Anticipation is Half the Fun
As soon as I’m done writing this post I’m going to open my new iPhone.
The box has been sitting on my desk since it was delivered at 2:31pm on Friday.
I wasn’t here to receive it but my wife knew how badly I wanted it, so when she saw she’d missed the delivery guy but that the UPS truck was still outside she ran out to track him down (Total Hero.)
I haven’t upgraded my phone in 3 years & last month my current phone’s screen got demolished while at Burning Man, so I’ve been looking forward to this phone for a long time.
I know by the time you read How It Actually Works next week I’ll already have adapted to the new phone. It won’t feel special, or new, or like my life is any different.
This is total bummer. Not in like a “that cost me twelve hundred bucks” way but more a “what is the point of life if my favorite product on Earth gives me fewer than 7 days of joy” kind of way.
To which I can already hear some of you thinking
“Come on Trevor it’s just a dumb phone. Obviously you can’t expect it to change your life.”
I mean, some people clearly have high expectations about their new iPhone. Have you seen the lines?
People are showing up to Apple Stores sooner than they arrive at the hospital for the birth of their 1st born child.
Clearly people feel something towards this product. Something that will go away very quickly.
People don’t wait in line for things to which they don’t ascribe a lot of meaning.
Is this a problem?
Because let’s be real: you know I’m still opening that freaking phone after I hit “Publish”.
I don’t think it’s totally bad to want a new phone or nice clothes or whatever. To be honest it’s pretty awesome that we live in a time where there’s so much cool stuff!
But let’s acknowledge that most of the fun comes from the anticipation.
From having something in our lives to look forward to.
This is why clicking “Buy” on Amazon is fun. What you’re actually paying for is to become a child on December 23rd again, a mere 2 days away from having a new present to open.
So I say let’s use the Joy of Anticipation to make life more fun:
1) Do fewer surprises. If you buy a gift for someone tell them you did so! “I got you something fun, here are a few hints, I’m going to give it to you in 3 months” gives them (and you!) 3 months of something to look forward to.
2) Plan further ahead. Putting a family vacation on the calendar a year in advance gives you time to dream together. You have something to imagine & look forward to collectively.
3) Tell people what you’re looking forward to more than you tell them about what you did. So much of travel is about posting and telling everyone what you did.
“How was Rome?” gets the “OMG IT WAS AMAZING WE ARE SUCH COOL PEOPLE NOW” response when in reality you slept in for 4 out of 5 days, fought with your travel companion, and missed the Vatican because you got into an argument with the Italian security guard.
How many of us have had to exaggerate our own vacations because we were actually disappointed in them but felt too embarrassed to say so to our friends?
Better would be to tell people in advance about where you’re going. Then 1) your friends can participate and offer suggestions, and 2) when people ask “what do you plan to do” you can describe to them your ideal & the perfect vacation of your dreams (thereby making the anticipation that much better), because you haven’t actually done the thing yet.
4) Don’t Just Buy Anticipation. Sometimes we only buy crap because we’re bored and need something to look forward to. This is the stuff that ends up in our garages. If you can discover that the only motivation for a purchase is so you have something to open in a few days, stop.
To be clear, I’m not saying we should stop buying stuff or that hedonic adaption is evil.
I’m saying acknowledge this whole problem so you can incorporate it into your life.
Find ways to elongate the moments of actual joy & savor them while they’re real.
If you liked this essay....
Then consider signing up for my newsletter, How It Actually Works.
It contains the best material I find anywhere – this means books, articles, podcasts, research, videos, Twitter threads... the most interesting stuff that will give you something to say.
1,000s of Silicon Valley executives, investors, and leaders read it every week.