How To: Ski (or, mostly do anything for that matter)

January 28, 2010          Comments (0)


I have the ski bug.

I tried skiing for the first time at the end of last season. Before that, I had never put skis on.

In the morning, I took a group lesson with 15 other people who were very much beginners. First, we learned that if you want to go faster you need to put your skis in the shape of French fries (straight).  And if you want to stop you need to put your skis in the shape of a pizza (wedge). Apparently this is the way kids are taught. Hey, I’m all for simplicity!

Before we learned how to ski we had to learn how to put the boot into the ski though. Then we learned how to walk/slide with only one ski on. Next, we learned how to put the other boot into the other ski. Now I had two skis on!

Very quickly, I realized that skis go with gravity! Even though I was on a tiny hill, I started moving! “Quick! Make that pizza!” the instructor said. Whew. That was close.

The 3-hour lesson flew by. Oddly, we didn’t really learn how to ski at all.

It seemed as though the only way to learn how to ski is by actually skiing. And there in lies the challenge!

Let’s say you want to learn how to swim. You decide it’s finally time to overcome your fear of water.

So, you find a local gym or pool club. Maybe there’s even a public pool that you weren’t aware of.

Then you look online (or in the Yellow pages) to find a swim instructor. After plenty of wrong numbers, you find someone who’s really passionate and experienced.

Next, you need to get the gear! You look online and find a bathing suit. Ohh, there’s one you like. Eh, you don’t really like it, after all. You go to another website.

You find the bathing suit! Ugh, it’s not in stock! After spending 3 hours searching you finally find the one.

What about goggles? Can’t swim without goggles!

Finally, the big day comes. It’s the day of your first lesson.

But you realize that you don’t have any shoes to wear by the pool! Whoops! You can’t swim without any shoes to wear around the pool!

So you cancel and reschedule.

You’ve done everything you could possibly do BUT swim. Sometimes, no matter what, we just gotta jump in the pool!

Back to pizza and French fries.

Because the only way to learn how to ski is by actually skiing, it makes it very scary. You have to push yourself. You have to be willing to fall. At first, I was very timid. However, by the end of the afternoon, I was trying to fall. Because I knew if I wasn’t falling I wasn’t pushing myself.

This past New Year’s I was in Vermont. It was my second time skiing. By noon the first day, I felt very confident going down the mountain. (Ya know, the bunny slope.)

Then my friends encouraged me to get a full lift ticket for the afternoon and the following day (actually they made me). In the Gondola we went, up the enormous mountain. It felt like the longest 20+ minutes of my life. We were so high up, we were in the clouds.

Finally, we got out and it was a full on blizzard. The conditions were nothing like it was down below!

My confidence quickly faded as I began falling over and over again. My friends joked that I was break dancing down the mountain. Each time, I tried to figure out what I was doing wrong. I’d start to go very fast and lose control. But the only way to get control was to experience what it felt like to be out of control. Aha, I wasn’t turning enough!

By the end of second and final day skiing, I felt very confident. Of course, until next time, when I’ll be forced to go down double black diamonds.

If you want to learn how to ski you can’t be afraid of falling. Actually, you need to embrace falling!

It’s so hard to overcome that resistance. According to my instructor, many first time skiers don’t really ever ski because of that.

But whenever I was in doubt (which was most of the time), I’d look for a 3 year old whizzing by.

If they could do it (without any poles), I could do it!

They’re lucky. They’re AFF!

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Revealed VS Stated Preferences

January 7, 2010          Comments (6)


Why do we do certain things even though they are against our desires? Even though they are against what we said we’d do? Ah the human condition. How it never ceases to fascinate me.

Why do we continue to believe money is the key to happiness yet research proves relationships are?

(According to Harvard psychologist, Daniel Gilbert, it’s $40,000.Yet, most of us will continue to strive for more and more. We’d be better off working on teaching ourselves how to look at our money with a different eye.)

The “hedonic treadmill” describes our amazing ability to adapt quickly to changed circumstances.

The reason why the treadmill never ends is because our amazing ability to adapt also makes novelty wear off very quickly. If our circumstances improve, we soon become accustomed to those new comforts.

Let’s say you treat yourself to the plasma TV you’ve wanted for so long. Sure, it’ll be really cool once you get it, but not long after you do, it’ll be old news.

As Aldous Huxley said, “Habit converts luxurious enjoyments into dull and daily necessities.”

How about the “arrival fallacy”? The arrival fallacy is a fallacy because, though you may anticipate great happiness in arrival, arriving rarely makes you as happy as you anticipate.

By the time you’ve arrived at your goal (whatever it may be), you’re expecting to reach it, so it has already been incorporated into your happiness.

The trick is to learn to enjoy the process of reaching that destination. (Something I really work hard on with my clients. Because when the journey is the reward in itself, it’s a lot easier to stick with it.)

We’re incredibly good at rationalizing behaviors. We can justify any behavior we engage in; even if we feel bad afterward.

That’s why it’s so important to look at what people do. And not what they say. Or read. Or watch.

That’s why it’s so interesting to look at people’s revealed preferences versus their stated preferences.

I’m constantly asking my clients what they want.

However, many clients have said they wanted a feature and didn’t wind up using it during testing. Others have said they wouldn’t use a feature and wound up loving it.

Who do you listen to?

Here’s a perfect example of stated versus revealed preferences stated and revealed by a McDonald’s executive.

“Our customers want mediocre food cheap. Every time we release a higher priced but higher quality product, the people who said they would pay for it never do.

You say you want more fruits, salads, organic, all natural, etc. Well then start buying that stuff and stop buying double cheeseburgers. Our best selling stuff is always whatever we can make taste good, at rock bottom prices.

We’ve actually learned not to listen to our customers when it comes to a lot of things. Health nuts won’t come into McDonald’s to eat even when we give them what they want.”

The funny thing is I’ve always wondered why McDonald’s didn’t offer super nutritious foods at higher prices. “I’d go there! I’d pay for it” I used to think. But I don’t. And when I rarely do, it’s not for health food.

It always comes back to watching what people do.

Not what they say.


This goes hand in hand with my “How to tell what someone really cares about” post.

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