A weird truth about why we buy things

“Where in the hell did you all put the cheese?”

It was around 9:30PM, and I was silently cursing the employees of my local Kroger for hiding the Parmesan from me.

I’d seen a salad recipe I wanted to try, but I needed to find this DAMN CHEESE.

I rounded the corner, looked down the aisle, and saw it:

That beautiful green label that signifies the crumbly goodness of ultra-grated Parmesan cheese.

I grabbed it, finished shopping, and made my way home. But before I tell you about this salad…

I need to give you some context.

There’s a guy named Jocko Willink who is a certified bad motherf*cker.

He’s a retired Navy SEAL, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, an entrepreneur, and overall badass dude.

And even though I spend most of my day pecking away at plastic buttons on a laptop, there’s a part of me that wants to believe I’m a badass dude too.

I’m not going to rush off and try to join the SEALs or start waking up at 4:30AM every day like Jocko does, but I want to feel like I could do those things if I decided to.

So, if there were a way for me to feel kind of like Jocko without actually having to do those things…

I’m interested.

And that’s where this salad comes in.

See, the other day, I was scrolling through Instagram and saw this post.

It’s nothing special. Just Jocko making salad in his kitchen.

But when I saw it, something clicked in me…

I had to make that salad.

Not because it seemed like the best salad I’d ever heard of. I don’t love canned chicken (one of the key ingredients), and I rarely buy Parmesan cheese (another key ingredient).

I had to make that salad because of the person I would become by eating it.

That might sound crazy, but hear me out.

Here’s the way that (admittedly weird) logic works in my head:

If I make and eat this salad, then, on some level, I get to be like Jocko, who embodies many of the characteristics I’d like to emulate: discipline, hard work, health, masculinity, that whole thing.

By eating the salad, I get to become Jocko on some level.

…aaaaand I didn’t realize how weird that sounded until I typed it out. But as odd as it is, it’s true.

But think about it. Isn’t that the same reason we buy so many other things?

Isn’t that the reason kids buy Yeezy’s?

They want to be like Kanye.

Isn’t that the reason you wear your favorite player’s football jersey?

On some level, you want to be like that player…or at least feel like you’re on the team.

And isn’t it the same reason big brands use celebrities in their advertisements?

Or the same reason influencer marketing even exists?

The weird truth

We often think about how products solve a problem for customers or how they satisfy a desire.

But I think one of the desires we often forget is the desire to be someone else.

Not in a “my life sucks, I wish I were somebody else” way. But in the sense that we all want to be more like the people we look up to.

As kids, we wanted to be like our parents or some other influential figure. And the weird truth is…

That doesn’t change when we’re adults.

There are still people we admire. People we want to be like. And whether we realize it or not, sometimes we buy things (or make salads) to be like them.

Robert Lucas