I once owned a large Marina on a lake in Illinois. The lake was known for it's great winds, and therefore, most of the boats docked at the marina were sailboats. Now if you have never been a Sailor, a real Sailor who sails by the wind, you probably aren't aware of why many of these people sail instead of motor. It's the free wind! Wind-Sailors generally have a reputation of being tight with the buck. They often think, because the wind is free, other boating needs should also be free. Anyway, that's the reputation they have. It's not really true, but it is a rumor that many wind-Sailors take great pride in keeping alive. A tradition, I suppose.
One day I had allowed one of the, "Traditionalist", to hang his boat in the slings to paint the bottom. A very dirty and distasteful job.
This man was a wealthy lawyer who had pulled himself up through poverty in his youth, and by working in a packing plant at night, and by going to law school during the day, had ultimately become successful in the law beyond what anyone could ever imagine. He was a friend, and I was aware of his reputation of being tight with a buck. To illustrate, he'd stop at the grocery store in town to buy ice, because it was cheaper than the $1 the Marina charged. I always smiled when I saw him carry his ice down to his boat.
As I walked past the sling, there he was, covered with bottom paint dust, working away on the bottom of his boat, paint dust coated from head to toe.
I stopped to tell him my story about the three things a boat owner should never do to himself. The first being; personal brain surgery using a dentist mirror, the second being; a personal vasectomy, and the third being; sanding and painting the bottom of your boat!
He smiled and replied, "I'm doing it myself because I can't afford to pay the Marina the $300 bucks you want to charge to have your men do it."
"Come on!", I said, "You earn enough in one year to buy this Marina! You don't need this job done by yourself to save money."
"You know", he replied, "I do earn lots of money each year, but the laws are changing, and it's possible that my income could be cut in half if these new laws go into effect. I've been earning over a million dollars each year, and it worries me that if I have only half as much, I won't be able to make ends meet."
He was as serious as he could be! He was truly concerned that cutting his income from one million a year, to only $500,000 would be an unacceptable hardship.
I found myself consoling him. There I stood, shaking my head, eyes to the ground, telling him how sorry I was. "Damn," I said, "sure hope that doesn't happen, keep me posted." And I wasn't faking it. I was concerned. No one should have to face getting his income cut in half!
As I walked away, I glanced back at him. He was back under his boat, the dust flying as he proceeded to sand away the bottom paint. I thought, "he sure isn't enjoying his boating experience today!"
The point I am getting to by this illustration is; Success, whether financial, social, career, physical, or whatever area considered, is really a matter of "scale."
The amount of anything you do, buy, experience, see, or create, is considered to be success, (only) if it fits the image of the "scale" established. If your scale is met, you feel successful. If your scale is not met, you don't.
What you need to do to feel successful is to have a realistic image of what constitutes "success." And that image is one of personal choice. It's not determined by what some Ad Agency decides, or some group of Friends, or anyone else. It's up to you, and you don't need to share it with anyone else. It's your baby, it's your personal call!
Are you going to feel successful, and have succeeded, when you buy your first home, or are you going to postpone the feeling until you buy the ultimate home of your dreams?
Are you going to allow yourself to feel successful earning $25,000 a year, or are you going to postpone the feeling until you earn $50,000, or $150,000?
Are you going to feel successful when you buy or build a boat that is 22 feet long, or are you going to postpone the feeling until you get that 50 footer you always dreamed of owning?
I think I know what you're thinking! You're thinking, "Yea, but you're asking me to "settle" for less that what I really want! (translated, "really deserve"). If I settle for less than what I deserve, that's failure, not success."
But you're wrong if you think I'm asking you to "settle" for less that what you want (deserve). Not at all. What I'm suggesting is; You don't need to wait until you get to the end of your Journey before you can realize your goal! Your goal is not the most important event in your life. Your Journey is! If you drive through the night so that you can have an extra day at the Grand Canyon, you've missed all the scenery along the way. It's the Journey, my friend! Not the Destination!
Many times it takes a tragic, or near tragic experience before you realize what value your life experiences have. It's the old bromide about complaining about having no shoes, until you meet a man who has no feet. It's only when you compare yourself to others who may have nothing do you see how fortunate you really are.
Roger Bannister had a goal of being the first man to run a mile in under 4 minutes. When he achieved that objective I'm certain he felt successful.
Christopher Reeves has a goal of walking down the hall. I'm just as certain he will feel just as successful when he accomplishes that!
I suppose we might conclude that Success is really only another way of saying, "Satisfied." When we're finally satisfied, we feel successful. But just what is the criteria we should establish when determining what satisfies us? And what motivation are we experiencing when we establish that criteria? It's not always an easy call, this motivation thing.
Let me tell you the story of the "Gimbled Stove" to illustrate:
In the process of managing my Marina, I was amazed at what seemed to motivate people when choosing to buy a new or used sailboat. Many owned boats worth up to $100,000 dollars, while others seemed happy with boats worth only hundreds of dollars. There didn't seem to be any difference in the enjoyment that was determined by value, or size. In fact, I saw ample evidence that there is a reverse relationship between size and value, and the amount of pleasure derived.
On one occasion, while observing two boats leave the harbor, this realization seemed most clear in my mind.
The first boat was owned by, "Pete". Pete was a man who tinkered with his boat constantly. He made lots of additions to his boat that would make the designer a little uncomfortable. Pete’s boat would sell for about $500. But only if you were stranded on a desert island and needed to escape.
The second boat, (overtaking Pete), was owned by "Bob". Bob was a successful business owner, and an avid racer. Bob's boat was state of the art. A shining marvel. It was equipped with all the latest hardware and up to date racing equipment. The vessel would sell for more than $100,000. Beautiful, and worth every cent!
As Pete left the harbor, Bob came around the jetty and there was a near collision. I'm not certain just who's fault it was, but I was glad it was avoided. These sailors were both expert boat handlers, and I'm sure that's the only reason the collision was avoided.
About four or five hours later, as Pete was returning to the harbor, the same near collision occurred. Bob again while passing Pete, had to put his boat's helm over to avoid running Pete down.
Soon both Sailors docked their boats, and came walking up the dock together laughing. I suppose they were joking with each other about the events in the harbor entrance. They then got into their cars, and went out the Marina entrance. Needless to say, their cars were the same value as their boats. Petes' was a vintage something, and Bob's was a brand new $50k BMW.
I suppose it was my birds-eye view of the harbor entrance that caused me to pause and make a curious observation about these two special people. They were so different in their choices, yet so much the same in what satisfaction they felt by the experience of sailing. They had both spent the same time sailing on the lake, and I could tell by their laughter, they both had an equally satisfying experience. Yet the vessels that provided that satisfaction were so much different in value. What motivated each of these very different, yet very much the same, individuals when they decided what boat to buy?
Which finally brings me to the story of the "Gimbled Stove".
Part of the income activity of the Marina was the sales of used Sailboats. Most were sold on a brokerage basis for commissions. Many of our Brokerage Customers, who currently owned boats, were moving up. They often just wanted a bigger more comfortable boat, but not always. Some seemed to want a more prestigious boat.
Now for those of you who have never bought a boat, I want to tell you that buying a boat is an emotional experience. And that emotional experience has three distinct phases that every Boat Salesman should be aware of. (The good ones are aware, believe me!)
The first of these emotions or steps is, "you rationalize". You collect data. You consider size, color, cost, usage, construction, speed, and accommodations. But, after all this rationalization has passed, you are still not ready to buy.
The second step is, "you fall in love". At this step you find just the boat you want, (you think). It's what your rationalization has brought you to. And you're a rational person (ha, ha)! It's the right everything. It's the right size, cost, usage, color, construction, speed etc. And as soon as you work a few details out in your mind, you're going to buy one just like that one. Yet, you're not ready to buy at this "falling in love" stage either.
The third step (the fatal step) is, "YOU GO NUTS!" AND NOW YOU ARE READY TO BUY! At this stage you are putty in the hands of the Salesman! When you reach this stage you throw all rationalization out the window and go for broke! And in fact, that's where this going nuts may take you. You really don't care if the boat is 50 feet long and draws six feet, and will be sailed on a lake that has 50% of it's water with less than six feet. You don't care if the monthly payments are $1,200 bucks for fifteen years. You have gone nuts and nothing can dissuade you from buying that boat!
As the Sailors would come to me with that "wild eyed look" (going nuts) I'd tell them my story about the "Gimbled Stove". ( I really wanted to sell them a boat, but I have a soft spot for nutty people, I suppose because I am one too, and it did cost me a sale or two over the years).
Now for those of you who are not sailors, a Gimbled Stove is a stove that is hung on pivots so that when the boat heels over, the stove stays level and does not spill the pots. A good Gimbled Stove is not cheap. If you buy one with stainless construction, an oven, and three burners, it can cost up to $2,000 bucks.
I'd say to them, "maybe, before you buy that new boat and spend all that money, you should buy a Gimbled Stove for the boat you own now."
I'd add, "Order a brand new Gimbled Stove for your current boat right away. Check it out. Get a catalog for the best Gimbled stoves on the market. Include all the features you think you want, including CNG (compressed natural gas, it's safe. Explosions - and all that), three burners, oven, stainless construction. Buy the best, don't skimp on the value. (rationalization). Talk it over with your Wife, show the pictures to your Children, discuss the merits of this new stove with all your Dock-mates. Get everyone's opinion about the best stove to buy. Don't be concerned that the one you choose cost $1,800 bucks plus freight.
Then go ahead and order it. When it arrives, plan a weekend at the lake to install it properly. Arrange the stove so that you can cook whatever meal you want, no matter how the boat heels. Once the stove is installed and working, make a date with your Wife (or Significant Other).
Bring your Mate, a bottle of wine, and a loaf of ready to bake bread to the lake early Saturday morning. Cast off the boat, with the new stove fired up, and sail to the other end of the lake. As you sail up the lake, bake the bread in your new Gimbled stove. Enjoy the aroma of the baking bread. Check to see that the stove is moving properly as your boat takes each wave.
And when you reach the cove at the lake's end, the bread should be fully baked; golden brown, delicious! Set the anchor, and settle down to enjoy.
Now that you're settled in for the night, do these three things: first; take the bread out of the oven of your new Gimbled stove, and place it lovingly on your table. Then; break open the bottle of wine, and share the bread and wine with your Mate. Put some soft music on the boat's sound system as you reflect on how good this freshly baked bread tastes, with this fine wine, and shared with this special companion that you love.
After you have eaten the bread , and have finished off the bottle of wine, and as the sun sets; lead your Mate to your shared bunk, and let nature take it's course!
Enjoy the moment, savor the experience, share the joy! This is living at it's best!
The next morning, sleep in. When you do finally get up, pull up the anchor and sail back to the Marina.
As you sail back down the lake, snuggle your Mate next to you. Lean back against the seat-back and focus on the feel of the boat as "she" takes each wave. If it's blowing, put a bone in "her" teeth, (sailor talk) and put the rail down. After all, "she" does have a new Gimbled stove, and "she" wants to show you what "she's" got!
When you get back to the marina, tie "her" up. Put all the things you brought with you in your car, and drive on home.
Now you are ready to make a decision about buying that new boat!
Now you are in your real mind.
Now the decision you make can be realistic.
All the needs that were possibly influencing your judgment have been satisfied.
Owning something new, admiration of your peers, food, sex, drink, a new experience, have all been taken out of the decision equation.
It is only Now that you can decide if you really want the reward that you have gone NUTS about.
If you decide that you really don't want the new boat, you still have the Gimbled stove, and a wonderful experience that has cost only $1,800 bucks. Not a bad deal! The reasons you decide may be many, but let me tell you what I suspect. It isn't that you don't want the new boat; you do! It's because you can't see yourself selling your old friend; the boat you have now.
I know it was like that with Pete and his old boat, Nana Anna. She was his friend, his companion. They had been through years of sailing experiences together, and they knew each other well. That's why he tinkered with her so. Not that he wanted to make her different, but instead, because he had a relationship with her. His tinkering was his way of showing her his love. His something to do, while he dreamed about their next adventure together.
And that's the key. The love you have for your boat is why you won't give her up. Not love for the fiberglas, wood, or steel she is made of, but love of the memories you have had while sailing her. Memories of storms you have been through together. Memories of quiet evenings swinging at anchor with your loved ones securely below, sleeping in their bunks. Memories of the oneness you felt with her as you listened to the song the wind sang as it blew through her rigging. Memories of the connection felt with the water you were on, and the water that could carry you around the world. You feel connected. That's why you hesitate.
However, if as you drive back to the city discussing the new boat with your Mate, you decide that you really do want to give up your current boat, then by all means go for it! Buy the new boat, and start a new love chapter in your life.
The story of the Gimbled Stove, is applicable to many things you may be tempted to pursue. Not just things, but also decisions. Decisions that can cost thousands of dollars, or decisions that can disrupt your life. So the next time you are confronted with such a decision, ask yourself, "Should I be thinking of the story of, "The Gimbled Stove?"
FOCUS THOUGHT: RICHES ARE NOT FROM AN ABUNDANCE OF WORLDLY GOODS, BUT FROM A CONTENTED HEART (MOHAMMED)