Episode 16, the minimum age to get married with parental consent in many countries, including including Scotland, it's also the legal drinking age in Germany, Belgium and Switzerland.
You got to love Europe. It's the minimum age at which you can donate blood. This episode is going to be on plasma. No blood it.
Welcome to the 16th episode of The Property Show and today's episode, we speak with Adam Alter, associate professor of marketing at NYU Stern School of Business.
Heard of him, heard of them, who's also in the psychology department. He's a best selling author, just an all around super impressive guy. And we'll be talking about addiction. And we'll also be talking about the regrets we have or don't have at the end of our life. But let's bust right into today's episode.
The big news, the big news, the gangster news that fits to all the stuff we talk about in our sprints with the property correspondents. We have something called the TE algorithm and one of the pillars of success when we just articulate the components of success for companies that have managed to get to a trillion dollars Enero trillion dollars, one of them vertical. And that is so capable. I think his name was professor from the University of Michigan, kind of his key business principle that you have a core competency, you outsource everything else.
Well, guess what? That shit's been blown out of the water in a crazy way. And there are very few companies that have amassed that kind of or created that kind of wealth that don't have or shareholder value that don't have vertical business models.
So Google makes the product, they deliver it. They offer the support. Apple is in the manufacturer. They even do their chips. Now, supposedly, antitrust action might put up the chip company, which we kind of interesting. They assemble, they design, they now retail and support. So you think about the companies that have gone totally vertical. These are the ones that populate the most valuable companies in the world. What did Lululemon announced this week?
That's right. They are buying Mirah, a fitness startup, for five hundred million dollars. Mirah is a connected fitness company that sells a fifteen hundred dollar wall mounted machine for streaming workout classes.
It's Lululemon first acquisition and follows a one million dollar investment in Mirah made last year. By the way, when a company with I think they have a forty two billion dollar market cap makes a one million dollar investment, they're not investing. What they're doing is they're saying we want to get under the covers or behind the curtain and to conduct diligence on the company such that we can decide if we want to acquire it or not.
Calvin McDonald, who is the CEO of Lululemon, gangster CEO, Canadian guy. So also very, very nice. Is that racist? Is that racist, by the way? I love that. I love the notion that Canada is wondering if they're living in I'm living in the apartment above a meth lab. I use that joke over and over. It never gets old. Anyways, Calvin and Lulu have purchased Mirror for half a billion dollars. So think about this.
This is about a one and a half percent dilution. And let's assume there's a two thirds chance it doesn't work because most two thirds of acquisitions don't work. It's still a gangster move because it gives them the opportunity to try and go further vertical into the home. You can see all kinds of opportunities here for different merchandise, for getting consumer intelligence, for moving to a membership model that might include that might include not only not only your membership for your connected fitness mirror, but perhaps perhaps they start sending you clothes automatically.
What do we call that? What do we call that recurring revenue bundle? 08, 08. Wait for it. Rundell this is a fantastic move going vertical.
Lululemon, which, by the way, trades at a higher multiple on earnings than almost any other specialty retailer. Why? Because they went vertical. Amazing product, amazing fabrics, amazing technology, athleisure, which I constantly refer to as dishware. But still this company is gangster. I love the products. I just finally surrendered to Lululemon. I think they make fantastic products and it was great technical products, not a lot of advertising. Why? Because I've decided for all that money into the product as any company that doesn't have its head up its ass has been doing since the introduction of Google, because people find greatness in products now.
But then then what did they did? First step towards going vertical, open their own stores. Really nice, really well merchandise, really well lit and right neighborhoods and boom, they're going even further down the supply chain and they're getting into your home.
Oh my God. Mind blown. The profit mind has blown. The dog has blown Lululemon. Five hundred dollars million acquisition and boom.
Let's check in on the stock. Let's chicken in the stock or what do you know on the news. On the news of six and a half percent.
What does that mean? That means they made a five hundred million dollar acquisition and the market's rewarded them with two and a half billion dollars. In other words, they just bought this thing for free. Imagine going into Chappellet and spending nine bucks on a burrito bowl and they give you a burrito bowl and another eighteen dollars. That's what's happened here. That's vision. That's Calvin McDonald. That's Lululemon. Let's get on with the show. Stay with us.
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We're back, here's our conversation with Adam Alter, associate professor of marketing at NYU Stern School of Business and New York Times, best selling author of Irresistable and Drunk Tank Pink. Adam is the star of the marketing department faculty at NYU Stern. He is in addition to being very likeable, which is also very important in any setting. He has done incredible research to time best selling author, a great teacher, relevant research. It's very rare you get the whole package in academia.
People are usually greater research, which is unfortunately what most credentialling or most rewards are focused on in academia. But he's also a fantastic instructor who won best instructor and just generally a very impressive, successful young man. Anyways, our conversation with Professor Adam Alter.
Professor Alter, how are you? I'm doing pretty well, thanks. How are you, Scott? Where does this podcast find you, Adam?
It finds me at home with my family in Connecticut, where I've been for the last four plus months.
Let's use that as a jumping off point to talk about addiction in covid-19 and what is different about our addictions or our behaviors due to the pandemic.
Well, I think, you know, humans are constantly looking for the most entertaining, most enjoyable thing to be doing with their time, obviously with some constraints. And during a pandemic, we're dramatically constrained. So there aren't that many things we could be doing. It's pretty tough to to enjoy time with other people, to have time face to face with other people. For a while, we couldn't really go out of our homes much at all. And so we were restricted to doing things that were inside the home, which basically meant spending a huge chunk of our times on screens of our waking hours.
So I think what that just did is it it it meant that the opportunity cost of spending time on screens was much lower than it normally is. And so I think a lot of people were drawn to screens for all sorts of different reasons. And it made the technology that we usually use that's tough for us to resist, even more difficult to resist or some screams worse than the other are some more addictive as TV less bad than an iPad, which is less bad than your phone?
Well, the screen is the screen is just a vehicle that's obviously conveying the content and it's the content that matters. And the content that's been designed specifically to be tough for us to resist is usually on our phones and on tablets and to a lesser extent, obviously screens like TVs and laptops and things like that, they have content that we find pretty tough to resist, but nothing like what goes on when you're using, say, social media programs and apps and things like that.
So it's it's much more difficult for us to resist what's going on on our phones. And so when you look at the data, the average American adult spends somewhere between four and five hours looking at a phone every day, which across the lifespan is something like 15 to 20 years.
And you wrote in your book, you kind of broke down in the book Irresistable. What are sort of the components or the DNA of addictive programming? Can you just break those down for us?
Yeah, yeah. There are a whole lot of different ingredients, so it's sort of like a tool box and you're picking little tools out and you're embedding these hooks into into the platforms that become addictive. And the biggest one, I think is is intermittent rewards or feedback. That is positive, but that's unpredictable. So essentially turning things that we're doing into slot machines where every now and again you're going to hit some sort of jackpot, some really positive rewards and positive feedback, but you don't know when that's going to happen.
So that might be, for example, posting something online, maybe several of your posts don't get a huge hit, but then something really hits and and people respond to it very, very positively. They share it widely. You get a ton of positive feedback. You know, you feel terrific as a result of that. So that brings you back over and over again seeking that that high again, building goals into these platforms, things like inbox zero, getting to the bottom of your emails, things like hitting a certain amount of followers on Twitter or Instagram or a certain number of responses to certain posts.
These goals are kind of built in. Everything's executed. We kind of measure everything and it gives us gives us something to strive for. That's even true about things like the Fitbit, where you have that chirp that comes off to ten thousand steps to say you've reached your milestone, your goal. There's socializing everything, embedding everything with social feedback. So, you know, one of the one of the things that social psychologists have learned over the last hundred years or so is that we we love rewards.
But the reward that just keeps on giving that we never get tired of is social feedback. So if you if you could get people to tell you what they think of you once a day or two or three times a day, you keep going back for more humans and never not going to be curious about that. So when you embed a platform with with that kind of social feedback, it's it's impossible for us to resist or several hundred times a day.
And I've also found that personally, that while I loathe people, I'm desperate for their affirmation.
And what keeps me coming back to Twitter, at least, is. Not only the positive affirmation, which is 98, 99 percent of it, but I wonder if the real hook or the thing that makes a positive affirmation more real is I get a healthy amount of very, very negative feedback and it creates a level of rage and upset in me. And I've gotten better with it. Is desire at least dopa to talk about negative feedback in the role it plays?
Negative feedback is really important for a number of reasons. One is that it contrasts, it presents a contrast. So you can say when you feel good that it feels good relative to something. And if that's something is a relatively very deep low, a huge trough that makes the positive all that more meaningful. And also, when you experience that negative feedback, you get this huge dose of motivation to claw your way back. And I think that's when people are hunting the most.
That's why you give people a massive loss when they're in front of a slot machine. That's exactly when they're going to double down because they're hunting even more furiously for that next high of the next jackpot. And the same is going to be true about social feedback. In the face of negative feedback, you're going to be hunting much more intently for positive.
Yeah, it's really frightening just to think about your own behaviors. And we know the social media platforms have taken a ton of time and energy to really understand the addictive qualities and the biomechanics of it and hardwire it into every aspect of their product, features and interface likes, tweets, etc.. The platform I'm most interested in recently is and I know you know about this, but Robin Hood or specifically online trading applications where there's confetti bursting, visual stimulation, rewards, even even this is my favorite tap here a hundred times like a rat.
And you get you unlock access to a high yield checking account. And then most recently with the death of 20 year old university, Nebraska student Alec Stearnes, who got who got a notification from Robinhood that he was down seven hundred thousand dollars, even though he wasn't he wasn't down, and then he threw himself in front of a train. Is this an opportunity? I have a couple of questions. One, what is it about? Have you looked at online trading applications in two, is this an opportunity maybe to step in, as we should have done with Instagram and create a link or observe the link between Instagram and self-harm among girls?
Is this an opportunity to step in and understand or better understand and maybe even address the link between these online trading platforms and mental wellness among our young men? So Robinhood and trading apps. I'll start. I'll start there.
Yeah, I think so. It's a pretty big concern. I think what you're doing is you're taking an experience or an app that requires a huge amount of expertise to to really fully understand. And, you know, you're sort of pushing the American dream, this idea that it's available to everyone. You're opening it up. There's some benefit to that. Obviously, there's nothing wrong with making opportunity, egalitarian and available to everyone, but learning about the markets, learning how to invest.
There's some good stuff, right?
There's some good stuff there. Absolutely. But I think you can easily become blind to the danger of taking something that requires great expertise where the downsides a colossal potentially and and not considering them. So I think when when the people behind Robin Hood put the act together, I'm sure they were thinking, thinking about making it smooth game of buying the process, turning it into effectively a slot machine without really fully paying attention to the worst case scenario. So for me, what every tech company should be doing and in fact every single company in the world is is applying some sort of Hippocratic oath to every decision that's going to affect consumers that'll be consumer facing.
So the question is, what is the very worst thing that can happen when I make the next move I'm about to make? It should be the first question you ask, because if you don't get over that hurdle, there should be no follow up question. And so the question is, if you're going to say here, I'm going to make this really catchy, there'll be confetti, there will be a whole lot of game of five elements. I'm going to show people that for a brief time they'll they'll be massively in the red, although later on in the day it'll it will correct itself.
What's the worst that can happen? The worst that can happen is a young guy who doesn't know enough about what he's doing on the platform, says that is hugely distressed by it and that obviously has major mental health concerns and implications. So I think you're right. I think this this should be there should be a reckoning in response to this.
And what is that reckoning look like? Do we force do we shame Robin Hood into and I'm kind of taking this on because I was really shaken up by this kid or. Yes, death, I should say. I mean, there's a very solid argument that people have a right to become addicted once they're adults and there's life lessons and doing really stupid things. And if you're have a driver's permit and you go out and decide to rent a Ferrari and you get in an accident, that's part of life and a pulled put option that levers of massively your your unemployment check because you're in your parents basement or, you know, because that's part of life.
Or do we do we need. A move in the U.S. with some sort of regulation, or do we shame them into deprogramming, the most addictive components? What do we do? What are your thoughts on this?
I think one thing we got to do is we've got to say where does the power lie here? And if you look at the situation you described. A kid with an unemployment check in his parents basement who hasn't got a lot of exposure to the markets, doesn't understand the way these things work, versus a company with a lot of sophisticated engineers, designers, psychologists, people working to make the platform as as difficult to resist as possible. I think all the power lies with Robin Hood, and it almost always lies with the platform developer.
You as the consumer are up against an incredible foe. And it's true. There's got to be some personal responsibility here. I'm not denying that. But it's kind of like punishing the drug user rather than the person pushing the drug, the chemist, the distributor. Those are the people we always go to the source. You stop there. So I think certainly education's important. It's a shame that people are using platforms when they don't fully understand them. But I think a lot of the responsibility responsibilities got to live with the platform.
And so then that does mean things like considering legislation. We've already seen some companies boycotting social media platforms because they don't like what those platforms are doing. I think pressure on these platforms, whether it's by legislation or through other means, is is absolutely critical.
You know, I mean, obviously, the analogy that was used over and over in the 90s in the OG's was the crack dealer giving out free correct schools to get kids hooked. And if you go to Robinhood app, what is the first thing you see? Get your free stock now. Get your free share. Now, is there something about our culture? Is there something what is it? Is that we've figured out human behaviors faster than we've figured out regulation, talking more media here about our society and what is happening and any thoughts on how we how we get out of this rabbit hole?
You know, in theory, if what you want from people is money, if you're asking them to pay you, the pie can always get bigger. People can get more money over time, the economy grows and so on. And so the pie could keep might expand consistently. And so that's that's in some sense a good thing. But I think when the economy is an attention economy, you're resting on time. You need people's time. You need them to devote as much of their day as they possibly can to you.
That's a fixed resource. And what ends up happening then is it's not just that you're hunting for a piece of the pie that keeps getting larger and larger and larger. So theoretically, everyone wins in some sense, but it's a zero sum game. And so you have these companies that need you to spend as many minutes with your eyeballs glued to the screen on on exactly what they're presenting to you as possible. And so I think that creates a sort of arms race.
And it's it's a race for sophistication. Whoever can design the best, most catchy platform, who can turn their platform more effectively into a slot machine in effect. And Robin Hood's done that, I think, very, very successfully. So it's partly about that. It's about understanding the psychology of how you build a slot machine as the overlay, as the user experience it, pretty much every product that exists now, how can you make it as close to a slot machine as possible?
But also, if you have access to enough data, you don't need to be a genius. You're all you need is to just throw do a thousand HIV tests and your product evolves over time. It becomes the kind of weaponized version of what it was when it was originally released. And so if you happen to be a consumer who gets to that product during its 10th or 11th or 12th iteration, how are you supposed to resist it? So I think that's why this economy is so, so exploitative of its consumers.
And it's because you are taking time from people. And that's obviously one resource that's that cannot be replenished and that's finite.
And have you seen in your research, have you seen any countries deal with this more effectively than us? Yeah, there are countries in Western Europe in particular that are certainly more thoughtful about it than we are. We aren't doing much about this issue at the moment, at least from a legislative perspective. France has a whole lot of laws that govern the way, say, email can be used in the workplace and the extent to which you can encroach on people's time.
Outside of that, there are a number of interesting laws in Germany as well that regulate what happens when someone goes on vacation and how how you manage email while they're on vacation. So they actually get a break. East Asia has got a number of interesting laws. I don't think all of these laws are correct, are right, are ideal. I think a lot of them punish the user going back to that analogy rather than punishing the distributor or the designer of the drug.
But these countries are thoughtful in these regions, are thoughtful about the issue in a way that I don't think the United States is right now. And so we really should be pushing more in that direction.
So let's talk a little bit about you and I are both parents. I didn't realize the can of worms I was opening. I was on the beach in Montauk, and I think it was three or four years ago with my six and nine year old. And I filmed my nine year old doing a handstand on the beach. And he said, can we posted to YouTube? He did watch stuff on YouTube. And I said, sure we can. And I think of myself as a tech guy.
And I thought it would be a plus. And I posted to YouTube and I should have turned off comments and he got a thumbs up and a comment or some sort of positive affirmation. He read the hansei, said, great form on the handstand.
And by the time we got home, he was asking every ten minutes if we could check YouTube to see if anyone had said anything else. And that was the beginning.
And then my nine year old at that time, my oldest got a little bit addicted to fortnight.
I think the constant feedback, the visual stimulation, for whatever reason, for my boys, it happened at nine. It seems like the age of nine is when they're very vulnerable.
And then he grew out of that. We recognized we would go to the beach and all he would think about is getting back to a night. When are we going home? Can we stop by home? And it was obvious that he was just all he was thinking about was for night, but he grew out of it most recently. And it's it's arguably been the most one of the most frightening things I've ever dealt with. And maybe that's a function of just how charmed a life I live.
But my youngest, who is now nine, is entirely addicted to screens. And you see a nine year old melt down when you take his iPad away and you see this just as raw addiction. It doesn't even have the screens touch to see how obvious what's going on is versus someone who's older and probably more manipulative. And it is terrifying. I mean, it is really terrifying. And people say, well, you're a parent, this is your fault.
And that's partially true. But when your kid is getting his homework and his class assignments and he's on his iPad for school, all his friends are on it. You know, the only way they socialize during covid is through an iPad, doing something through FaceTime. And it has been, like I said, one of the most frightening things we have ever dealt with. What steps can you recommend to parents who have kids who are struggling with device addiction?
Well, let me just say first, this is this is universal. I've been running this informal study for a while, at several years now, where I've been asking people of ages, everything from a little bit older than your boys were. So about thirteen up to people in their 80s to make a choice. So you either watch your phone tumbled out of your pocket and had shadows on the ground into a thousand pieces. Or you can have a small bone in your finger broken.
You ask them to make the choice, which would you prefer, the broken phone or the broken bone? And there's just an unbelievably strong relationship between age and how people respond to that. So above about age 30, the question is taken as a kind of insult. Obviously, it's a broken phone. It's better than a broken bone. But the younger you get, the more people struggle with the question. They bargained and they ask follow up questions and they say, when my phone when my hand is broken, can I still swipe my phone?
You know, things like that. And one response to that is to say, what's wrong with this generation? Have we broken the generation? But I think the correct response is to say, well, let's try to understand why this is happening. And I think it's happening because psychologically, the things young people in particular get from these phones, especially people in early tween and teenage years, those phones are so central to their well-being, their social well-being, that their social lives live inside those small devices.
So it's it's really easy to see why that's actually a difficult choice. Maybe a broken finger is is you're recovering a little bit, but to be out of the social loop for a while while you have to wait for a new phone, that might be really incredibly painful. So I think it's really important first for us to understand as parents and just as human beings, what these funds represent, a huge number of really deep psychological needs are being met by them.
I think a lot of the a lot of the interventions, getting back to your question, depend a lot on the age of the kids you're dealing with. I have young kids and. My kids are two and four and your kids are obviously much older now, you can reason with your kids, you can have certain kinds of discussions with your kids that I can't. But I'm also lucky because I have a lot more control over what they do and I can take devices away in a way that you can't.
I think the most important thing is as soon as kids are old enough to understand concepts like balance, that's got to be part of the conversation. One thing I've already started doing with my kids is talking about how sometimes we eat candy and cupcakes. Not very often, though. Most of the time we're eating healthy food. And when we think about time and how we spend our time and what we do, being on a screen is is kind of like cupcakes and candy.
It's got to be they're reserved for the top part of the food pyramid. It's the top part of the time pyramid. You only do a very little bit of it and it goes a long way. We shouldn't be doing too much of it. So they're kind of starting to learn about this idea of balance, which seems to be helping a little bit. Another thing to do, really, I think much more practically than that is to say there's got to be a certain period of the day or certain periods of the day or the week where you are not living attached to a screen.
And you know that ahead of time. It's it's a habit. It's something that's it's a ritual. So one thing we do is we try our very best. But around dinnertime, there should be no phones, there should be no screens, and it's got to be a hard rule. So what you do is everyone has a little box. They put their phones and their devices in the box, leave the box as far away from the dinner table as possible.
And so, you know, that is sacred time. And there are other ways of doing this, too. I know people who on weekends, for example, they'll take their phones at 9am, put them on airplane mode and only turn off airplane mode at five p.m. So they have their phones for using it as a camera is fine, but they're not using it beyond that and things like that. If you make these things, habits and kids are also looking to us to see the way we do things, if we do that, it does to some extent trickle down.
It has a huge effect on the way they behave as well.
You said I saw you on CBS This Morning, I think, and you said, you know, everyone talks about the new normal, but you don't buy that. You think the post covid, whether it's our screens or behavior that's somewhat abnormal because of the pandemic, the once the pandemics over, loosely speaking, our behavior will kind of regress to the mean. Is that true?
Yeah, my argument basically is, is not that things don't change if you look at a big enough time scale. I mean, one hundred years ago, everything was different. There's almost nothing that's the same as it was in in 1920. So I do think things change. I just think we massively overestimate the extent to which things change in response to shock events in particular. So so this pandemic has changed our lives in a way that's profound. That was unexpected, that changed our well-being the way we work, the way we interact with other people or don't interact.
And there's something about it that feels profound enough that maybe things will change. People talk about how we're going to be working from home. More people talk about how maybe the way we interact, more will change. And a lot of a lot of things will be remote rather than in person. I don't think that's true. Or if it's true, it's going to be to a much smaller extent than we think. So if we have this conversation five years from now, twenty, twenty five, I think a lot of things will look the way they did in twenty nineteen.
I think a lot of the very profound things that we think have changed will slowly or maybe quickly revert back. And that's, that's my general sense, is this illusion in psychology known as the end of history illusion. And it's this the sense that we always feel like today is the culmination. You know, this is the point I was reaching with the last five, 10, 15, 20 years, however many years of your life, and now I've arrived.
But today is also part of whatever journey we're on moving forward. And so we always have the sense that things as they are now are crystallized and they're unlikely to change. And I think the profound changes we're experiencing during covid and during the pandemic are. The temporary part of this same journey, and this is not the end of time and things will keep shifting a little bit, but I think a lot of the things that we think of as permanent changes now will not be permanent.
I hear you say that, and I think I should go out and buy a bunch of wreaths or commercial office space because the assumption is offices, you know, office space is going to the demand for office space is going to drop 30, 50, 70 percent. And what you're saying is that's an exaggeration, that it'll change, but it won't fundamentally alter will still be going back to offices?
I think so. I mean, I think there's a lot we can do remotely, but there's a lot we can't. And a lot of the magic, I think, is gone. It's tough to create serendipity when you have so far away from other people these kind of unexpected, positive interactions that are unplanned. Nothing is unplanned anymore, her whole lives as scheduled. And that's in some sense really good. If you're busy, it's good to have everything scheduled so you can preserve your own time and your own free time.
But I think a lot of the greatest ideas when you look back, this is something I've been thinking about a lot, is what's the origin of great ideas? What's the origin of changes of progress? A lot of it happens accidentally, at least at first. That first term is an accident and there were no accidents anymore. There's just nothing nothing happens by chance in the same way when you're you're all behind screens and you've had to type codes in and make sure the other person's there and check the microphones are working and things like that.
It's just a very different environment. I don't know if that's something that workplaces and and managers are going to recognize, but I think innovation to some extent requires that you are around other people in a in the same space at least.
I think it's quite important that programming you're talking about during the day, the hour long Zinka, the podcast, I've noticed that especially among young people, that they're just exhausted. The whatever the energy is, there are the protein that gets released through walking around the office and seeing people in random encounters and say, hey, let's grab a minute in the conference room, that that actually creates energy and our constant programming. By the end of the day, when I get on these phone calls with our team, they all just look exhausted.
They look beaten down. Yeah. So there must be something to that randomness that gives people energy that we're just not giving to each other right now.
Yeah, I think that's a big part of it. I also think it's the nature of the attention you have to pour into a screen. I have a friend who's a therapist in Australia and I was asking him about what it's been like to be a therapist through the screen. Instead, it's face to face. And he told me that after just an hour of therapy, of delivering therapy, he feels like he's had a whole day. And I asked them what's so different about it.
It seems like it's pretty similar. You're still talking to someone face to face. I'm sure you always have to pay good attention to what they're saying. And what I realized is the kind of attention you have to put into a screen. You can't look off to the side. It looks like you're kind of bored. You know, you don't have the same shared cues. You don't have the same shared environment that signals what's going on. If I'm talking to you face to face, I can glance off to the side.
My mind can wander a little bit for a second. There's not the same intensity, whereas through a screen you have to stare at the screen. Your your view is so myopic. It's so narrow and focused. There's something exhausting about that. Humans were made to do that for hours and hours and hours in the day. And I think a lot of that exhaustion comes from having to exert that kind of very narrow, focused attention for for much longer than within we're used to doing as a species.
So let's let's shift to something more inspiring. I love the work you've done around End of Life and Regrets. Can you talk a little bit about your research and your findings there?
Yeah, I think this is just a fascinating question. How do you know if you've lived a good life or if you're living life the right way or prioritizing the right things? And I think one way to to do that is to to ask people who are near the end of their lives. You ask these people, what do you wish you had done differently? What do you think you needed to do more of? How did you waste your time? What things should you have done less of?
And what you see is that as people approach the end of their lives, they they develop kind of wise perspective that is is not really present for most of us who are just busily running around like headless chickens throughout our lives. And you learn about what's important and the most important thing, and I don't think it's all that surprising is the importance of social connection of time with family, friends of a lot of the things that are quite difficult during a pandemic.
Actually, that stuff matters the most. Everyone almost universally says, I kind of wish I worked a little bit less hard. I wish I'd spent a little bit more time with with other people that I loved. It's it's profound in a different way. When you're speaking to someone who really doesn't have that much longer to do those things, you get a different sense of it is it's really much more powerful in shaping the way you think about your own life and you hear it from that perspective and give us some of the takeaways around the big regrets.
The really interesting thing is almost no one regrets the things they did. Almost everyone regrets the things they didn't do. So there's a there's an asymmetry there. The default rule, according to people who don't have much longer to live, is say yes, if you're given an opportunity. The worst thing that can happen is you say yes, it didn't work out. You revoke you back at you say, I'm done. Thanks very much. But letting an opportunity pass by a golden opportunity, it's interesting how sometimes people are plagued by these occasions where they said no, sometimes for decades of their lives, sometimes for much of their lives.
I give a talk to the freshman at NYU some years where I talk about the importance of having a default rule of saying yes, that doesn't mean committing yourself to the point where you're developing mental illness, that that's not good for anyone. But I think having this default rule of saying yes, of being open, of being receptive is absolutely critical as one of the most important things and the most consistent things that's come across in these conversations is people say, I wish I had not passed up that thing that I could have said yes to.
And they almost never say, I wish I hadn't done that thing that I did, which I think is important to understand. And isn't a lot of it feeding into the reason a lot of times people say no is that their living, living the life others want them to lead, they have this kind of notion. They grow up with a notion based on their parents and society that this is the life I'm supposed to lead. So if I have an opportunity to go be a Broadway dancer or Navy SEAL, it's outside that that swim lane that's been fashioned for me.
So I say no.
Yeah, I think so. I think the life we're leading right now is the one through a series of actions, choices, accidents is just the one of least resistance in this moment and making any kind of change that involves saying yes is a little bit overwhelming. Humans are obviously resistant to change in general. So I think that's right. You may be living this life because someone else thinks it's the life you should be living. You may be living it because it's the easiest one to live right now.
And saying yes, takes energy, it takes commitment, it takes motivation. But I think when people do say yes and when it becomes a rule, a kind of habit, you know, let me check this out. Let's see what happens. It tends to work out pretty well in the very, very long run. And what's kind of more longrun, more important, more broad than than saying across the lifespan, what matters the most. Turns out what matters is is being open is saying yes.
Rather than the times when you said no.
What do you thinking about now? Give us some your you've got two bestselling books. I know you're thinking about a third. Give us walk us through what you're some of the ideas you're you're bouncing around in terms of. Give us give us a preview of anemometers next New York Times best selling book.
Yeah. So one of the things I've been very curious about is the fact that we all get stuck and the fact that when you are stuck, even though it's universal, it feels like almost like a personal affront. It feels like a glitch instead of feeling like a feature of the way we live. But when you talk to absolutely everyone, there is no one who at some point doesn't feel that that you're, you know, whatever you're doing now, you can't see a way forward.
When you look at almost every single successful business, there was a moment or sometimes there were two or three or ten or one hundred moments where the business was stuck. The entrepreneur was stuck, the founder was stuck. Something wasn't going quite to plan. And it's not just about business. This is about everyday life. I mean, you talk to parents, you talk to artists, you talk to athletes, you talk to writers, you find anyone in pretty much any domain.
And you'll you'll see that there are these kind of turning point moments, these pivotal moments where people are stuck. And the way you deal with that moment is the difference between shining and succeeding and striving for really great things and and not. And so I'm trying to understand that and and trying to understand kind of three aspects of this. You know, psychologists talk about three aspects of the humanness. There's your emotions, your affect, your behavior be and your cognition.
So you're thinking, see, so the ABC of the whole thing. So I'm trying to understand the ABCs of not just dealing well with getting unstuck, but also using it as a kind of springboard to to colossal success. And so I think that's what the next book is going to be about.
And what are you have you have you stumbled upon any sort of critical success factors around getting unstuck?
I mean, there are a ton of them. There are a whole lot of little ingredients. Some of them are. People have this bar for originality that's incredibly high when we're trying to do things, we're always trying to be original and different, and I think it's critical to differentiate yourself from other people and whatever else is gone before. But when you talk to even some of the biggest names in, say, the recording industry and the music industry, you talk to artists.
Everything is just recombination. And when you speak to people in the music industry, I think that's the most kind of pure example. A lot of them will say there is nothing that's truly new that's available to us now. The building blocks have been used. What you have to do is find a way to recombine. So that's a big one. Is is working out how to do that, how to break free of the kind of fixed view you have of how things work together?
That's a massive part of it, I think. I think also having an experimental mindset is really important. And I've been fascinated with this idea for a long time. You see certain people, they treat life always as a kind of experiment where there are multiple conditions and they're trying different things out constantly looking at like the ABCDE conditions, which one relates to the best outcomes that they pursue, the one that does the best for them. Then they do another experiment on the back of that one.
And I think that kind of philosophy goes hand in hand with this idea that you should never stop learning and growing in life no matter where you are in your life. And it's a huge part of being a part of getting unstuck, but also succeeding in the face of that kind of that stickiness is constantly making small, kind of incremental experimental shifts. And I think that's that's a really big one as well.
Give us one last just to wrap up your Adamu. And I know each other pretty well, not really well, but pretty well.
But from all exterior measures, you strike me as a successful person that you're successful professionally. We know that. But you have what appears to be a great relationship with your wife. You have kids. You'll like what you do. You're in great shape. You appear to be living a successful life.
What advice? What one piece of advice would you give to your twenty five year old self or other to our younger listeners? What would you tell them? What would your what would your advice be?
It's funny. I was stuck a lot in my 20s. I did three or four different degrees. I was pretty unhappy in college for certain periods of time where I just I couldn't find something that I really wanted to do. I think it's really important to work out. That's what I understand that that there is a way through. So part of this this exploration to understand stickiness and why we get stuck and how to unstick ourselves is it it's a very personal thing that I want to understand it for myself, for my kids.
And if you can codify it and if you if you can work out a really reliable way to get to to break free of that kind of stickiness away, like an algorithm that you can just give to someone when they say they're stuck having, that's an incredible, incredibly powerful thing. And it's something that that I would like to tell my twenty five year old self, you will be stuck a lot. And that's OK. It's part of the process and you will emerge on the other side and and things are going to work out OK.
Yeah, I always thought that I would if I could speak to my younger self, I would say everything's going to be just fine. Just keep on moving. Keep on moving.
I hear you. I hear it. I hear. The two year old Adam Alter is an associate professor of marketing at NYU Stern School of Business with an appointment in the psychology department. He's also the author of two New York Times best selling books, Irresistable and Drunk Tank. And he joins us from New York. Adam, thanks so much. It is great. It is great to hear from my successful friend, Professor Adam Alter. Stay safe.
Thanks so much to you to see if you enjoyed listening to Adam.
The good news is that Adam is going to be on the property platform and will be teaching our core marketing sprint. As I mentioned before, one best professor or best teacher at NYU Stern. And we're fortunate that he is going to be teaching our core marketing principles. Sprint property. One more break. Stick with us. We'll be right back. Welcome back. It's time for our office hours, the my favorite part of the show where I take your questions on anything.
If you have a question, submit a voice recording to office hours. It's section for dotcom roll tape.
Hey, Scott Alekseyev from Melbourne, Australia. You've talked a lot recently about the damage companies like Facebook are doing to young minds, algorithms that exploit our weaknesses and lead to addictive behaviours that increase the likelihood of things like depression. But so much of my personal network and business strategies for clients now rely on Facebook's products. And although I may not like it, I really struggle to find an adequate alternative, knowing there may be soon a competitor to Google on the horizon and seeing businesses now boycott Facebook, it makes me wonder if we're finally ready for a social network that isn't so evil.
So my question is, do you think that now is the time? Could this actually happen? And if so, what would the business model be? Who would fund it and which audience would be the first to adopt it? Thanks, mate. Love your work, Alex.
Thanks so much for the thoughtful question. I am hands down moving to Australia if they ever decide to allow Americans into the country. My experience with Australia is every time I go, I think, why am I not living here? If it wasn't so far, I think we'd all live there. I would say Sydney and maybe Miami. But Sydney is clearly No. One. There's no place in the world that brings that kind of. Cultural collision and grit on an amazing beach in Melbourne gets overshadowed, but Melbourne is sort of the unkept secret in Western democracies or in the Western world.
I don't know if you call Australia the Western world anyway, but I digress. I digress.
So I think your your question kind of nails it. And that is Facebook has become a utility. If you're a small business person, you have to use Facebook. There are a million advertisers on Facebook. They have pixels on every website and they just kind of dominate and their technology and their tools to their credit are incredible. And so the notion that all of us are going to decide to forgo our economic security is a small business in our growth because we're upset about Facebook is tantamount to saying, well, I don't like emissions in the air.
I don't like global warming. Coal is the major culprit here. So my utility produces most of its electricity and it's a monopoly through coal fired plants. So I'm going to turn off my lights. Look, no, you're not. It's a utility. Facebook has become a monopoly or utility and should either be regulated or broken up. Is there an opportunity for a new social media network? That's a tough one. Just because there hasn't been a social media network of any real girth or have started since 2011, I believe, on Pinterest was founded.
It's just the game is sort of over, if you will. I think it's regulatory intervention. I think there's an opportunity for Twitter. And full disclosure, I am a shareholder to starts there, hat white and separate or just articulate themselves from Facebook the way that Tim Cook did when he said that privacy is a fundamental right and announce a bunch of actions, including kicking people from the far right and the far left off the platform who put out incendiary, abusive, false content, misinformation, vaccin white supremacists, etc.
also to clean up all the bots and basically and then move, I think, to a subscription model. I think the key around all of this is that the reason that Netflix and HBO don't radicalise young men or don't put out anti VAX mini series is because it's a subscription model and their underlying business model isn't fuelled on rage. And unfortunately, rage starts when you start putting out more and more hateful, divisive content. So the key to all of this in terms of social media platforms is that advertising is the tieback or the shit that gives you cancer.
Media itself and social media platforms is just the nicotine. It's addictive, but it doesn't give you cancer. And so the answer here is, A, regulation, B, antitrust, and C, moving to a subscription model. I think there's going to be I'm hoping I'm hoping a Twitter launch of some subscription model. I think it could be one hundred dollars stock if it moved that way and demonstrate that kind of growth. And again, pull the Tim Cook kind of moment and disarticulated away from Facebook.
But bottom line is a small business person. I feel you, brother, you got to be on Facebook. So I don't know if these boycotts are really going to have much of an impact. I worry they're going to create cold comfort. We're going to believe there's going to be progress there. And Facebook will do what they always do. And that is do kind of a two step pretend they're doing shit and move right back to the evil, corrupt company that they are run by a sociopath and his two billion dollar beer.
Thank you for the question, Alex. I am so coming to Australia once they open again. Stay safe, brother. Next question.
Hey, Professor Galloway, this is Luke from Deerfield Beach, Florida. You mentioned you want to hear about some unique industries. So here's one for you and the US director of operations for Portal Games and International Board Game Publisher. Most people just don't realize how big of an industry hobby games are. Hundreds of new games released every month, and our most popular titles are licensed in over twenty languages. Here's the thing. For as big of an industry as it is, for the most part, we're still a three tier system consisting of publishers, distributors and retailers.
As you can imagine, with an industry focused primarily around social products. The pandemic hit us pretty hard, though. Online sales channels such as Amazon, spiked brick and mortar stores had to close their doors, which led to distributors either slowing purchasing or halting it altogether. This is definitely cast a spotlight on a huge weakness in our industry. But how would you suggest we pivot at a time like this? We do have a modest direct to consumer online presence, but it pales in comparison to traditional sales.
Do you know any companies that successfully broke the three tier chain? Oh, and if you have a P.O. box, I'd love to send you some of our greatest hits. I think you and your kids would really like detective. Nothing brings a family together quite like solving a murder mystery. Luke, what a thoughtful question. What an interesting way to make a living. We have become much more familiar with board games. We play risk a lot, which creates a lot of real family agita and dissension when someone tries to invade Irkutsk.
But anyways, we enjoy it a lot. We play a lot of Cloo, we play Souci go. Is that what it's called? I mean, quite frankly, I'm not a big fan of board games, but the boys love them and it's a way to get them off their screens. So thank you for what you do. I think what you're doing is joyous. And knowable and doesn't turn our kids into crack addicts anyways. I think a lot of brands are struggling with this and that is what happens when your distribution has an explosion of shocking to shut down.
And the only way out, I would say, is to use this as an opportunity to do what you're probably doing, that is establish some sort of direct to consumer effort, even just collecting emails. But probably the gangster move here would be to get really talented and deft with the platform. Shopify and Shopify is trying to be the not Amazon Amazon. So according to Barron's, Shopify enabled nearly six percent of U.S. commerce sales and two thousand and nineteen, making it the number two online commerce platform behind us.
And Amazon, by the way, if you've seen their stock, which is crazy, what's happening there, I would argue Shopify is probably the most innovative company relative to where they were 10 years ago in North America, the sort of the rim of Canada, if you will.
It's nice to see Canada or a Canadian company creating that type of value and shop by customers. In-store sales slid by 71 percent during the first six weeks of the US lockdown, down similar to what you're describing. But they claim they were able to replace ninety four percent of those lost sales through their online store. So long story short, thank you so much for what you do. Try and establish or reinvest in direct consumer even.
It was just collecting email addresses and three Shopify, my brother Shopify, thanks very much. OK, next question.
Hi Scott, this is Shibani. You served on a number of corporate boards and I was wondering if you could offer some tips on how to position yourself to get considered for one. What does that process look like? What do the qualifications look like? And how does one go about putting their name up for consideration? Thanks so much, Shibani.
Thanks so much for the question. I get asked this a lot. I have a lot of people who reach out to me, corporate executives, senior level people, and they say, hey, I would be open to serving on boards. It always cracks me up when companies say that, you know, if we embarrass our board members or we hold them accountable, people aren't going to want to serve on boards. Oh, my gosh, this is a club everybody wants into.
I didn't started a company, served on the board, went about public. And then I used to raise money and demand board seats, but I wasn't asked to go on boards. I demanded to go on boards. But that's probably not the right way. And now I do get asked to go on boards, but that's probably not a feasible means of getting on board. How do you get on a board? It's almost like one of those things where if you ask to get on a board or disqualifies you, it's a few or many are called.
Few are chosen in this instance, if you are called. But you have to be called. And I would say that it's putting yourself in a leadership position which isn't easy to do. A lot of boards are looking for other CEOs serving on boards and nonprofits and starting to develop some background in governance. Publishing a lot of material in your respective field or being known as a leader is how I got asked to come on boards and getting your brand out there.
There is no I would call it algorithm for getting on boards. I will say this, that I have been asked to go on the board of two iconic New York brands and what's happened with both those boards? Both of them have called me back and said we need to hold off because we need to find a woman or someone of color. And by the way, it's about time soon. Either that's discrimination against me, let's be honest. But another 400 years of discrimination against me favoring women and people of color and they'll be all caught up.
But anyway, so I don't I don't really mind that. But it is a good time to be have those skills, have those leadership skills, that domain expertise if you're a woman and or a person of color. I think we're about to have a long overdue rebalancing of boards, if you will. But anyways, to summarize, putting yourself in a leadership position, which is not easy to do, serving on other nonprofit boards, which are usually more attainable, at least initially getting your IPN out, leadership out there.
And, you know, the first board is the hardest one to get on. And then I find when you're on a board, you usually get this number of other offers. The other thing finally you could do is reach out to headhunters. There's there's search firms that just focus on recruiting board members. There's a great company called our organization called the Board List, headed by a woman I serve on the board of Urban Outfitters with names Wickenden Kassidy saying the focus is on assembling a list of talented women who could potentially serve in board roles.
And then she provides a list of companies looking for board members. Thanks for the question. Sorry, couldn't be more prescriptive or specific. Shibani, keep sending us your questions again. If you'd like to submit one, please email a voice recording to office hours at Section four dotcom.
So I'll of happiness, I was really struck by Adam Altar's comments about being stuck or how to get unstuck, and I see a lot of this with young men, and it's not as much I almost I don't know if it's being unstuck or lost.
And Adam, I thought, had some great points in the first is being open to. Yes. And that is if you're waiting around for the perfect opportunity or an opportunity that you think your amazing self is warranted based on what your college or high school or parents have told you, that you're going to be a senator or have a fragrance named after you and you haven't found your passion. Most of us don't find our passion at a young age where we find out is that work is really difficult, but being open to.
Yes, and that is a little bit ready fire aim.
And that is finding something and going for it and also the ability to iterate or pull the plug. This isn't working. I decided I could be an investment banker. There was no reason why I couldn't, even though I had terrible grades, got a job at Morgan Stanley, which was fantastic and amazing.
And I learned a lot. And it wasn't for me. I didn't enjoy it. I wasn't very good about it. So I wasn't afraid to leave. I also spent a year living with my mom after that and just didn't know what I was going to do with my life. And then a couple of people, specifically my girlfriend at the time and my best friend are applying to business school. And I can't get into business school. I don't have grades in.
My friend Adam said, well, why wouldn't you just try? Boss and I applied and applied to seven schools, got into two, rejected from five. But that's all you need. You just need one. Yes. So saying yes and putting yourself out there and getting one yes. Is the key. And also just a recognition that everyone faces tragedy. Everyone knows failure and your ability to move on, your ability to embrace the upset, but then move on.
Your ability to mourn and move on is one of the keys to a successful, rewarding life. I was so moved by the movie Jojo Rabut, I saw it on a plane.
And for some reason, whenever I'm on a plane, I get very emotional. I don't know if it's the oxygen masks, but I found this movie incredibly gripping. And at the end of the movie, there's this wonderful, this wonderful quote from the German poet Rilke, which goes something like this or does go like this go to the limits of your longing. Let everything happen to you, beauty and terror. Just keep going, no feeling is final.
I have found that to be so, so right, so true. There have been so many moments in my life where I thought I just couldn't climb out. I was so upset, had disappointed myself and others so much, felt like a failure, had something bad happen to me that I didn't think I could recover from in. The key is just keep going. No feeling is final. Just keep going. Our producers are Caroline Chagrinned and Drew Burrow's, if you like what you heard, please follow, download and subscribe.
Thank you for listening.
We'll catch you next week with another episode of the property show from Section four and the Westwood One podcast network. Sorry, that's my kids ringing the doorbell 100 times, I'm sure you can hear that I put in front of an iPod.
Yeah, that's right. That's right.