Valuing Experience Over Things

This past weekend, I made it about one-third the way through Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness. Throughout the first part of the book, he talks about valuing experience over things. The idea of appreciating the intangible experiences with people versus the tangible benefits that may come a result of your interactions with them. A focus on the relationship versus the transaction. Seems like a simple philosophy, but proves to be difficult to deliver on. Either way, this is a philosophy I support and try to live by. Personally and professionally.

Personally, I try to make as much time as I can to enjoy building relationships with family, friends and acquaintances. The advantages are numerous. I am able to make the most out of my interactions my family, learn more about my friends and even make friends from what are now known as acquaintances. Just as importantly, I am able to better understand whom I prefer not to interact with. Family will always be family, but friends may become acquaintances as frequently as acquaintances become friends. Working your way through all of this takes time and effort. While I was in graduate school, I lost sight of this investment a bit, but I am now making more of an effort to regularly connect with people that make me happy.

Professionally, the same philosophy applies to the people aspect of what I do. Empathizing with colleagues and clients give me perspective I once never had. Being empathetic naturally leads to more of a relationship-based connection versus a transactional one. Meaning, when I interact with people at work, I rarely initiate conversation that starts with me asking someone to do something. There are exceptions to this rule, but I try not to start there. It shapes an expectation from the person you’re interacting with that you’ll always want something from them when you stop by. Taking a more empathetic approach helps me better understand who people are. Why they think they way they do. Why they believe what they believe. I used to categorize work connections strictly as “professional.” I now have a different perspective on this and some of my closest friends today are people I’ve met through professional connections.

Marketers can learn a lot from this philosophy. One may argue we live in a materialistic culture, but that doesn’t mean we should oblige and develop brands and products that appeal to the masses. A brand that values experiences over things wins in the long run as they build relationships with people. They’re focused on niche markets representing the personalized needs of smaller groups of people. The tangible things brands produce for these people are the fruits of the labor made possible from relationships they've built.