Time shifting

If the people you seek to engage with have a choice, they’re likely to make a choice that’s in their self-interest.

The question is: When?

Is it in a high school student’s self-interest to light up a cigarette on a Friday night? In the short run, the answer might be yes. Ask that person in forty years if it was a good idea to be tricked by advertising and peer pressure into a lifetime of expense and illness, and the answer is probably ‘no’.

When we try to change behavior to make culture better, what we’re actually doing is trying to get people to change their timeframe. The more sophisticated an audience believes it is, the easier it is to help them see that there’s more than the next ten seconds in front of them. Mobs, on the other hand, only care about what feels good in this very moment.

The insight is in understanding that perception of time–not just money, not just features, not just narrative–is actually the driving force of much of what is happening when we try to change minds.

Not, “is this a good idea?” but “when?”

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Author: Seth Godin

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