The Law of Convenience
She was screaming at me. She screamed at me a lot, almost to the point where you would think she was my wife. As heated arguments go it was pretty normal in that there were several interterwoven points to the back and forth as it escalated in volumen and adamancy. Speaking to her points, she said one thing that was wholly true. “I get it, I get it, it’s more convenient!” she yelled with intensity. She was right, it absolutely was more convenient. Ironically, years earlier, she was the person who first clued me into the fact that convenience rules the world. I think if you know that simple little fact, and embrace it, then you have a secret leg up.
Convenience has an incredible power in the world. It shapes nearly everything from the things we buy, to the things we do, and the things we don’t do. It can be both a power for good, and one that leads to limitations while navigating through life. There are many areas where the allure of convenient decision making can lead to ultimately having less.
For me, the part about convenience that is most troubling is that it trumps quality nearly every day of the week. You see this most acutely with electronics. For my go-to example, I always think back to the days of the last great shift in physical audio formats. Over the years packaged audio went from vinyl records, to cassette tapes, to Compact Disks. Each time the quality arguably got better in lockstep with the increase in convenience that was offered by the new formats. Then the tech companies tried to replace the CD with a higher resolution format just made possible by refined laser technology. Separate camps of companies launched formats. There was DVD-Audio and Super Audio Compact Disk. As the format war raged on they both got flanked by the MP3. To me this was the quintessential example of how convenience wins over quality. Both DVD-Audio and SACD offered a tremendous increase in fidelity and functionality compared to the aging compact disk format but neither could compete with the iPod and 1000 songs in your pocket. Now we are in another audio transition, or maybe it’s over and I haven’t caught up. The MP3 has been superseded by streaming. Thinking about it, can you get any more convenient than pressing play no matter where you are and not even having to worry about the playlist?
Convenience, of course, impacts us on a personal level. I have a friend who’s very unhappy with her job. She’s got a pretty strong skill set and could easily get another job someplace else if she wanted to. The challenge for her is that she’s a mom and right now she’s working mostly at home. She has easy access to the household, her community, and all the kid oriented things that happen in her day to day life. When I counsel her about the opportunities in metro areas that are easily commutable to her, she demurs, always claiming it’s better to stay where she’s at because being around her home is much easier for her. She will happily choose choose the convenience of being near home over the misery of her 8–5 life. She’s not alone. I’ve heard this story from many friends and family members over the years. They simply stay at bad jobs because it’s more convenient to stay until the company makes the decision for them. I even fell prey to it a few times in my own life. As an aside, It’s my hope that as we move into the longer tail of a post COVID world, that more companies will compete based on how much they embrace telecommuting, internet issues notwithstanding.
Convenience even can heavily affect our interpersonal relationships. The convenience of sticking in a bad relationship is very similar to sticking with a bad job. It’s just easier to navigate what you know, even if it’s more bad than good, then doing all the extra work to get out of it and build something new for yourself.
Must adults know that long distance relationships are difficult if not impossible for an extended period of time. It’s simply not convenient to make long trips every weekend or a few times a month to see a significant other. Ultimately if the distance issue doesn’t end rather quickly then the relationships tend to fizzle out. The flip side of this is infidelity. People tend to be unfaithful when it’s a matter of convenience. The subtle flirting of someone you work with over time can build up. I know because of the herculean task I’ve had resisting the women at work who have thrown themselves at me over the years. (editor’s note: that last line was intended as an in-joke for anyone reading this who knows the author personally). In all seriousness it’s why infidelity with Military's families is so prevalent. It’s the one two punch of inconvenient distance in your committed relationship and convenient opportunities at home for emotional and physical needs being met for the trailing spouse.
Convenience has even been elevated to a science. Think about the grocery store. End caps, product shelf placement, even the candy by the register are all all designed to get people to purchase based upon the fact that it’s extra easy to do so. Pretty much convenience is the underpinning of the entire credit industry. It’s super convenient to get approved at many electronics retailers when all you have to do is give them your social security number and you can walk out with tens of thousands of dollars worth of stuff that would otherwise take years to save up for.
The darkest side to convenience leads to death. I was shocked to learn that most suicides happen because in the moment of depression, it’s a convenient solution. I learned this when somebody in our old neighborhood decided to kill themselves on a whim and happened to have a firearm handy.
So far, this is some of the negatives of convenience. A question to ask is: Are there any positives? The answer to that is yes. I feel like that we can leverage convenience, like the marketers do, to enhance our ability to achieve the things in life that we want.
If you can do multiple jobs at work, specifically if you’re certified in multiple disciplines, you’re the more convenient option to keep around if there is a reduction in force, ie layoff. On the opposite end of that spectrum, if there are promotions to be had, the person who is a great fit for those promotions tends to get the job. Great fit means they have all of the experience needed. You are in effect making yourself the convenient option for the decision makers. Think of it like putting yourself on the end cap of a grocery store. Decision makers need something taken care of and you’re right there and ready to do it. Unless organizational policy requires it, they don’t even have to go through the interview process. This concept is the underpinning of why some people jump jobs, they are looking at the long term and have a particular career goal in mind. They know they want to have experience A,B, and C if they are required for dream job X and by getting those experiences it makes their selection more convenient for the hiring committees.
Thankfully, at least for me, it works for interpersonal relationships too. I joked earlier about fighting women off at work. The reality of it is the only significant relationships I had in my life is because I was there consistently for the girl in question. I promise you, it was not my rippling muscles, intimidating height, or stunning good looks that drew my wife to me. I was simply there when she wanted to talk. Sometimes good looks and flirting works in the short term but looking at longer term stronger relationships, you have to be there for each other when needed, in effect you have to be convenient. Do this and you may eventually grow closer to the target of your affections. Obviously there are other considerations, especially as it relates to a morally casual attitude and making things too convenient for the object of your affections. Assuming you don’t allow yourself to be just a booty call, then convenience is definitely a tool to be considered in the world of romance.
The irony of all of this is that It’s not convenient to make things convenient for others. It takes extra work and effort. Look at the grocery store example. First, you have to learn how people walk through the store and where they spend the most time. Next you have to work with the store so you can purchase the rights to those areas. If your not familiar with how the grocery industry works, the stores lease out space on the shelves to the few big companies who own most of the grocery store brands. Then you have to figure out the products that are most likely to be an impulse purchase so you can create the best opportunity for the customers. This may even include creating a whole new product category or extension of an existing product line. It’s just super easy to pick up a pack of micro-oreos to try when they are right there in front as you are turning down an isle. Really, I shouldn’t call it the power of convenience, I should call it the law of convenience. Whatever is most convenient typically is what wins. If you do all the work, then you do get to benefit from it.
Clearly there is a whole other narrative about how big companies have turned the law of convenience into a science that drives their business growth. That’s not really my goal for this article. The entire point here is to really reflect on the fact that convenience is powerful and should be considered as we plan and manage our lives. How easy are you making it for others to help you achieve your own goals? Are you even thinking about it?
Going back to my friend who’s personal national pastime was to give me non-stop attitude. She wasn’t making interacting convenient for me. She had in the past but that had slowly faded away. Unfortunately she was expecting me to make things convenient for her, and only for her. I eventually bristled over the sense of entitlement and, as you would expect, things didn’t end well. Maybe the ending of the relationship has a good lesson for the ending of this article. When the convenience of a relationship starts to fade, any relationship, personal or professional, then it’s a great bellwether as to changes that are coming whether you want them or not. Fortunately, if you have had the law convenience in mind, then you’ll be well prepared. Without a doubt it will be very convenient to move into the next phase of your life!
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