Burger is not the first on the menu, because it starts with a B. Crafting a menu has its science based on what thousands of customers selected previously. Wherever you see items on a shelf, tooth paste and pop music magazines, you can be sure a team has already analyzed what people had selected. Then you bite into that burger and find the onion spongy, you leave it on the plate. You try a new brand of tooth paste, but its too strong, so you end up not using, off to the garbage bin it goes after a month of hesitation. Is there a big team analyzing what's left on the plate and what half-full packages land in the garbage? Yuck.
Things have a lifecycle just like a relationship. They arrive on the shelf fresh and new and sexy, they feel at least a bit different than anything you ever touched and tasted. You look at it from the corner of your eye, it's a teasing glimpse, you are not committed yet. You take it from the shelf, ready to put it back in case it's too pricey, not organic enough, too this or not enough that. Hm, shall we try it? Maybe. It finds a cozy place on top of your cart between a sliced bread and a pair of good old grey socks. You drag your prey home, take a first bite. It tastes a bit different than back then in the shop, it's slightly salty, not suave enough. Maybe try again later. You get used to after a while, it becomes a part of your life, like sliced bread or the annoying bark of the dog in the neighborhood. Time passes and on a sad Saturday afternoon you realize the story is over. If you had more sensitive ears, you could hear the thing squeak as your hand moves it to the garbage bin. Plupf. It finds a pathetic spot between a rotten slice of bread and a sock with a hole.
Some relationships last decades until death do the parties part. Other relationships finish as a one night stand or just a wistful glimpse on the bus. It's the same with things. We watch movies about how a boy and a girl meet each other, fall in love, marry, and live happily ever after. These stories energize us, we hold our partners hand stronger on the street, we quickly send a text message "I love you". Movies about divorce, death, and loss are far less popular. They are about a period after the peak in the lifecycle of a relationship. Again, it's the same with things. Shopping stats, software applications that deal with recommendation are sexy. Researching what people left on their plates or threw out of their lives? "I'm an expert on decay" -- not the perfect pick-up line.
Your first conscious thought after your gut reaction is you can't learn anything new from old stuff. It doesn't matter how we learn what items most customers prefer, whether we learn it by what they select or by what they get rid of. If people prefer Dent-o-dream to Mouth Magic, it doesn't matter if we learn it by seeing in the stats more purchases of Dent-o-dream, or we find more half-full tubes of Mouth Magic in household garbage. But this thinking is wrong. Purchasing more Dent-o-dream means it looks more appealing, it has an elegant thin tube and a playful picture of a unicorn on it, it has better placed ads, it's advertised with an actress who has bigger tits than the competitor. Purchasing more Dent-o-dream does not necessarily mean people actually like it more. An expedition to the garbage can show us what people actually think after the honey-moon period is over. If Mouth Magic had the best ads ever with the biggest tits ever, but it tastes horseradish mixed with horse dung, annoyed housewives and bachelors and students would toss it to the trash can without hesitation. Garbage tells us the real story.
Exploring garbage is interesting not only for market researchers. It has a symbolic meaning too. The Western way of thinking tends to understand the world in big terms. What is your biggest achievement? What is your wildest dream? What was your most epic failure? These are the questions asked at a job interview, these are the questions you ask when you at a party when introduced to your partner's colleague, these are the questions you ask yourself. This is Dent-o-dream thinking, it considers what looks sexy. Even the biggest failure is related to something big you wanted to accomplish and failed. For a change, you could have a look at the other end of the lifecycle of things that's closer to decay. You could approach the garbage in your life with curiosity. Explore what you do when you're too tired to be a top performer. Explore how you waste your time. Explore what you've left on your plate. The bigger part of life is not golden nuggets in the sunshine, the bigger part is leftover. It's time to make friends with it.