Saturday, November 20, 2010

Deferred gratification

The other day, the piano technician came to tune my daughter’s piano. As I watched him ‘dismantle’ our piano, it suddenly dawned on me that when I was a kid, I had always been very curious to feel what it was like to strike the piano keys, but I never got the chance to even go near one. How blessed my children are in comparison, I thought.

When I was in the third year of my engineering course in the University of Singapore, we had to do a non-technical elective one semester. I chose Sociology and I found that I liked it very much. Until today I still think, I wish we had counselors back then to advise us on what courses to pursue in university. I certainly would not have chosen Engineering if I had the chance to choose again. It is such a boring subject compared to Sociology. Instead we just went for courses that were the most popular and which the best students pursued.

I remember our Sociology class was taught by a part-time lecturer; a young Indian man who worked for one of the newspapers. He taught us this term, deferred gratification. It certainly applies to many people of my generation. When we were young, we held back from acquiring many things that we loved. Instead we slogged and saved until much later in life.

Take the example of pop music records. A few years after my elder brother and sister started working, we bought a cheap hi-fi system. But we could not afford many of the 33 rpm LP records; especially the English songs. And so we used to borrow them from our more well-to-do friends. I remember my younger brother James had a classmate who used to lend us his records. One of them was an album by Lobo with the title, Me and you and a dog named Boo. (How can anyone forget a title like that?). Another record was by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass – another hard-to-forget name don’t you think? There are other examples (of such deferred gratification), but I think I should keep them to myself. I am sure older readers have similar examples to share.

But anyway, no regrets. The good book says; “Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife." (Proverbs 17:1)

Furthermore, when you are deprived, you work harder; and when you finally get what you want, you relish it more. But sometimes that is not true. By the time came when you could afford something that you used to like, you may have already passed the age where you relish those same things. Thankfully, Lobo isn’t one of them.

Anyway, back to my Sociology lecturer. Once, he made a really nice comment in one of my essays. He wrote something to this effect; “They say that engineers can’t write; but you and a couple of others in this class have proven how wrong that stereotype is.” So instead of spending my time studying my Engineering subjects, I spent much time on Sociology which did not even count towards my final grades. Likewise today, I am busy writing my Good Morning Yesterday blog, when I should be spending more time on my other business-related blog; My 5S Corner.

Sigh …. Some will things never change. That just the way it is.


Zen said...

After reading chun see's reflection of his past career choice, I could not agree more of his keen observation. During my time, it was even worse, living in a kampong we were somewhat leading a cocoon-life, unable to think objectively, and pursued the career dearest to our heart. In other words, we were like the proverbial square peg on a round hole. In those difficult years, it was difficult to change course in mid stream. So when a kampong lad landed with a job, he would consider it as making an important breakthrough in his life. A case in point was when our tenant (a barber) whose chinese educated son got clerical post in the govt service, he proudly announced the news to everyone in the village. It was as though his son had passed an important imperial exam in ancient china and had been appointed as a court official. This was a reality of kampong life in the early sixties.

peter said...

This is what I call "Dream On". You dream that one day you will get this, so you work towards that goal......Because you work so hard towards that goal, what you got you treasure as it means so much to you. You wont be careless to lose it, you take care of end up becoming a responsible person......and that's call VALUES.

Andy Young* said...

Wow! That's a tough concept for our kids today.

How are they ever going to buy a car? Or worse, a house?

We should also remember Alvin Toffler's concept of the 'throw away society' in 'Future Shock.'

Live for today and let tomorrow take care of itself?

Zen said...

The 21st century has arrived. People expectation changes. In reality, we are now living in an age of instant gratifications - meaning leading a fast life of fast food (including home delivery), prepared food to be micro-waved for immediate consumption, 24 hrs this and that, round the clock entertainment (not forgetting the latest addition of two IRs), non stop electronic communication (including the internet), and the list keeps on growing at an unbelievable speed. When the time comes if the govt fails to deliver the desired goods to the people, it could mean their fast exit from the political scene. People just have to know how to balance and adjust their lives accordingly to this kind of environment, or else they are merely burning their 'candles' at both ends.

Lam Chun See said...

I just heard an advertisement on radio. It was sort of a husband and wife dialogue where they wanted to buy so many things but did not have the cash. But the problem was easily solved becos this company offers zero interest credit. I think the advert ended with the couple buying up everything.

You and I may think it is a stupid ad. But I know the advertising professionals who thought up this ad are not stupid. Thus there must be many people in the audience who will really be persuaded to do just what the couple did.

R. Burnett Baker said...

Many years ago I was taught the same idea, though it was called "delayed gratification." There is something to that and there is merit in its lesson.

But I seem to think that we delay or defer simply due to our lack of resources: Many of us at different times in our lives, just can't afford our little desires.

I, for one, am glad that you are busy writing Good Morning Yesterday: Business is often a bit over rated!


yg said...

chun see, deferred gratification refers to something which you will eventually get. but what about those things that are lost 'missing your boat' because you keep on delaying.

Lam Chun See said...

Hmm ... YG seems to be referring to matters of the heart. Hope I had not inadvertently stirred up some sad memories.

Brian and Tess said...

Surely we are witnessing the result of 'no delayed gratification' with the credit crunch and resulting financial crises now affecting countries like Greece and Ireland - and impacting pretty severely in the UK in terms of public sector cutbacks and in the US with people losing their homes and their jobs. Whatever the moral benefits of working hard and saving (and there certainly are some) the alternative of getting what you want now and building up more and more debt might work for the odd individual but if everyone is able to do it we get an enormous credit fueled bubble which has to burst sometime.

Zen said...

Many do not believe we will experience another
'great depression' as experienced by our parents or grandparents, but history likes to repeat itself, but now experts give another label for the current financial upheaval - the 'great recession'. Are both of them not of the same kind! - long queue of jobless, the homeless, soup kitchens, forlorn faces, printing money on a large scale, financial institutions going bust, and so on. Being an optimist, I do not see such a phenomenon as a prelude to a world war but it could be a war of a different kind.

Tom said...

What I would like to know why did the Bankers get a way with it for so long giving them selfs a big bonus,and taking big gambles I still think it was them who put alot of Countries around the world in a mess . if there is going to to be a recession, I think it will not last long.

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fortboise said...

Greetings from Boise, Idaho. I found this in a search on the concept that we shared for blog posts a year and world apart, two engineers who write about more than engineering.

I wonder if post-boom generations will reinvent the concept?