The Law of Convenience Redux: Convenience Always Wins

Mike Peluso
10 min readOct 30, 2023

I just sold something that was very important to me. It was something I thought about for years before I got it. I had worked on collecting the pieces and building it for months. I loved playing around with it but ultimately I wound up not using as much as I wanted to. Why, after all that effort did I stop using it? I found an easier solution. The solution I worked so hard on simply wasn’t convenient enough to use and the new one was maybe half again more convenient. I didn’t really want to sell my first, home grown solution, but it was just sitting around collecting dust. It meant enough to me that I wanted to see it used somewhere so all that effort didn’t go to waste. Upon reflection on the whole episode, I realized that as much effort as I put into it, and as superior as my home grown solution was, convenience won out in the end. That got me thinking again about the pivotal role convenience plays in our lives.

So what exactly did I sell? It was my prized 5.1 outdoor surround sound system that I used with my projector and screen for backyard and special event movie nights. Why did it mean so much to me? I guess because it was such a long journey to get it all put together. The story started about fifteen years before the writing of this article when I bought a house with a big drop-off in the backyard. The drop off, although graded, looked a lot like the stadium seating movie theaters I’d go to watch movies, which led to the idea of using it for an outdoor movie theater. Sidenote: for reasons I won’t go into, I can’t watch movies today, which makes it the most ironic mega-project of my entire life.

So, back to the hill. I was going to create an outdoor stadium seating style movie theater. I chose to do it using retaining walls so my guests could sit on fold out chairs. On the top most level I built a railing which was designed so that it could be used as a bar height table. That way some of the guests could watch movies while having a drink or a bite to eat. It took months to build the retaining walls because there were two walls that were approximately 65’ long each. I even got in trouble with the city with the project. Big trouble. Apparently covering up a manhole, even one on my own property, is a no no.

I spent a great deal on the equipment. Specialized outdoor speakers that could be used for the Mid’s and highs. I bought a 16’ wide screen and the hardware needed to set the screen to the right height. Unfortunately right at the end of this massive effort, I had a huge falling out with the friend who helped me build it all. It was such a massive falling out we moved out of the neighborhood and away from that back yard theater.

We decided to build our next house rather than just buy something. About a year and a half later I moved into a home that had mostly flat land. Of course I started rethinking and reworking the project in my mind. I had the equipment and the screen. The new design was reworked so that the whole system was portable. I engineered speaker stands that were 8’ high and could be rolled to where I wanted them on wheels. The whole thing was a king kong sized version of a 5.1 bose satellite subwoofer system. The satellite’s were JBL outdoor speakers with 6.5” woofers and tweeters, and the Sub was a powered 12” Sony Subwoofer.

I finally got a pro series projector through my wife’s company, and I was off to the races. It was, and is, the world’s only (that I’m aware of) hobbyist 5.1 outdoor surround sound system. We used it fairly often. When word got out, I even had some requests from non-profits who wanted to have family friendly outdoor movie events. With the help of another friend we were able to facilitate community and fundraising events for local elementary schools and for the local little league.

At the same time all this was going on, I started to get involved with some very ammiture DJ events, and like the movie theater, I went overboard. I wound up getting a 2.1 Dance hall sound system. Eventually I stopped using the surround sound system I built when we did outdoor movie nights. It was just easier to pull out the 2.1 powered DJ speaker setup. Remember each piece, and they were very large, has to get set up, and then after the event, it has to be put away. It was much easier for me to put away five pieces of equipment which was the DJ setup, versus the surround sound system which included nine pieces in total. That difference may not seem like much but when you consider everything is wired separately and powered separately, and it was never certain if i’d have help to break down, I wound up defaulting to the smaller system again and again.

I still had the surround sound system which sat unused in my garage. After a couple of years I realized I wasn’t going to use them much, if at all, in the future. I put them for sale, so someone could benefit from all my hard work and also so I could get the cash for other interests. I have to admit it was bittersweet when the person who bought it took it all away. On the positive side it was a non-profit who will use the system for regular movie nights so at least I know it will continue to provide entertainment for my local community. On the negative side, well, I can’t personally benefit from all that work even if the benefit is just looking at it and remembering what I acomplished.

As I was thinking about the whole thing in the days after I sold the system I realized convenience won out. That naturally brought my mind to the music industry and my earlier narrative about the Law of Convenience. I remembered that CD’s replaced records because they were more convenient, even though early vinyl records sounded much better than early compact disks. The same thing happened with MP3’s when they replaced CD’s and cassette tapes.

Of course this pattern isn’t just limited to the music industry. If we look at smartphones as information devices, they are way more convenient than Windows PC’s which is why there are now nearly three billion smartphones and only about a billion personal computers in use. Even when we get away from technology, we can see the effect of convenience in real estate. The marque example is the price of a beachfront house versus the price of houses just two streets away. With the house two to three streets away, no matter if your going to fish or play in the sand, you have to pack your stuff up and bring it with you to the beach. With the beachfront location you just walk out your back door. That simple difference equates to hundreds of thousands of dollars difference in property value.

There are thousands of other examples, but in the end convenience always wins. Always.

We are seeing the allure of convenience in the workplace. The biggest current example is coming from the professional class of workers. COVID-19 taught the professional that their work life can be much more convenient. All you need is a good internet connection. Of course there is friction with that conclusion. Employers generally don’t like the idea of a distributed workforce. When employees come to the office it makes things much more convenient for the company. It will be very interesting to see how this tug of war plays itself out over the next several years. My guess is that over time the employer will win out as they control the money.

The government uses convenience to collect taxes. What’s more convenient, sending the taxpayer a bill every month and hope that the population will be disciplined enough with their money to send in the checks, or to get the money before the employee ever sees it? Withholding was a huge boon to the government. If your political thinking is such that you hate taxes and government in your life, then withholding is an anathema to you.

In life, convenience can be a trap. Like convenient tax collection, convenience in life is often used against us. Buy now, pay later is the most convenient thing in the world. Before the ‘convenience’ of instant credit and government underwritten thirty year mortgages existed, there was limited consumer debt. Today consumer debt tops over 15.4 trillion dollars in the United States. That’s fifteen thousand billion dollars or a hair under one hundred thousand dollars for every single American.

You can see convenience at play at the grocery store. All the crap by the register is there because it won’t sell any other way. Vendors pay big bucks for Kit Kats and trash magazines to be so convenient and it doesn’t matter if the products are bad for our bodies and minds.

For me, right now, I think the biggest piece of convenience that’s used against me as a consumer comes right from the Doctor’s office. Well it’s not just the neighborhood doctor. It’s healthcare in general. Healthcare is a royal pain because the system is designed to be convenient for the providers not the customers. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Doc’s just showed up at home or work like the house calls of days gone? It would be ideal as we wouldn’t have to take so much time out of our days.

Of course, we can learn from these machinations of convenience. We can use it to benefit us. The first way is the simplest way, and that’s to be on the lookout for convenience as a bellwether of if we should engage in something. The more convenient something is for us, maybe the more we should question how good of a choice it is. For me personally, when something is super easy, I always think about who’s really benefiting? I think we should also have the fortitude to choose the inconvenient option when it’s ultimately better for us. That means saving up before buying and putting long term goals ahead of short term wants as often as we can.

We sometimes have the choice to leverage convenience for things that are good for us. It helps us make our goals easier to achieve. I, of course, have some examples. A forever goal in my life is weight loss. If I don’t have food in the house, then it’s much more convenient to go without grabbing a snack in between meals. I know myself. I’ll eat less rather than go to a restaurant. Thankfully DoorDash and Uber Eats do not serve the areas near where I live. If I make ‘not eating’ more convenient then my diet works better.

Another prenerial goal is savings growth. The best way to do this is to follow the government taxation model. Use direct deposit to put a healthy chunk of cash into a savings account before I ever see it. This is in line with what financial planners have forever been telling us to do. Every single financial planner I’ve known strongly encourages the use of auto drafts for savings and investing prior to the money appearing in our paychecks.

I could go on and on about this topic because the use of convenience is everywhere. It is one of the world’s most powerful forces. Those who wish to better themselves, be it a corporation or an individual understand this power and apply it wherever they can. I personally think the average person simply doesn’t harness it enough. I would assume that creating beneficial convenience takes emotional fortitude and, sometimes, work to set up. Corporations like Uber Eats have armies of people working very hard to make the local Chinese takeout that much more convenient for their customers. Individuals have to learn to live on less if they auto draft into their savings account where they haven’t in the past.

Going back to the start of this, convenience won out with my backyard theater because convenience always wins. I know that I haven’t lost the outdoor theater bug. I can do it now with my current rig but it’s still a ton of work. I’ve already begun to think about what a more convenient outdoor theater setup would look like. I have even started the research. I looked up screens and speakers designed to be permanently mounted outdoors. I still haven’t quite figured out how I want to do a permanently mounted outdoor projector but I’m sure there is a solution available somewhere. I know it would be sweet to just flip a switch and then have everything just work in the most convenient way possible. I also know that if I figure it out I’ll be much more willing and able to entertain my friends and family with movie nights much more often than I have in the past. Now that I think about it, I wonder if anyone has ever made a movie about the power of convenience. That would be an awesome first film to show in my new theater. If you are reading or listening to this, your welcome to come too. If you are too far away from central North Carolina, then no worries. I can stream the movies online. After all, if you care enough to want to be a part of movie night and can’t attend, then the least I can do is make it as convenient as possible.

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Mike Peluso

Mike Peluso writes is about the collision between the professional world and life. Read more at www.pelusopresents.com or listen to the Peluso Presents Podcast