Actually, It’s (Always) What It’s Not.

Looks can be deceiving.  In fact, more times than not what you see is not what you get.

It's a facade.  It's like the Wild West of your imagination.  And that's not your fault entirely.

A lot of smart people put in (a lot) of time and effort to pull one over on you.

Think about something seemingly simple for a few minutes with me

The Shopping Mall.

To you and me it's a place where we can buy trendy discount shoes, try on torn jeans, and model the latest Affliction t-shirt all within 300 steps of a food serving area where overcooked burgers, tasteless subs, and oversized pizza slices share space with less-than-authentic Chinese food being offered for free on a toothpick filled tray.

To the woman in our life, it's a paradise of discount, style, and highly-tuned retail square footage.

But it's actually a massive "coercion engine" at work.  All the tricks of Las Vegas without the colored lights and dancers wearing peacock-feathered caps.

Ever wonder why:

  1. You seem to lose track of time inside the mall and wonder "where the time went" when you leave.
  2. Your feet get tired walking on the pathways but feel better standing in the stores.
  3. You get frustrated having to walk across the entire mall to shop at the "big boxes".
  4. You sometimes get lost in the weird layout of the stores and have to check the maps.
  5. You think the bathrooms are positioned in all the wrong places.

Guess what?  Your suspicions are right.

Looks are Deceiving.

A simple thing like a mall is carefully created to manipulate your senses into appearing warm and friendly.  Really -- it's built to squeeze every last dime from you.

Did you know?

  1. Oxyen is pumped unto the mall to reduce smells like humidity which might warn you that a storm is on the way (which would cause you to leave early).  Lighting is also carefully monitored to keep you shopping longer.
  2. Walking surfaces are purposefully constructed to tire out your feet if you don't stay in stores long enough.  And there are always too few chairs so that odds are likely you won't be able to sit down.
  3. The biggest stores are purposefully placed at opposite ends of the mall so that you have to walk past all the other shops to get to where you really want to go.
  4. There are very few right-angles.  Hallways slope and bend instead of turn.  Escalators  going up and down seem to be located too far apart from each other.
  5. Architects place bathrooms in places like the food court where you have to walk past "low resistance" pitches like bulk candy dealers and other "As Seen On TV" chotchkies.

It may seem passive, but it's actually a highly constructed manipulation engine based on years of experience fooling buyers into spending more than they ordinarily would.

What you see (or what you don't see) impacts the decisions you think you are making innocently.

So What?

If a silly retail culture can be manipulated to "be" something dramatically different than what it appears, think about what else around you might not be exactly what it seems to be.

Like everything.

"Very little in life actually turns out to be exactly what it seems like in our minds..."

That's not because you are bad at hunches or your "gut instinct" switch needs a tune-up.  You're just being fooled.

It's not just the mall.  It's the "conventional wisdom" that somehow get's lodged in our brain, fooling us:

  • That the guy with the promotion is way more happy than you could be...
  • That cheating to get ahead a little fast means "it will be worth it in the end"...
  • That running from your job to a new job means you will help avoid the same problems...
  • That your lack of extreme effort is really you "working smarter"...
  • That the news you hear being reported is the truth...
  • That the excuses your client gives you are the real reason behind you not closing that deal...

Here's a general rule of life, negotiation, or personal motivation:  "It is always what it appears not to be... Always!"

That's right.  Appearance lie.  Intentions and motivations can be tricky. 

It's a Legacy, Baby.

I didn't think this up and I didn't start this "the sky is falling" sermon.  Very wise men left their solitude writing ancient proverbs to come down the mountain and tell us that "the grass is not greener on the other side." It's something we forget.

In this age of news at the speed of Twitter, we sometimes forget that (actually) it's always what it's not.

We forget that life is a little more complex than the simple black-or-white constructs that we like to place things in.

Life is a million shade of gray.

And depending on who is telling you the story, you should probably assume that it's always what it's not.