When I started MediaSite, my second video software company in the late nineties, I had to learn the painful lesson that good sales and marketing were as or more important to building a good company than the product or service itself.  Until then, I had prided myself with the belief that great products made great companies.

Vitamins and PainkillersSo I hired a sales trainer who educated us on how people buy and so on and so forth.  I had used this trainer, Larry Lewis, in my first company and wanted him to coach the rest of my team.  While coaching the team, I assisted Larry and in the process came up with this notion of Vitamins vs. Painkillers™, which made me better understand why certain solutions are more difficult for folks to accept than others.  People tend to buy vitamins and painkillers very differently.

You need to be convinced of the potential gains of taking the vitamin pill and ask for proof and usually are skeptical of the results.  On the other hand, when you have a splitting headache, you reach out for a painkiller.  If you are at a friend’s place, you ask your friend, “Do you have ‘anything’ for my headache?”  You may name a brand, but you are willing to accept anything.  “Give me something, I don’t care.”

While it takes an effort for a vitamin company to sell you the story of a future gain, it doesn’t take much for a painkiller company to get you to use their product as you are in a dire need to put an end to your current pain.

This behavior is completely in sync with how we are wired as humans.  We pay attention to taking care of immediate concerns “now” and put off future concerns for later.  Our propensity for immediate gratification usually trumps the long-term consequences.  Gaining instant pleasure or stopping present discomfort becomes the center of our attention.

We have all heard why it is important to cultivate good habits, but now it is clear why it is difficult to cultivate these habits.  Good habits, typically produce fruit in the future, and we can’t wait that long.  In a culture of “instant” coffee, noodles, dinners, etc., where is the time to wait for the results?

Unless we become aware of this inherent mechanism within each of us and truly comprehend its potential negative impact on our lives, we will keep reaching for painkillers and finding various ways to put away the proverbial vitamins — cultivating good habits and the discipline to follow a practice that may only bear fruit years from now.

In the early nineties, I had heard the late Dr. Stephen Covey eloquently put it, there is the “Law of the School and the Law of the Farm.”  In school, you can cram the previous night and get away with a good grade.  We have all done this and see it even work.   In contrast, a farmer cannot sow the seeds the day before the harvest and expect to get a great crop.  In my opinion, more things in life follow the “Law of the Farm” than the “Law of the School.”

Remember, Vitamins are for future growth and Painkillers are getting rid of current pain.  Eliminating current pain without addressing the root cause only make the companies who make painkillers rich.

Choose wisely…Choose both and develop a plan to eliminate the painkiller.