Knowing What You Want
Dec 11 2011

Grand Canal - China

Knowing what you want is a blessing and a curse.  If you know what you want, then you know the usual paths of achieving it.  You can improvise along the way, but if you know you want to be a singer, doctor, lawyer, teacher, pro football player, screen writer, monk/nun, landscaper, etc. you follow a prescribed path for the most part.  It’s a curse because a) someone can decide you aren’t good enough, b) you actually aren’t good enough, c) you weren’t born into knowing the right people, or d) you always seem to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Most people do not become world famous singers, athletes, novelists, or movie directors.

Not knowing what you want is also a curse and a blessing because you can drift aimlessly wondering where you belong and in what you might be phenomenal.  You can be strong at many things but unless you know that you want to be an entrepreneur, a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, Martha Stewart, Dilbert, a world class surgeon, a lawyer, etc., what you end up doing probably won’t feel like a custom made glove.  The blessing part of not knowing what you want to be when you grow up is that you never had a burning desire to be  Lady Ga Ga, so you aren’t as disappointed when you roll out of bed and you aren’t her.  The blessing is also that you can decide to like what you are doing and find ways to make a difference and change the world in your own little non Lady Ga Ga like fashion and still have people think you are pretty cool.

My son says he wants to be a soccer player and my daughter says (only recently) that she wants to be a singer.  I’ll see if I can steer them towards being a soccer playing physicist and a singing doctor.  I wonder how that will work.  Despite our best voluntary & involuntary attempts at showing them the life of an entrepreneur is not laced with candy, they might be crazy like us and commit entrepreneur-icide.

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Change The World, Make Money, Or Be Happy
Nov 13 2011

Buddha Stone Statue in China

How often can people do/experience all of the above?  There are people who have changed the world (e.g., Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, etc.) who didn’t make a lot of money and we won’t ever know if they were truly happy, healthy or content.  There are people who changed the world and made a lot of money (e.g., Oprah, Steve Jobs, Madonna, Lady Ga Ga, Michael Dell, Bill Gates, etc.) but we don’t know how happy or content they are or were.  Oprah has been the most open about her struggles with personal satisfaction and her weight…the businessmen, not so much.

Do we have to deal with having one or two out of three?  I think I can count on one hand the people who appeared to have all three but if you dig a little further…  Check out a recent post on TechCrunch called 10 Things Entrepreneurs Don’t Learn in College.  All very true, the second being “How To Be Betrayed,” which happens all of the time in business (and politics) whether you are a man, woman, or a duck.  I clicked over to the authors (James Altucher) post on how to be lucky and it made me wonder if he had kids because he advises getting up at 4 or 5 a.m. every day and to bed by 9:30 pm with exercising and eating right in between.  Maybe I’ll figure out how to do that when I’m 50 and the kids are gone.  I guess that’s why some are more monetary successful than others…early bird gets the worm!

The saying “you can have it all, but just not all at the same time” must be true.  So it seems the thing we have the most control over is how we feel: happy, sad, content, angry, etc.  We can try to change the world but there’s no telling what numerous things will be thrown in our path.  We can try to make tons of money, but a lot of shit happens (e.g., kids, health issues, the economy, marriage, divorce, love, hate, indifference, parents) trying to do that.  But we will usually find ways to make enough to get by or we become comfortable with a lot of debt.

I was reminded during my recent trip to China that Buddha, who was born and originally spread his philosophy in India before his teachings were embraced by the Chinese, taught that at the root of all suffering was desire (for a person, place, thing, success, money, etc.).  As I understand it, he said that if you gave up the desire for earthly things or status that would be the only way you could eventually achieve enlightenment.  He certainly changed the world and was arguably content/enlightened but was not rich by American standards.

I guess it depends on what age you are, your genetic disposition, and what cards life has dealt you as to whether you believe you can achieve all three at the same time for a substantial length of time…

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