Sunday, February 3, 2008

On being a consumer...

You're a consumer whether you like to admit it or not. In order to survive in this world, you need to make use of other's skills. Though it may be nice to be able to know everything to survive on your own, in this complex lifestyle that we wll live, our daily lives make us a consumer. Being a consumer simply means we exchange our knowledge and skill expertise for other's knowledge and skill expertise. Why learn to make a coffee maker and manufacture it on our own when we can buy one in the store? Undoubtedly, it's more efficient to purchase a coffee maker than to make one on our own from materials we gather on our own (or mine from the Earth if we're going to start from scratch).

Can we be a better consumer? Of course we can. I'm going to touch on one facet of being a consumer, and that facet is consumer awareness.

It's astounding the number of items one can buy, and further amazing how this can change your life. It's no secret as any subscriber to David Allen's GTD (Getting Things Done) movement will say, the clutter can make your life more difficult to manage.

Back to consumer awareness, there are some wonderful items I've come across in the past few years that are wonderful products that actually do bring great value. So much value that, in fact, if more people were aware of them, the world would be a better place.

Let's go through some examples:

Charcoal lighter fluid vs. Weber Chimney Starter
People just do not know what chimney starters are, and if they did, they'd never buy charcoal lighter fluid again. The Weber Chimney Starter is cheap (low cost), quick to heat coals (low time), and is healthier because you're not using lighter fluid on your coals (high health). You won't have lighter fluid taste on your food, your coals will be red hot to cook in a shorter period of time, and this item is only $13 which is a fixed cost (vs. lighter fluid which you need to repeatedly purchase as your supply dwindles at barbecues).

coffee vs. yerba mateCoffee is caffeine that comes with 2 problems: the "high" is usually too high (i.e., you can't even concentrate on the task at hand due to jitters), and the "low" is usually too low (it puts some people to sleep). Instead, welcome to the world of yerba mate, of which my awareness all comes thanks to the insightful Tim Ferriss. Known to the atheletic world for some time, yerba mate can give you the mental awareness push that you want, but without the jitters or fallout after. It's less likely to irritate your stomach and you can definitely concentrate better on the 'high.' So why do people still drink coffee? Consumers are simply not aware of this wonderful drink that originated from South America where it's consumed on a daily basis. You can buy yerba mate for cheap online and at some specialty shops.

incandescent flashlight vs. LED flashlightsLED flashlights use less energy (less batteries), are cooler in temperature and energy efficiency, and are often cheaper AND brighter. I often carry a Princeton Tec Impulse on my keychain which comes in handy on too many occasions (walking up dark stairways, looking for items in closets, dropping something outside your car at nighttime, etc.).

These are just a few examples of great products that have totally eclipsed another product/technology in terms of value. If you liked these comparisons, there's more to come...

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