Calibrate what (you think are) your needs

Here’s a cool paradox.

For certain things, we don’t need as much as we think we do.

And for other things, we need much more than we think we do.

Take the concept of time. The story we’ve told ourselves is that if we only had a few more hours in the day or one extra day in the week, we’d cross off everything on our list.

But time, like most things, is relative. Just ask anyone who’s ever been unemployed before. The last thing you want is all the time in the world. Too much freedom leads to paralysis. The only force that truly focuses someone to take forward action is a time constraint.

A person who knows they only have one hour a day to find a new job will probably land a gig faster than someone who has nothing to do all day. As the saying goes, if you want something done, give it to a busy person.

Reminds me of my stint at an advertising agency. Good people, nice place, enjoyed the work, but the role ultimately wasn’t working out. It was crystal clear that my employer was not going to renew my contract at the end of the year. And there were only three months left on the calendar.

Think that deadline lit a fire under my ass to seek out new job opportunities?

You better believe it. It only took me two months to find a job. Fastest hiring story in my career. And that new position turned out to be an amazing work experience. That wasn’t luck, that was constraint. It proved to me that I didn’t need as much time as I thought I did to find a job.

Einstein was right. Time expands or contracts based on the urgency of our needs.

A similar example is money, which, in my experience, derives from the same energy source as time. This has been clinically proven.

Ladder, the insurance company, conducted a poll that looked at people’s spending on essential versus nonessential items. Turns out, we spend about eighteen thousand dollars a year on superfluous crap.

It’s nice to have, but it’s not need to have. We’d be fine without it if we learned to recalibrate what we think are our needs.

Reminds me of getting audited in my late twenties. It’s a pain in the ass experience, if you’ve ever been there before. But an unexpected source of liberation surfaced from that process. By virtue of meticulously reviewing my company’s monthly expenses for the last two years, it occurred to me just how much stupid bullshit I was wasting money on.

Like my land line. Who the hell still uses a landline? Was my fancy phone number supposed to make me feel like big boy grown up who had a legitimate enterprise? Nobody even called that damn thing. Ever.

And yet, forty dollars a month. That’s almost five hundred bucks a year.

After two days of pouring through my bank records, my account and I discovered that over a thousand dollars a month could be saved by removing a variety of other nonessential items. Do the math.

Turns out, getting audited was the best thing that ever happened to my business. Because it proved that, just like time, we don’t need as much money as we think we do.

This brings us to the other end of the spectrum. Because for other things, we need much more than we think we do.

Take social interaction. Loneliness has become the most common ailment of the modern world.

Cigna, the medical insurer, conducted research to prove it. Their chief medical officer for behavioral health found that this problem of has reached epidemic proportions. Loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity.

Think that study is crap? Clearly you’ve never been alone before.

Human connection is a need that remains essential for psychological survival. Doesn’t matter how technologically advanced we become. We need each other.

During all four years of college, my profound sense of loneliness was medicated with television, shopping, food and a variety of other unhealthy coping mechanism. Turns out, all I really needed were friends. Actual relationships. Belonging through a sense of community.

It took me another ten years for me to finally figure that out. But today, there is no doubt in my mind. When it comes to human connection, we need much more than we think we do. Other people may be exhausting and complicated; and they’re not a panacea for solving every problem, but damn it if they’re not everywhere.

Seven billion of them, just waiting for us to be vulnerable enough to extend our arm.

No wonder wearing a nametag still hasn’t gotten old after twenty years.

It reminds me that we’re only alone in this world if we have to be.

That’s the paradox. For certain things, we don’t need as much as we think we do.

And for other things, we need much more than we think we do. It all depends on how we calibrate what we think are our needs. 

What things do you need more or less of than you originally thought?


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Author. Speaker. Strategist. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Gameshow Host. World Record Holder. I also wear a nametag 24-7. Even to bed.
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