Man in the Car Paradox


                                CHAPTER 8

         Man in the Car Paradox


No one is impressed with your possessions as much as you are.

The best part of being a valet is getting to drive some of the coolest cars to ever touch pavement. Guests came in driving Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Rolls-Royces—the whole aristocratic fleet.

It was my dream to have one of these cars of my own, because (I thought) they sent such a strong signal to others that you made it. You’re smart. You’re rich. You have taste. You’re important. Look at me.

The irony is that I rarely if ever looked at them, the drivers.

When you see someone driving a nice car, you rarely think, “Wow, the guy driving that car is cool.” Instead, you think, “Wow, if I had that car people would think I’m cool.” Subconscious or not, this is how people think.

There is a paradox here: people tend to want wealth to signal to others that they should be liked and admired. But in reality those other people often bypass admiring you, not because they don’t think wealth is admirable, but because they use your wealth as a benchmark for their own desire to be liked and admired.

The letter I wrote after my son was born said, “You might think you want an expensive car, a fancy watch, and a huge house. But I’m telling you, you don’t. What you want is respect and admiration from other people, and you think having expensive stuff will bring it. It almost never does—especially from the people you want to respect and admire you.”

I learned that as a valet, when I began thinking about all the people driving up to the hotel in their Ferraris, watching me gawk. People must gawk everywhere they went, and I’m sure they loved it. I’m sure they felt admired.

But did they know I did not care about them, or even notice them? Did they know I was only gawking at the car, and imagining myself in the driver’s seat?

Did they buy a Ferrari thinking it would bring them admiration without realizing that I—and likely most others—who are impressed with the car didn’t actually give them, the driver, a moment’s thought?

Does this same idea apply to those living in big homes? Almost certainly.

Jewelry and clothes? Yep.

My point here is not to abandon the pursuit of wealth. Or even fancy cars. I like both.

It’s a subtle recognition that people generally aspire to be respected and admired by others, and using money to buy fancy things may bring less of it than you imagine. If respect and admiration are your goal, be careful how you seek it. Humility, kindness, and empathy will bring you more respect than horsepower ever will.

We’re not done talking about Ferraris. Another story about the paradox of fast cars in the next chapter.



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