“When we give freely, we feel full and complete; when we withhold, we feel small, petty, impotent, and lacking. We are meant to learn this great truth, that giving fulfills us, while withholding and trying to get causes us to feel empty and even more needy. This truth runs counter to our programming, which drives us to try to get something from others to fulfill our neediness, only to end up even more needy, grasping, lacking, and unfulfilled.” ― Gina Lake, What About Now?: Reminders for Being in the Moment
“There are certain things that are fundamental to human fulfillment. The essence of these needs is captured in the phrase ‘to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy’. The need to leave a legacy is our spiritual need to have a sense of meaning, purpose, personal congruence, and contribution. -Steven R. Covey
“It is in fact the height of selfishness to merely consume what others create and to retreat into a shell of limited goals and immediate pleasures.” ― Robert Greene, Mastery
Happy Monday. I hope you woke up this morning ready to but a ding in the universe and make a difference in the world.
I was reflecting over the weekend and realized we have been in our current home 13 years. That time really feels like a nano second. When we bought our home 13 years ago my wife had grand plans for things she wanted to change including installing hardwood floors in our living and dining room. We have had a million priorities in our lives besides installing hardwood floors, but finally, 13 years after we moved in my wife got her hardwood floors.
As you can expect when our friends came over they checked out the new floors. You would have thought we discovered a cure for cancer the way one friend marveled at the floors. As various people admired and commented on the floors it was funny how I felt. It actually made me feel good which was weird. It was weird because it was the same feeling I have when we get a client to their goals and moving on with their lives and they hug me at a closing. It was a feeling like I had made a difference or achieved something. The reality is I hadn’t found a cure for cancer or helped someone reach their goals. I had only written a check to have floors installed and as far as our friends knew I may have charged it to my credit card. I really didn’t do anything but their reaction made me feel like I had. If you really looked at it, I likely added to the destruction of our eco system by harvesting trees for my house. Hopefully, the manufacturer practices responsible harvesting and replants. I hadn’t really accomplished or contributed to anything I had consumed some of our valuable natural resources.
That is when it dawned on me, we are all consumers at various levels but we generally either focus on consuming or contributing to find meaning in life. In other words you strive to gain a feeling of significance in life either by consumption or from contribution.
If you could afford any car you want would you buy a Honda Accord or BWM 750? Would you buy a Rolex watch or Timex? Both cars will get you to your destination reliably and both watches will tell accurate time so which do you buy? If there were no one else to share or show off your new BWM or Rolex to would you still buy it? There is no right answer but thinking about it made me come to the following realization.
Installing hardwood floors or helping a client or employee reach their goals both produce a similar feeling of significance. However there is a difference. There is nothing I love more than being out with my family and running into a past client, employee, or someone we have helped and finding out they are crushing it. It makes me know we made a small difference in someone’s life and recreates the significance feeling. On the flip side if I just get a good feeling from installing hardwood floors, in a few short weeks those “new” floors aren’t new anymore. I need to move on to something else and before you know it there will be a new pool, car, and addition on the house. I need to keep consuming to recreate that feeling of significance. Leaving a lot of “stuff” behind isn’t exactly what legacies are made of.
Consumption leads to a temporary change of state while contribution leads to a more permanent sense of fulfillment. My mechanic told me last week that to get my dashboard “emission” light to go out I need to spend a fortune on a new catalytic converter. In his own words it is a waste of money but necessary to comply with new emission laws enacted in California. The news frustrated and put me in a negative state thinking about the million ways I could spend the money better. My other option would be to take the money I would use on repairs and put it down on a new car. Buying a new car is generally a positive thing and would put most people in a positive state vs. sinking money into an older car. Most would likely opt for the new car rather than a costly repair on a high mileage older car. The result of both choices is the same, I have reliable transportation. In both cases, the positive or negative feeling fades quickly as it is simply a temporary change in the way I feel.
So suppose instead of buying a new car that doesn’t benefit anyone but me or perhaps the car dealer and likely only makes me feel good for a few weeks, I opt for the repair. I don’t feel good about the costly repair but decide in the long run it is a less costly choice. Instead of making a payment on a new car I take the money I would have spent and use it to get leverage. I invest in hiring a new employee, I sponsor a scholarship for someone, I help a family avoid foreclosure, and I make a donation to a cancer researcher. The leverage comes from having the employee succeed, from having a scholarship recipient go on to make a difference, from watching a family get back on track and go on to on to help others, or from maybe even helping fund a researchers cancer break though that could change the world. Things a new car could never provide. For the record I opted for the repairs.
Is your purpose or legacy in life to consume or contribute? Want to truly crush it and find fulfillment? Get addicted to the feeling of contributing to and creating value for the people in your life. Have an awesome week putting your “ding “in the universe by making a meaningful contribution to society rather than being a consumer of its wares. Humble contribution will crush conspicuous consumption on the journey to fulfillment every time. Rock on my friend. I truly appreciate you.
Check out the following TED video I found online. The title is “Does money make you mean?” http://www.ted.com/talks/paul_piff_does_money_make_you_mean.html I think the real title should be “Does money make you think differently and change your values?”