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Do you eat a banana only to get to the end?

Destination Addiction blinds us of the journey

In his book Success Intelligence, Robert Holden, PhD, asked this question. It is an intriguing one, and one which we shall dwell on today. For those of you who have a banana close by, do grab one and eat it. For those of you who don't, just remember the last time you ate a banana. Once you are done eating (or remembering), let's come back to the question again: "Do you eat a banana only to get to the end?" In other words, is your reason for eating the banana only in the eating? When Holden asked this question to a group of participants, handing them each a banana, the answers were varied. Some of them liked the peeling of the banana, others the first bite, still others the middle of the banana, some the end of it, and still others the whole act of eating. Hence, there is a gamut of experiences in eating the banana, and it is not just to get to the end of it. But the overwhelming majority, about half of the respondents, chose "at the end" as the time they liked it best. "So what?" you might be thinking. What has that got to do with anything? Apparently, a lot. As it turns out, most of us are driven by Destination Addiction, the insatiable desire to get to the end, to achieve results. While this is not all that bad, it makes us myopic and lose sight of all that we can gain from the start of the eating until the end of the bite. In short, we may be blind to the process while we are single minded about the destination. And this may cause us to agree that the end justifies the means; and that, can be very dangerous.

The journey is as important, perhaps even more so!

What's wrong with Destination, and why is it called an addiction? Well, when one is single-mindedly focused on the end result, and nothing else matters, then one will not know the subtle changes in the landscape, the indications that perhaps one was NOT on the path that one thought he/she was.

Let me give you an example. In 2012, I launched a programme called Upsell, which targets restaurants in giving better service and in the process, selling more. We did our on-site surveys of restaurants and identified areas in the service where money was left on the table. By devising a simple programme that will not require service staff to do much more than to be more observant and to be more friendly, the restaurant would be able to see a 2-3% uptick in takings. It was a programme that would pay for itself many times over! What's there NOT to like about it? We looked at the financials of this programme, how many restaurants we needed to recruit, the additional headcount that we needed to get to kickstart this project, and the resources to pump in. And pump it in we did.

Well, as it turned out we spoke to everyone except those who really mattered. Most of the people we spoke to were restaurant patrons, who commended on the programme structure and outcome, and said that they would certainly spend more in a restaurant that provided such service. But we failed to speak to the restaurant owners until we had committed our resources. And when we did go to market, we had one loud and unanimous response; "Yes we all need this programme. BUT, we don't have enough staff! All my staff are already working 44 hour shifts. There is simply NO way we can send them for training without busting labour laws." Restaurant after restaurant shared this with us, until we realised that we missed the forest for the trees. We were only focused on the Destination - of restaurants offering better service, earning more money, and us as well; and not the journey, the process of getting there. Ultimately, we had to cancel this programme and count it as a loss, letting go the project staff (but not before paying them for the lost opportunity). In the end, it was Destination Addiction that caused us to lose our money.

The end doesn't justify the means

So, did the end justify the means? Not at all! In fact, by being so focused on the destination, I plumb forgot to consider all the little steps along the way. I had wrongly assumed that as you take care of the pounds, the pennies will take care of themselves. Wrong again! And as we traverse the journey, it might allow us to take detours that might bring us to an even better destination. Destination Addiction, unfortunately, blinds us to all that.

So when you eat a banana, enjoy the eating, not the ending. It allows you to be more mindful of the experience, and savour the more complex nuances of the fruit. It sure beats simply getting to the end and realising that you lost all the experience of the fruit!


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