I compare myself to other people sometimes. Most of the time, really. I usually compare myself with people who I think have it all. By “have it all”, I mean people who have a mansion, fancy sports cars, private planes, and country club memberships.
On some level, I still think that all of that stuff makes people happy. I’m convinced that if you have tens of millions of dollars, (or if you appear to), that you must be happy. You can’t possibly have any problems if you are wealthy.
One of my friends calls this “comparing my insides with other peoples’ outsides”. I know exactly what he means.
The thing is, that some of the people who I think “have it all” don’t have it all. This weekend, I was in the car with my family, and a local family came up in conversation. This family has it all. Mansion, vacation homes, etc. They have it all.
Except that they don’t. They never did.
It turns out that the parents broke up a few years ago, and no one bothered to tell me. While I was busy thinking that they had it all, they didn’t really have it all.
Why didn’t anyone tell me? I need to know these things.
I just finished reading the autobiography of Don Felder. A colleague shared it with me.
Don Felder was the lead guitar player in the Eagles. He wrote the song “Hotel California”. From the outside, he appeared to have it all. Private planes, sports cars, millions of dollars, and fame.
But most of the time, what he described was a sense of wanting to be the #1 guy in the band. He was probably making $20 million a year, and playing onstage in front of tens of thousands of people, but what he experienced was jealousy, because he wasn’t the focus of attention every night.
So he quit the band.
The band did not miss a beat without him.
My wife and children tell me that other people think that we have it all.
Ridiculous, I think. How could they? Don’t they know that I can’t even operate a can opener?
The people who think that we have it all might be right. I am married to my best friend. I am the father of two terrific young women. We have meaningful work, and meaningful education. We have time for each other, and for recreation and spirit.
My family reminds me that we haven’t missed any meals in a while. That our drinking water is clean. That we are safe and sound. We are healthy, give or take a stent or two. We love each other, and we try to spread the love around. To each other, to our little Schnoodle buddy, our neighborhood and our larger community.
My girls have been to more countries already than most adults will ever get to. They’ve been to places that Presidents couldn’t go to in 1970.
And yet…..sometimes I don’t feel like we have it all. I realize that the only people I compare myself to, are those who have a lot more financial stuff than I do. I rarely look around and see how good we have it.
I do some of the “comparing thing” as motivation. I think that if I get too satisfied, then I will get lazy and take my foot off the gas. And I like keeping my foot on the gas. On some level, I like reaching for the carrot on the end of the stick.
Several times, I’ve grabbed the carrot. It was fun for a few minutes. But I put it back every time. For me, having the carrot isn’t as much fun as reaching for it.
It looks like there are extremes of “having it all”. One extreme is the frustration that causes someone to want more, and to quit the band. On the other extreme is total stasis, where someone can be paralyzed by sloth.
Somewhere in between is where I want to be.