a still-sprightly octogenarian.  Those little chores that used to sit on the periphery of my life (the supermarket run, online banking, hoovering) are now right up top of my to-do list.  I haven’t got to the point where I need an afternoon nap yet, but it can’t be far off.

But I’m not worried (well, maybe a teensy bit).  Because I know that the longer my state of apathy and paralysis lasts, the more anxious I will become about it.  And one day soon, the fear of losing this lifestyle will force me into action.  I just don’t think it’s a job for today… I’ve got some washing up to do.

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lifestyle tetris – downsizing and deflation

There comes a point where it’s no longer enough to talk about the lifestyle changes you’ve made, which, when you boil them down to the bare bones, equate to little more than not working and going on slightly longer holidays.

4 weeks instead of 2 weeks in the sun.  Take that, rat-racers…

That point has well and truly arrived for me.  As I sit amongst packing boxes, trying to decide which charity shops should share in the spoils of my decluttering (bad person alert – I give my best stuff to the ones which make an effort with lighting and merchandising and my shameful tat to the dusty ones manned by myopic elderly spinsters).

The fact is, it’s been looming over me for a little while.  How it’s all very well to pretend to change your life, by only giving up the bits that you don’t like.  But at some point, you’re going to need to make a few more difficult changes.

ch-ch-changes

So for me, the main one is giving up my rented flat in North London.  When you have no income, it suddenly seems a little bit ridiculous to be spending over a grand on basic living expenses every month.  So The Mack gets me as a houseguest for a month (lucky, lucky man) and, in return, the money I’ll save on rent will pay for his ticket to come join me in Argentina.

Cos that’s the other thing.  It’s actually cheaper for me to go to Argentina and Brazil for a couple of months than it is to stay in London.  I find it strange that London has such a strong start-up community, when it’s such a cripplingly expensive city.  I can only assume that Google campus works like a soup kitchen for starving wantrepreneurs.

So, anyway, it all sounds very exciting.  Living without a plan.  Travelling to hip destinations.  Not knowing where I’ll live when I come back.  Taking risks and living in the now.

Well let me describe the realities of the now…

I hate you so much right now

The now is the sort of logistical puzzle that, in comparison, makes me feel fairly certain I could mastermind a major war and comfortably expect to win with minimal loss of life to my troops.

It involves many lists of the many items that I own.  Most of which have been happily hiding away in the loft spaces since my last move 18 months ago.  And which, when assembled fully in my bedroom, make me want to weep at the enormity of the task before me.

take it away…

It involves various google searches to find people prepared to take away my unwanted furniture and electrical goods.  (If you’re interested, British Heart Foundation is pretty good for furniture and large, working electricals and there’s a scheme called 1,2,3 Recycle For Free for collection of electrical goods, big or small).

I wouldn’t bother trying to sell your stuff.  No-one’s buying.  If you can be arsed to enter the barcodes, then apparently Music Magpie is ok for CDs, DVDs and computer games, but you’re talking about 10 – 20p per item, so you need a fair few before you make any real money back.  And if you have any old textbooks, then Fat Brain is another good one, I’m told.

store it…

If you have stuff you want to keep, then you’ll need to navigate the dizzying array of storage options.  I nearly started a spreadsheet to make sense of the different pricing offers.  Some give you a free month if you take a minimum of 2 months.  Others charge per month and not every 4 weeks.  Some give free collection.  Some free insurance.  It’s a minefield, people.

In the end I went for Henfield Storage.  They’re the cheapest I found, they offer a free collection service if you pre-pay 3 months and they have good locations.

I’m just hoping that all my stuff fits into the size of room that I’ve reserved.  I’m quite tense about this.  My spatial awareness (or rather lack of it) is legendary in my family.  I’m the girl who struggles to fasten those elasticated luggage strap things on the inside of suitcases.  I’m there for days, twisting those stupid little fastenings around and around, just praying that somehow they will magically come together.  I’ve been known to cut them out of my suitcases in a fit of pique.  Hateful little things.

So, in my mind, a sideboard, chest of drawers, trunk, 2x stag armchairs, 2 x small chairs, wine rack, 2 large mirrors, a screen, 2 old-fashioned suitcases, various boxes of crockery, DVDs, kitchen stuff, microwave, stereo, clothes, ironing board and duvets, should easily stack into a 5ft x 7ft x 10ft room…  Right??

I’m taking The Mack with me to help me unload.  This could prove to be the toughest test of our relationship.  I think he’s going to be thankful that there will be an innocent bystander there too.  And that it’s a public place.  Otherwise this could get U-G-L-Y.

The Mack thinks it’s all a game.  Silly, silly man…

Yesterday, I felt totally overwhelmed by the whole packing up process (err, you can maybe tell I don’t work anymore, if this is my idea of stress..?).  Today I feel calmer.  I have a game plan.  It is flawless.  Probably.

Step 1:  Charity Shop – I have packed 10 bags of unwanted stuff to take to the charity shop on Thursday.  This is neatly stacked on the landing outside my flat, so as to leave more room inside for more packing.

Step 2: Mother’s Pride –  I have identified the stuff that I’m going to store in my mum’s loft (the “good stuff”).  This is packed and in an easily accessible corner of my bedroom.  My mum may shed a few tears when she sees the extent of what I’m bringing home, but her maternal instincts will prevail, I’m sure.

Step 3:  Collectors’ Items – I have booked collections in a couple of weeks’ time for my unwanted furniture and electrical items (the woman on the phone said “electronicals”, but I let it go…) and my stuff to go into storage.  I will mainly be spending that week waiting for white vans to show up.  I have itemised lists so that I don’t send the wrong items with the wrong van…

Step 4:  Mack Attack – I’ve hired a van for the day after the collections, so that The Mack and I can take whatever’s left over to his house.  I had promised him that I’d only be bringing 2 suitcases (normal clothes for now and stuff for our trip) and a plant and my bike.  We’ll see…

I suspect that what will actually happen on Step 4 is that I’ll look around and realise that there’s loads more stuff left over than I expected.  I’ll then have a little cry.  The Mack will lose patience with this woe-is-me routine after about 3 minutes and tell me to pull myself together.

We’ll then have to split up the stuff into different piles.  There will be a “shit, that was meant to go into storage” pile, a “fuck it, that can just go to the dump” pile and a “please can we find a little tiny space in your flat for it?” pile.  Which means that our journey to The Mack’s in deepest South London will be via the storage facility in North West London and the nearest landfill.

We don’t celebrate Valentine’s day.  Why would we when we have all of this to look forward to as a true expression of our commitment to one another?  I’ll make sure I keep back one of my bottles of champagne to toast the occasion…

what’s the tweeting point?

I’ve noticed a trend recently.

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time in various pubs.  Ahhh, I hear you think.  No job.  Slippery slope.  I saw this coming. Tragic waste.

Um, that’s not the trend I’m talking about, but thanks for your concern.

That said, I do now understand where Cheers was coming from. When your only company most days is the real housewives of [insert place with readily available plastic surgery], you find solace where you can.  And now that cafes are called “coffee shops” and are overrun with speccy beardie types brooding oh so creatively over their macbook airs, it’s no wonder I need something stronger…

But I digress.

So what I’ve noticed is how many pubs (and cafés and bars and local shops and hairdressers and and and…) now have their own Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Firstly, what I love is how there’s still no other way to advertise your adoption of that most modern of marketing media than by putting up crappy posters around the place.  Delicious irony.

Secondly, I love that the language of Facebook and Twitter makes insecure schoolgirls of us all. Like me. Follow me. Why don’t you like me? Why won’t you follow me? You like Zara but you don’t like me? Am I not pretty enough?  **sob**  Terribly damaging stuff.  I’m sure there’s a PhD thesis in there somewhere.

But mainly I’m wondering what the tweeting point of it is?

Sure, I can see merit in having a Facebook page instead of a website. It’s cheap, quick and you can get your minimum-wage student bar staff to update it, since they’re probably spending most of their working time on Facebook anyway.  I get that it provides a way to let punters know about the Wednesday pub quiz or Friday night’s covers band.  I get that you can offer discounts and exclusives for Likers.

But I find it bizarre that loads of little businesses now seem to think that they need to have an all-singing-all-dancing fully integrated social media marketing campaign.   Why oh why oh why??

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that Facebook and Twitter are a humungous waste of time for most small businesses.

I mean, what on earth are you going to tweet about?  That you’ve just changed the barrel on the Erdinger?  That most of your female clients are going Hollywood over Brazilian this season, so you’d better get strimming?  I have visions of pub landlords and artisan bakers having sleepless nights as they desperately try to think of enticing status updates and witty tweets about buns and baps.

I’d hazard a guess that most of us are happy just to turn up to the pub and see what’s occurring.  And most of us stick to local pubs, so we already know what’s going on. Because we go there. And they have it written down on boards with brightly coloured chalk.

The truth about Twitter (as in life) is that the followed are few and the followers are many.  So unless you already have a loyal bunch of customers who just happen to also be very widely followed on Twitter, you’re unlikely to pick up any new business that way.  It’s like the old philosophical conundrum:  if a business tweets in a forest but no-one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound??

Facebook and Twitter can work well for big businesses.  That’s because they have lots of money to create marketing content that they can then spread via social media.  For those companies, it’s not radically different from the advertising model of the 80s.  They spend money and they get customer eyeballs.  We’ve just swapped TV for Facebook.  Same audience, same spiel.  No-one’s doing anything particularly cool or innovative.  There’s a formula to it, just like with any other type of marketing.  And those which are most successful at it are those who already have a strong brand presence and have the money to do it properly.

But if you’re a small business, I’d say don’t bother.  The pickings are slim and the maintenance is tedious.  I would do a leaflet-drop over a twitter campaign any day – it’s targeted, relevant and proactive.  Leave the F-ing and T-ing to the big boys.  They’ve convinced themselves that it’s an essential part of their marketing strategy.  And maybe it is, just like TV advertising was in the 80s….