The Eternal Quest For The Quick Fix

Image by Ross Grady via Flickr

Have you ever browsed through a self-help guide, hoping to find an easy solution to a difficult problem? Have you ever purchased on credit an item you knew you couldn’t afford, or gotten frustrated with something that didn’t give you immediate results?

Are you on an endless quest for the quick fix? It’s an attitude that pervades every aspect of today’s society.

The quest for the quick fix infects the way we address our personal issues. It infects the way we view our jobs, our wealth, and our worth.

It infects our way of thinking and our way of life.

As a society, we’ve grown increasingly unwilling to put forth the hard work required to improve ourselves. We want simple solutions and immediate feel-good results. We want chicken soup for the soul and fast food for the belly.

The quest for the quick fix is directly responsible for the financial state of the nation. Last year’s economic collapse resulted from decades of decadent spending. Why buy a modest house when we can secure a mansion on 100% financing and minimal monthly payments? Why live a meager lifestyle when bountiful credit cards provide us with all the material possessions we want?

The quest for the quick fix has spawned a culture of ravenous self-improvement. Why spend years on introspection and behavior modification when we can buy a DVD and “cure” life-long problems in a few short weeks?

Let’s enjoy our new mansion, our new flat-screen, our new personality. Later on we can worry about paying off the mortgage, paying off our credit card, addressing our actual emotional issues.

And that is the plight of modern American society. We live in the present, even if living in the present means sacrificing our future.

The 17-year-old who skips college to get a factory job paying $15 an hour… because $15 an hour is a huge sum of money when you’re 17. The 22-year-old college graduate with a $10,000 credit card balance… and no job. The 27-year-old with the half-million dollar home… purchased with no money down and an adjustable-rate mortgage whose payments will skyrocket in five years. The 32-year-old desperate single who believes she can attain her lifelong dreams… as long as she thinks only positive thoughts.

The average American has forgotten that we must work hard today to earn ourselves a better tomorrow. The average American wants immediate results. The quick fix. The duct tape wrapped around the sputtering engine of society.

Unfortunately, the quick fix does come at the cost of the future.

The factory worker forgoes the opportunity to improve his skill set and increase his chances of finding an alternate career should the factory close down. The college grad spends the next decade attempting to pay off four years of frivolous purchases. The homeowner loses his mansion when his monthly mortgage payment jumps several thousand dollars. The desperate single spirals down a vortex of one dysfunctional relationship after another.

If we really want to make ourselves better, if we really want to improve our lives, then we must believe in the power of investment. Investment in our own education… when we choose to stay in school; investment in our own human capital… when we choose to never stop developing our trove of useful skills; investment in our own health… when we choose to lead a life of self-discipline, adaptability, and resilience; investment in our own future… when we choose to plan for tomorrow.

To me, carpe diem is one egregiously unsound wad of pop wisdom. If I were only to live for today, I’d go out and spend every last penny I had. Heck yeah, today would surely be the rager to end all ragers. Watch out for flying kegs and swaying stripper poles.

But then, where would I be tomorrow?

Most likely broke. Definitely hung over. Probably left for dead.

It was the Klingons (although they may have been quoting the Bible) who deciphered the full meaning of carpe diem: “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

Not so promising an outlook now, is it?

So, before we continue on our eternal quest for the quick fix, before we embark on today’s path of eating and drinking and merrymaking, perhaps we should ask ourselves….

Where do we want to be tomorrow?

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  • you are spot on dennis. very well written! im definitely feeling that pull between trying to live in the present but plan for the future as well, so i can relate. great job.

  • Speaking from experience with cars, duct tape only lasts and then you have to apply more tape… great photo to attach to this piece.
    I really agree with you though on investments: More schools/education = less prisons. Thanks for sharing.

  • I’d like to disagree with your full assessment of carpe diem. I recently had a major surgery due to the potential of cancer. Thankfully it was benign. Nonetheless, this experience has taught me that carpe diem is a powerful and positive outlook to have on life. Having faced the prospect of illness and fatality (a little exaggerated, who knows?), I realize that there really is no day but today. Career. Goals. Life. What am I waiting for? Like you say, the perfect job is not just going to plop into my lap; I’ve got to be proactive. For this reason, I disagree with your assessment of the term carpe diem because I shouldn’t waste time pursuing my goals.

    On the other hand, this beautiful phrase should be used sparingly and in good intention. I agree that making a quick fix at the expense of one’s future is not good use of carpe diem. It all depends on how it’s interpreted. It can be a very dynamic force, either for better or for worse.

  • No, I see your point. I agree that we shouldn’t wait around, hoping things will happen, and that we need to take initiative. That aspect of carpe diem (“seize the day”), I totally agree with. I believe that is the original intent of the saying, after all. Unfortunately, carpe diem can also get twisted into “live for the day,” which is how many seem to interpret the saying, and which is what I take issue with. Hence, my mention of the Klingon translation. 😉

    Hope that makes sense.

  • I do agree with your article as well — perhaps we should just get rid of our credit cards and start using cash b/c thats how all the other Asian countries do it AND it just HURTS to see your money leaving your hands versus a piece of plastic sliding through this little machine….

  • As for the car wrapped in duct tape, I have to disagree.

    The better example of what you’re talking about would be the gleaming FX-35 in the background, an overpriced station wagon on stilts for the credit card set. The person driving the beat-up CRX in the foreground did what he had to do to keep his car on the road. He didn’t take out a new credit card to buy new fenders, or take on a car payment for a new car. He’s making do with what he’s got, and hopefully saving up to fix it properly when that’s possible.

  • Hmmm… good point. I was thinking more along the lines of wrapping duct tape for the quick fix instead of taking the time to actually get it fixed. But, actually getting it fixed takes money that you may not have to spend.

    Either way, thanks for reading! I’m glad people are still finding this piece, since I think it’s one of the more important messages my ramblings have stumbled upon…. 😉

  • Haha I feel bad for going on a comment spree today, but I totally agree with this article. It made me think of an episode of Scrubs where Dr. Kelso says “nothing in life worth having EVER comes easy,” which I think is totally true! When are people going to learn that you have to WORK to have nice things? Anyways great read as usual!

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