Meet Dude A and Dude B. They’re two great friends of mine.
I’ve seen The Dudes evolve from hangover-ridden students to great dads and successful executives.
One is a top dog at a software company.
The other consults with tech firms.
Both have their own kids and wives.
Both are smart and responsible.
Both have fallen under the spell of The Joneses.
Here’s the funny thing about these Dudes when we get together. If Dude A shows up wearing trendy new shoes one week, Dude B will have pretty similar kicks on the next.
Same thing for cell phones, sweatshirts, you name it.
Classic Keeping-Up-with-the-Joneses phenomenon. Let’s just call it KUJO. And lame.
The most interesting thing about their festering KUJO? Before I started flaying into them like so much juicy rotisserie, they didn’t have any idea they were doing it.
That’s the insidious and fearsome power of suggestion. Like when a bouncer suggests you leave the bar by helping you through a window. Subtle and vicious.
Advertisers rely on it a bunch. So do merchandisers who manipulate in-store layouts, lighting, music and even salespeoples’ looks.
Ah, what mighty brained beasts we are and yet so easily swayed.
And that’s really what the KUJO effect depends on. Suggestion.
Nobody really says to themselves: “Henry and Rhonda just pulled into their driveway with a brand new 3,000 pound steel cage on wheels. Maybe I need a new steel cage.”
It’s never that explicit. It’s just that the idea of Henry and Rhonda and something new burrows into your mind and nests and nettles and eventually convinces you you’re missing out on something.
You’ve got a need. A new steel cage, perhaps.
Some Research on KUJO
Two studies relate to this game of hedonic catch-up. They can help us make sure we’re not on the losing team, and they might even make us six-figures richer.
The first study: Bankruptcy risk is much, much higher than average for neighbors of lottery winners.
Don’t know any lotto winners? Count yourself lucky.
Perceiving all the amazingness of the glittery new lives of the scratch-and-win enthusiasts next door, the neighbors try to keep pace. They can’t. They file for bk.
It sounds ridiculous.
But there’s a strong statistical case to support it, and there’s reason to believe the effect isn’t limited to neighbors of lotto champs.
It also applies to neighbors of those who’ve otherwise had a financial windfall. Or even just a measly promotion.
Some (More) from the Files
The other study applies even more broadly: Pressure to keep up with friends’ lifestyles is amplified by social media.
Yeah, it can be tough in its own right, but KUJO pressure is magnified by the pixels.
Take a gander at your Facebook feed. People show off the best (and most unrepresentative) moments of their lives, the best new S-T-U-F they’ve obtained, the best new this and the best new that.
They leave out the rest.
We know this.
But, damn that power of suggestion is devious.
It creeps right in and gets cozy in our primitive amygdalas.
Notwithstanding the role of our lizard brains, it’s a matter of pride for us.
We know we’re as smart, attractive, funny, worthwhile, whatever as those bozos on social media. And, dammit, we’re gonna show it. Where’s my credit card?
Instead of one-clicking our way to ruin, we can keep up with the Joneses a better way.
It’s the way of the Financia Luchador.
How’s That, Now?
It’s what we do when we start feeling the slimy grip of pride steering us toward financial ruin.
And we can even profit from it – to the tune of six figures…
Step 1: Realize that the power of suggestion from your neighborhood and Facebook frenemies is real.
It’s real. It’s there. And it’s breathing down your neck like an anxious, sweaty seatmate on a bumpy commuter turboprop.
You can’t run away from this one. The seatbelt sign is illuminated.
Since you can’t hide out in the lavatory your whole life, you gotta turn and face it.
Step into the financial arena wrestling ring with it and say hello all nice and sweet with a steel-toed boot to the throat. No flight; all fight…even at 30,000 feet.
The best way to KO crazy KUJO is to make the suggestion explicit. Why?
Because then it’s obvious just how lame the underlying notion is.
Think about Henry and Rhonda and their shiny new meat crate. And now say this: “I am not as smart, attractive, worthwhile, funny or loved as Henry and Rhonda because they have a new meat crate and I don’t.”
Now punch yourself in the ear and move on.
Step 2: Turn the suggestion around. And let Henry and Rhonda help you do it.
You realize now that a new five-figure depreciating asset will not make you any smarter, attractive, worthwhile, funny or loved. And that realization has power if you own it.
Ask yourself: “What can I do to be smarter, more attractive, more worthwhile, funnier or more loved, and what can I learn from Henry and Rhonda about how to do it?”
Here’s a way.
Since you’re already creeping on your neighbors and watching their every move around the house like you’re casing the joint, look for things they do really well. There’s gonna be something. Even if they are named Henry and Rhonda.
What do they do that actually makes them smart, attractive, worthwhile, funny and loved? Learn from it. Use it. Steal it. And then act like it was yours all along.
The Roman Empire was one of the greatest ever to leave its mark on this planet. Aqueducts, concrete, philosophy, mythology, writing, roads, arches, politics, warfare strategies. Amazing.
And 100% not invented by the Caesars and Praetorian Guard. It all came from the Greeks and others the Romans trampled on the Appian Way to supremacy.
You may not be in Rome, but you can still do as the Romans did.
Here’s an example. Say you’ve got this neighbor who’s a total shitbird. He’s the most odious imaginable human and, for sake of honor, you’d never consider shoplifting from this bozo.
He lives next door. Does something vaguely financial. Probably sells overpriced trading advice to idiots.
He has a new car in the driveway every 20 months. Leased. Keeps rolling the leases over to a new ride before the old one is out. The kind of thing you do if your IQ and bank balance are both in the double digits.
All the while he gives your old but well kept ATM on wheels these sidelong glances like it doesn’t belong in his ‘hood.
And it’s irritating. Like athlete’s foot in a board meeting kind of irritating.
Mainly it itches and burns because, on a bad day, you’re worth 5x this douche. And every so often you feel like you should let him know it.
“If you have a friend that you see on most days, it’s like earning $100,000 more each year. Simply seeing your neighbors on a regular basis gets you $60,000 a year more. On the other hand, when you break a critical social tie…it’s like suffering a $90,000 per year decrease in your income.”
So take these anti-KUJO steps yourself.
The next time your Jones-iest neighbor has a financial spasm that makes you feel inadequate, make the power of suggestion explicit.
Say it out loud if you want. Hear how stupid it all is.
And then turn that stupid into motivation.
Learn from thy neighbor. Steal from thy neighbor something beneficial. And make your life better. The real way, not by collapsing more blood vessels with your consumer junkie habit. Not by flogging your credit card like it’s a rented mule.
Instead, beat any inefficiency, lack of creativity or room for self-doubt out of your life with full-on FL brutality. Get nasty. Throw chairs.
You won’t be suckered into throwing away perfectly good investment soldier dollars on crap because you’ll be enriching your life – to the tune of six figs – without spending a dime.
And while you’re at it, do one more thing. Turn all this logic around on itself.
Just as you can find inspiration in a shitbird neighbor, maybe you can inspire that assclown to be less of an assclown.
Set an example for him by doing things that don’t suck. Don’t advertise it like you’re running for office and need some good PR. Just act out the example of how you want him and others to be. Rise above, as they say.
Now go forth and just beat the shit out of it.
And if you have a chance, Luchadores, share what you’ve done, or just tell us the thing your neighbors do that most makes you want to toss your financial future off an overpass.
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