I looked down the street I grew up on, and all I saw were cars parked end to end on both sides of the street. These two lines of parked cars stretched for a quarter of a mile. I had lived on this street since I was four years old, and now I was seventeen.
I remember thinking to myself, “How come there are so many cars, and I don’t own one? How can all these people have a car and I can’t?”
That was the first time I remember wanting something big and expensive as a young adult. I had just gotten my driver’s license, and all I wanted to do was drive. I wanted to go places, see things, experience the world beyond my neighborhood. I was ready to travel all by myself or maybe with a couple of close friends. I had dreams to achieve. The problem was, I didn’t have a car to get me to those dreams.
Why them and not me?
I was visiting my nephew, Andy Borgmann, in St. Petersburg, Florida, this past Mother’s Day weekend. He has a fantastic home a few blocks from the ocean. He is married to Natalie, a beautiful and grounded farm girl from Kansas. They have two great boys, five and two. Andy even has a new Acura after recently trading in his eight-year-old Honda Civic.
He is a C level exec in a food services and logistics company. This includes a good salary, a profit sharing plan, and equity.
As he was showing me around St. Petersburg, I could not help but think, “Where do all these people get all the money to afford all these gorgeous homes?” (If you haven’t been to St. Petersburg, I recommend it. It has majestic views of the Gulf of Mexico and a quiet peacefulness not found in Atlanta.)
I again thought like I did when I was 17.
I asked Andy, “How can there be so many people with this much money?”
He answered quickly, “That’s what I always think when I drive past these homes. I feel like I am missing out. Like I’m doing something wrong. Like I need to do something more or different.”
I understand what Andy was saying. I’ve had these very same thoughts at different times. They may have started when I was 17, but they didn’t end there. To be truthful, I had them as I was cruising around with Andy and Natalie and the kids that Saturday night.
Do you have “the wannas?”
One last story, I was sitting on the patio of a Buckhead restaurant with Kathy, my friend Bob, and his wife. It was a beautiful, clear June day in 2002. As we watched the cars drive by us, Bob suddenly jumped to his feet.
“There’s a Thunderbird,” he said.
You like that car?” I asked.
“Like it? I love it! I gotta have one.” Then he said it, “I got the wannas real bad.”
These are three examples of “the wannas.”
To this day, I have the wannas. Do I need anything? Not really. But I still want it. Whatever it is. And when I want it, it’s like I’m consumed by it. I do internet searches, watch YouTube videos, talk to people who have it.
And I know better.
I am old enough to know it will make me happy to buy it and enjoy it. But I am also old enough to know I will soon grow tired of it, and it will become a burden. Then the cycle will start all over again, and I’ll want something else. The wannas return!
I was thinking, “Am I crazy? I know I am not alone in the wannas. Are we all crazy?” Then I was reminded of my first big professional success.
When I was 31 years old, I led a company to a very successful year. It was an important achievement because so much of my future depended on it. It was the final year of a contingent payout for the company Richard Brock and I built and sold.
This achievement served as the credibility I needed as a new business leader. It was ending a chapter in my life on the high note of success. It was necessary to help launch the many new careers of the team which made it all happen.
I was preparing my remarks for the kick-off meeting for the next year. I had plenty to say about what we had achieved. But I was at a loss for words on how to get people charged up for the new year. To get them excited about what was to come. I didn’t know what to say as the leader because, in my heart of hearts, we did it all. There was nothing left to achieve.
That’s when Jim Porter, my mentor in business leadership and life, told me, “Life is all about the journey and not the destination.” I never heard this expression. It sounded good, so I used it in the kick-off speech. What was interesting is I screwed it up when I repeated the line. I said, “Life is all about the destination and not the journey.”
I never forgot screwing that line up in the speech.
I think it was because I believed what I said and not what Jim said. Now that I am 66 years old, I can say it right without screwing it up.
- It is good to want things.
- It is good to get them.
- It is good to get tired of them.
- It is good to want more.
This is what keeps me going.
This is what keeps me in the game. It keeps me engaged. It keeps me on the journey. It forces me to serve others. In serving, I build new relationships. And these meaningful relationships are the richness of life.
I never thought the wannas would keep me engaged. But they did. And when I was successful at what I did by serving people well, a couple of good things happened. One, I rewarded myself with whatever it is I wanted, and two, I made some pretty great friendships along the way.
The journey is more important than the destination.