I recently posted on Facebook that I wished I liked pesto as much as I like the idea of pesto. Pesto sauce on pasta sounds so good but I’ve never had a pesto I enjoyed; I always leave the table disappointed, regardless of how skilled the chef was who prepared the meal. But I look at pesto recipes and I order it restaurants anyway.
We all have that feeling about different aspects of our lives: We are caught between the idea of something and the thing itself, and those aren’t always the same. Often, the idea is much rosier than the reality.
This reminds me of a saying I heard once that “people don’t want to write a book, they want to have written a book”. There’s a distinction here between the idea of having written a book and the reality of having to write a book. Any author will tell you that it’s a painful process to write a book and people discover that when they try. (By the way, I tried to find the source of the saying but can’t find it; so if you know, please contact me so I can update this blog post).
Many of my real estate investing clients see this when they mentor aspiring real estate investors. People come to them with a desire to learn how to invest but few actually act on it because they perceive a ton of risk and the challenges of navigating through the unknown is so difficult for them that they fail to act. Once again, people like the idea of being real estate investors but they don’t like the reality of real estate investing.
And among novice equity investors we see something similar: People love the idea of being edge-of-the-seat investors who accept risk and are rewarded handsomely but in reality people hate it and they stick their money under a mattress or in a a low-risk, low-return fund. (But there’s tension between the idea and the reality, which is why sometimes some people choose the crappiest investment imaginable because their neighbor’s friend knows someone who made some money in the stock a few years ago — even if those people are usually risk averse. It’s because the idea of being risk-loving is appealing).
Buyer’s remorse might be a related result: We like the idea of owning something more than the reality of actually owning it, which we only discover after having paid for it.
I suspect we also see it in other areas of our lives: Relationships, home ownership, political and religious positions, hobbies, entertainment.
WHY THE DISPARITY?
We see this disparity between the idea of something and the much less enjoyable reality. But why does it happen, and why does it happen so consistently in so many areas of our lives?
I’m just guessing, of course, but I believe we can draw a clue from two of the examples I gave above — the example of writing a book and the example of being a real estate investor.
In both cases, the result (from which we draw our rose-colored ideal) is rewarding. With a book, the end result is that you have “proof” that you are an authority on a topic and it’s packaged into a coherent, nice-looking book worthy of becoming a New York Times bestseller; it’s something you can point to as an enviable accomplishment. With a real estate deal, the end result is that you have an asset that is generating regular monthly rental income while you sit back and light cigars with $100 bills.
But in both cases, the way to get there (from which we realize the harsh reality of the situation) is much more difficult. A book takes a lot of time and effort — time and effort that needs to come from somewhere else in our already-packed schedules — and you’ll be surprised at how hard it is to write 100,000 words on a topic and maintain coherence all the way through. With a real estate deal, the way to get there seems complicated with steps that require financial investment and a bit of sales ability and TON of rejection.
In all cases, the idea is an attractive end-result while the reality is a lot of hard work (or financial expense or time required) to get there.
So people avoid the work or they work around it or try to do half-assed solutions that minimize the work (unfortunately, this can often lead to even less satisfying results).
HOW THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOUR BUSINESS
You can build off of this idea-versus-reality disparity to grow your business in the following ways:
- Identify the ideas that people have in which the reality is too difficult for them to achieve… and sell a product or service that delivers the dream and allows them to avoid the harsh reality. (This is why there are lots of freelance ghostwriters who are hired out to write books for clients, and it’s why there are so many real estate investing mentors out there who are making big bucks showing other people how to invest).
- When faced with do-it-yourselfers who think they can ignore or ameliorate their problems rather than pay for a solution, outline the true costs of those decisions as part of your sales funnel in order to illustrate how the DIY option is the challenging reality.
- When competing against low-priced competition, position your offering as being a fuller solution that completely eliminates all headaches and costs associated with the problem it solves. (In other words, your solution offers a clearer way to get the idea and avoid the reality than your low-cost competitor).
- After people have bought from you, help them avoid buyer’s remorse by surprising them with additional post-purchase value that helps to ease the reality and elevate the idea.
Now the question is: Are you going to go through the harsh reality of implementing this or are you going to click away from this post, merely in love with the idea of it?