Freedom and convenience directly oppose each other. Let’s take two extremes of this in a cup of coffee. If you wanted ultimate, total freedom, you’d grow your own coffee tree, harvest the cherries, dry them, roast them, grind them, brew them with water you sourced from your own aquifer, and have a cup of coffee that was completely and totally yours. You would be completely free from corporate meddling of any kind.

Morning coffee

The other extreme is to pop a single cup serving into your fully automated coffee maker, press the start button, and have a cup of coffee in about 60 seconds. You have no control over the source of the beans, the quality of the water, or any part of the final product, but you have the ultimate in convenience, at the expense of a near-total loss of your freedom.

Think about this: how much freedom do you willingly trade for convenience? How much freedom do you unwittingly trade because you don’t know how to gain more of it?

Marketers have a strong incentive to get you to forfeit your freedom: the less freedom you have, the harder it is to leave their product or service. If you grow accustomed to a certain brand of coffee machine, you’re less likely to switch than if you get accustomed to buying a certain kind of bean. The cost of change gets higher as freedom diminishes and convenience increases – something that marketers covet. To the average marketing department, customer loyalty bought with lock-in has the same bottom line results as customer loyalty bought with a great product.

Try this: instead of buying commercial brands of coffee (or those single serving pods/cups/packs), how would your understanding of coffee change if you researched and bought particular types of beans and ground them at home? You’d sure notice a difference in taste and quality. Would an increase in quality and flavor be worth the extra time and investment to you?

Sometimes it’s not – but going through the exercise helps you understand when you’re making a conscious trade of freedom for convenience. Only after doing it yourself can you fully appreciate and acknowledge the freedom you willingly forfeit for never having to do it yourself. It helps you appreciate better all that you do have, all that you take for granted otherwise.

Sometimes it’s really worth it – you realize that you’ve been vastly overpaying for something relatively simple. If you love the porterhouse cut of steak, once you’ve mastered the basics you realize that restaurants are by and large vastly overcharging for a fairly ordinary cut of meat. You can get the same culinary experience out of the broiler in your oven for 20 that you can for120 a plate at a steakhouse. In cases like this, you’ve been forfeiting freedom for convenience at a very high price.

After you finish reading this article, take a few minutes to examine something in your life that you enjoy for its convenience and see what it would take to gain a bit more freedom. Maybe you’ll pick the coffee example and try buying and grinding your own beans for a week. Maybe you’ll pick a favorite restaurant and see what it takes to replicate your favorite dish. Whatever it is, see what the cost of a little more freedom is, and if it’s not unacceptably high (making your own iPad, for example), try it for a week.

Side thought: take your favorite political party and examine their marketing practices. Are they working towards your freedom or trying to lock you in to a dogmatic viewpoint and sense of identity that ensures customer loyalty even with a substandard product?

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