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30 Seconds to Happiness

“Our goal is for someone to go from wanting something to buying it in under 30 seconds.”

Sam Hall, Vice President of Mobile Shopping at Amazon.

Instant gratification. Gimme. I want. The culture of Me First, magnified through the lens of technology, has transformed our expectations such that we are not capable of waiting. And in doing so, it fools us into believing that somehow, if I get something more quickly, I will find happiness.

Technology is often blamed for our cultural demand for instant gratification. Sixteen years ago, when I began to practice law, I heard one of the firm’s partners lamenting this phenomenon. Apparently fax machines were a bad influence on clients, who expected answers to their legal quagmires and dilemmas on a near-simultaneous basis. Now, with emails, internet and computer aided legal research, this demand has been magnified exponentially.

I am not sure if technological advances promotes our materialism, if it’s vice versa, or if they’re symbiotic. Maybe it’s a corollary to entropy, the tendency toward chaos and disorder. What I do know is that this technology-enabled ability to go from wanting to getting in 30 seconds does not lead to quicker gratification. It can result in a more frenetic hoarding activity, but ultimately the void we seek to fill remains empty.

Maybe our efforts are wrongly directed. As Viktor Frankl points out, perhaps our void will be filled by redirecting our efforts from a pursuit of happiness to a pursuit of meaning.

In memory of my Mom, who always hoped for my happiness but by her example taught me to seek meaning.  You would be celebrating your 74th birthday today. I love you, Mom!

USNA I Day 1984


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