Buying stuff you don’t need in hopes it will make you better at something.
By Brad Beckstrom
I have it. I think I’ve had it for a long time. At least, I still have many symptoms. Psychology Today defines Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) as “lustily buying more tools than you need.” Wikipedia’s describes (GAS) as “the urge to acquire and accumulate lots of gear.” They single out musicians in their definition, saying the term sometimes refers to Guitar Acquisition Syndrome. Guitarists tend to acquire lots of guitars, guitar amplifiers, custom pedals and effects processors.
But this goes way beyond musicians. In fact, I could list any number of hobbies, interests, careers, passions etc. that suffer from gear acquisition syndrome. Just pick up any magazine on cooking, photography, technology, fitness, beauty, cycling, hunting, fishing, boating, camping, gaming, music, cars and you’ll see gear featured front and center on nearly every page. Web sites are worse, the candy colored gear pops up and can lead you on click tangents.
I recently canceled a free subscription to a photography magazine because they weren’t really talking about photography, they were talking about gear, tricks and tools to make you a better photographer. Most of the photos in the magazine were of …..gear. What I know now is that gear will not make me a better photographer. The best camera, latest versions of software, and the fastest Mac out there will not make me a better photographer. Going out and doing the work, taking the photographs will make me a better photographer.
GAS can definitely be a problem for someone like me who is interested in everything. Technology, music, boating, even healthy stuff like hiking, cycling………lots o’gear.
Even self-help junkies (people constantly trying to improve themselves ) are not immune to this syndrome. Our gear just looks different, books, online courses, the latest to do list app software and razor thin laptops, tablets and phones to run it all. Holy shit, I am in that group as well. If I’m not careful GAS could kill me!
Getting rid of bad GAS
The first step in getting rid of GAS is admitting that you have it. So how do I get rid of it? There is no remedy that you can go out and buy in chewable tablet form for this. Even if there was, I would probably tell you not to buy it.
Once you know you have it, understand that it will pop up in the strangest places. This is not your fault. If you’re reading this, you are lucky to live in a place that has a paradox of choice. Meaning that there are so many choices and options screaming for your attention that some of that cream really has risen to the top and grabbed your attention. You feel the urge to buy and the pressure to make the “right choice.” Smart phones, motorcycles, vacuum cleaners, laptops, guitars, high-tech shoes and clothing, all available all the time, next day delivery. This stuff all looks great doesn’t it ? Which one will be best for me?
How to deal with this? Do what you do best, procrastinate. Put off the decision, stop spending time researching, tell yourself “I’m going to think about this for a few weeks.” This is one of the single best things I’ve found for getting rid of GAS and avoiding purchases I will regret later.
Once you’re able to put that decision off, think of the time you just saved yourself. You’re done with the research. You can use that time to go fishing, go skiing, cook, or do whatever it was you were trying to improve with new gear. I recently heard a writer speaking about how she used to be a self-help junkie, taking every course, buying every book, attending seminars. What she finally realized was that she could improve her writing, by actually doing it instead of reading about it. She had found the secret! She literally found the secret, instead of buying a book called The Secret for $14.95.
Output versus Input
How will you be able to tell when you’re doing this? Start measuring your output versus input. For example, if I’m trying to become a better photographer, writer…..insert your thing here, am I spending more time looking at photographs, reading about equipment, or am I going out and actually producing photographs? If I’m spending too much time on the input versus the output, I’m not getting better.
Lighten the load and you’ll move faster
Understand that every piece of new gear you purchase steals a little bit of your time. You need to learn how to use all those new time-saving features. You need to get rid of the stuff you’re replacing, or worse, store it. By not purchasing it, you’ve lightened the load. I used to travel with a lot more stuff but each time I go somewhere I really think about what I need in my bag. I work on lightening the load each time I travel even if it’s just for an afternoon.
Skip the upgrade, or skip the new, new altogether.
Wear stuff out. Skip upgrade cycles. When I used to manage a bunch of IT equipment at my company, I would tell my tech guys to wait six months or even skip an entire upgrade cycle. This worked because there were invariably a lot of bugs in the latest software or hardware releases. This is still true with smart phones. If you take care of something, you shouldn’t need a new one every two years. I believe most people would agree that new items, while shiny and loaded with features, last nowhere near as long as the simpler models built 10 years ago. Avoid any home appliance with a digital dashboard like the plague. When it does come time to replace something, focus on fewer features, quality and simplicity.
Lastly, really learn to appreciate what you do have. Understand that many people around the world do far more with far less. 80% of the world’s population lives on less than $10 a day.
Out of this 80%, we find great writers,chefs, artists, athletes, and leaders. They’ll do it because they’ll be focused on building their skills versus acquiring gear. Tap into what they already know and do far more with less.