I don’t remember much about the one economics class I took way back in high school. I do remember that’s where I learned the term, “planned obsolescence.”
Planned obsolescence seemed like a weird concept at the time—why would you make something that broke/failed/had to be replaced regularly?!?
It’s a very modern American concept, definitely suited to a world in which the economy must. grow. at. all. costs. (Why is that, anyway? If you want a new perspective on that, check out Thomas Princen’s Treading Softly.)
Even the so-called “durable goods” have shorter and shorter lifespans. I found this out when my “new” washer needed repairing (again!!!) when it was just under 10 years old, and the repairman said, “Ten years? These things are made to last about seven. Just get a new one.”
Seven years?!? I think my mom’s washer and dryer set lasted at least 20. I don’t recall them being replaced more than once in my first 30+ years….
Imagine my Luddite delight when my recently-purchased condo came with an old set of completely mechanical, no-computer-chip-in-sight, no-digital-display-either washer and dryer.
They don’t show any sign of quitting, and so far, I can still get repairmen who recognize what they are and know how to maintain them. (I specifically say “maintain” because neither have had any problems yet.)
By the way, if you’re under 50 and can identify the machine in the photo above, you are a star. Because it’s older than 8-track tapes and VHS tapes and cassettes and floppy discs.
I have learned, however, that there is a positive take on obsolescence. Something is obsolete because it no longer serves a purpose rather than because it’s broken.
Ironically, I learned about that when I worked in the nonprofit world, where a feeling of lack still predominates, and a limitation to outdated tools and technologies is a common lament.
I’d give credit where it’s due if I could remember who said this to me, but I don’t remember. So thanks to whomever it was.
“The true measure of a nonprofit’s success is that it has made itself obsolete.”
Think about that for a moment. In the nonprofit world, we constantly quantify (and qualify) our successes. How many people did you serve, and how many of them were new clients? How many goods did you distribute to the underserved? How many of the underprivileged did you reach with your message?
And if your data makes donors happy, you get more money.
But here’s a question: remember that mission/vision statement you hammered out, with or without the help of an expensive consultant?
It usually sounds something like this:
- Our vision is a world in which [fill in your version of paradise here].
- Our mission is to provide [fill in your goods/services here] to make this vision a reality.
So if you’re still in business, you haven’t really succeeded….
No, I get it. Missions take time, and visions take even longer.
And you see my point, right?
making ourselves obsolete
When I was publishing my cookbook, my husband made a very astute observation.
“Wait. You’re selling a cookbook that is supposed to help people cook without recipes? Isn’t that sort of a marketing problem?”
He had a point.
And it also applies to the ultimate job of a health coach, which is to make herself obsolete.
Now THAT is truly a marketing problem because in the entrepreneur world, there is a LOT of advice about selling your services.
Most of the advice is along the lines of:
- Your best customers are repeat customers.
- Start customers out with something inexpensive, then let them fall in love with you and buy more and more expensive programs.
- You want to build a base of raving fans who will not only repeatedly buy your services but market them for you.
- Etc. You get the point.
All that advice works better in the product world. Or in the world where the services are not something a client could ever do on their own.
planned obsolescence, health coach-style
I believe that a health coach’s primary function is to empower a client to make a health journey on their own once the initial program ends.
So in my programs, we’ll cover a lot of material, and you’ll get a lot of resources from me. And the main point is that you will acquire a life skill, perhaps without even realizing it.
And then I’m going to nudge you out of the nest. Gently, but I’ll do it. I don’t want you to come back again and again because that means I failed.
If I do my job well, you will have the skills and the tools to engage your intuition, align your daily choices with what you discover there, and transform your health and your life. Whether you continue to use them or not is on you.
You will be ready to take your health journey on your own—whether you walk, run, or fly down the route.
And not to worry. I will nudge you out of the nest—and I do offer “tune-ups” when you feel like you need a refresh.
I have clients who think they’re not ready to leave the nest, that they want more, that they need more. And after a few maintenance sessions, they all recognize that they are, in fact, ready.
And I am now obsolete in a good way—at least for that client. Lucky for me, there are a lot of people in the world who still need a coach!
So perhaps planned obsolescence is a solid business model?
make the connection
Tired of coaching programs that are great … until you’re no longer in them? Sick of coaches who pressure you to buy more and more expensive programs once you’ve finished the first one?
Look for a coach who believes in planned obsolescence.
And if you want to enroll in a group coaching program that will empower you to steward your emotional eating for the rest of your life (and not just until the program ends), make sure to check out the details and apply by September 30, 2023!