Gilligan’s Island and the Mystery of the Immediate Need

By Walt F.J. Goodridge

Special to the Saipan Tribune
Originally published: June 17, 2009

The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!

The question was: "What’s the best business to start right now?" The answer is: "It all depends."

Two people starting the same business, at the same time, in the same set of circumstances can have widely different levels of success based on their creativity, commitment and passion. The fact is, you can make money selling just about anything, to anyone, at any given time, whether boon, recession or depression.

Scenario 1: The Immediate Need

To make that point, let’s imagine that you are an entrepreneur in the new paradigm, you are selling two products, and your customers are the residents of three different islands.

On island number one are the former crew and passengers of the S.S. Minnow, now stranded on Gilligan’s Island. On the second island is Robinson Crusoe, before he encountered "Friday." On the third island is Chuck Noland, the Tom Hanks character from the movie Castaway.

The two products you are selling are (1) a five-star restaurant-prepared meal, and (2) cell phone service with a 10-minute time limit. Once a month, a plane flying overhead air drops a box by parachute containing a meal for each resident, or a pre-loaded phone card.

Now, let’s ask a question. All other things being equal, and assuming that your three customer groups each have enough money for one, but not both of your products each month, what would they purchase?

I suggest that the inhabitants of all three islands would choose the cell phone service. It’s the immediate need—to be rescued—that trumps all others.
Residents Cell phone Meal
Gilligan' Island
Robinson Crusoe
Tom Hanks

Scenario 2: The Basic Need

Now, let’s change the scenario. It’s now a few months or years later, Robinson Crusoe has met "Friday." Tom Hanks has learned to fish. And, in addition, the castaways on all three islands are told that they cannot use the cell phone service to call for help. It can only be used to talk to someone, anyone for 10 minutes. Now how would that change things?

Tom Hanks, the only resident without someone to talk with, might still choose the cell phone service (he might be able to stop his wife from re-marrying).

With no rescue possible, however, we can assume that the Skipper, Mary Anne, Ginger, the Professor, Mr. & Mrs. Howell and Gilligan have enough people to talk to and may opt, instead, for the satisfaction of a type of meal they haven’t had in a long time. Robinson Crusoe, now with a companion (albeit an enslaved servant) of his own, might also choose the meal. It’s a basic need—food and pleasure—that has now become more important than the immediate need.
Residents Cell phone Meal
Gilligan' Island
Robinson Crusoe
Tom Hanks

Scenario 3: The Luxury

New scenario. Now, let’s suppose that all the residents actually don’t want to leave their respective islands. They’ve made peace with their situations, and are now content to stay right where they are, talking with whomever they can, utilizing the natural resources, and eating whatever is natural and available on the island. Crusoe is planting corn, making pottery and raising goats. The Gilligan’s island folks are making bicycles, stethoscopes, and pedal-powered cars out of bamboo.

So, you now add a third product to your list of offerings: an original Technicolor version of Singing in the Rain with Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds on DVD. Now what would they purchase with their limited monthly budgets?

There’s no way to know for sure, but poor Tom Hanks, still companionless, save for Wilson the volleyball he’s anthropomorphized and confided in, might forever want a lifetime subscription to your phone service.

The others, with nowhere else to go, and with their basic survival needs now met, Gilligan’s crew and the Crusoe duo—perhaps alternating each month between luxury meals and entertainment—might choose the DVD. (Ginger, in fact, may have insisted that she needed some reminder of her glory days as a Hollywood actress).

Such a purchase of a relatively meaningless luxury represents a fantasy, an escape of sorts that has now become more desirable than even a basic or an immediate need. (I’m reminded of oft-cited statistics that hold that the film industry in India continues to boom despite—or more accurately, because of—the great number of people who live below the poverty line.)
ResidentsCell phone Meal DVD
Gilligan' Island
Robinson Crusoe
Tom Hanks


So what’s the point? You can draw whatever conclusions seem apparent to you (just don’t ask silly questions like “where do they get the electricity to play the DVD?”). The bottom line is that if someone told you you could sell Gene Kelly DVDs to people stranded on a deserted island, you’d think they were crazy. Before today, you might have argued that food was a basic need and therefore, the most important thing for anyone stranded on a distant island, and the best business to get into. The truth, however, is that what will sell well to a given market will vary based on their immediate needs, their basic needs as much as their fantasies. The more you know about your customers’ lifestyles, their goals, their individual and collective histories, their perceived future, even their sense of hope and despair, the more accurately you can predict what products and services will be important to them at a given time. And, while you’re doing your research, a thorough analysis of these three classic tales of people adjusting to life in a new paradigm might prove enlightening and may give you some new ideas as you consider how to create an income stream that can survive the recession, and thrive in the coming years.

Note: Ever wanted to direct your friends and family to a set of websites that said good things about Saipan? Do what I do: send them to!

Fans and followers of Chicken Feathers and Garlic Skin: Diary of a Chinese Garment Factory Girl on Saipan may now find copies at Bookseller Bookstore in the Joe-Ten Plaza in Susupe or on Hurry, there’s a limited supply!

Note: For more tips on overcoming your fears, acting on your ideas, changing the game, and creating a passion-centered lifestyle, visit!


Until next week, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!

Walt F.J. Goodridge is author of over two dozen books including Turn Your Passion Into Profit. Walt offers coaching and workshops to help people pursue and profit from their passions. Originally from the island of Jamaica, Walt has grown several businesses in the US, and now makes his home here on Saipan. To learn more about the Saipanpreneur Project and Walt’s philosophy and formula visit and