Why did I do it?
Why did I spend so many years doing market research on products or services I wasn’t really interested in?
The answer is simply that these same products and services allowed me to ask people questions that gave me extraordinary access to their lives. Ordinarily, I would have been limited to the kind of questions that promote ‘standard’ answers, like “How are you today?” Fine, thank you.” Or, “Where are you going on holiday?”
Riding on the back of questions about events, experiences, routines and rituals, supported by the payment of an incentive for their time, people were keen to talk about the mosaic of their daily lives, because, in truth, no-one else ever asked…
Through the veil of these personal care, household duties, TV shows, holiday choices I glimpsed the building blocks of 10,000 lives – and, inevitably, compared them with my own.
Seeing how others lived taught me how to live. Seeing where others tripped or obsessed, dodged or embraced taught me what might be worthwhile or worth avoiding.
Above all, these silly inquiries gave me unique access into the comfort of things, into the value of small possessions and small significant acts and the ways in which both furnished lives and made every day a bit more meaningful.
I might sneer at or admire the obsessive cleaner or the junk-food fanatic, but I soon came to appreciate that everyone’s pattern has relevance for its author and is based on past events, leading to a present that is manageable and a future framed by hope.