One of the best meals I ever had took place in Charleston, SC over the ‘07 New Years weekend. I was fortunate enough to tag along with some family, and attend an event called Renaissance Weekend – a yearly gathering that brings together thought leaders and entrepreneurs from a variety of sectors and disciplines to hang out and learn from one another.
I trudged through the halls of the Charleston Place Hotel all weekend, pretending to be more confident than I actually was and hoping I would meet someone who could give me a cool job in a few months. At the time, I was getting ready to graduate from Virginia Tech with a degree in Business, and had vague aspirations in the hospitality industry.
I can pinpoint a few major turning points in my life; experiences, relationships, tragedy and this one, a conversation.
On one of our last nights in Charleston, I sat at Somewhere North of Broad (aka SNOB) with some of the most interesting people I had ever met. One of them was Babson College Professor, Stever Robbins.
Stever asked me a simple question, “What do you want to do after you graduate?”
Me: “I think I am going to go into the hospitality industry, hotels, nightlife etc.”
I had no answer. I talked about studying hospitality, liking the interactive nature of the work. None of it I really believed and I think Stever could sense this.
Then he moved away form hospitality and got to me. What did I care about? What did I do for fun? and finally “What makes you happy?”
I talked about partying, friends, money and material aspirations you’d expect most 21 year olds to have.
Stever again asked me, “Why?”
He encouraged me to differentiate between the various things I was listing and to explain how I thought it contributed to me being happy. He then asked me to evaluate all the above using two simple criteria, pleasure and happiness.
Happiness brings about a lasting feeling of fulfillment, whereas pleasure brings excitement that tends to be fleeting.
I came to the conclusion that I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and I was determined to find out. So I rejected my offer to work for a prominent hotelier in Chicago, and drove cross country from DC to Alaska.
To be happy, you need to feel as though you are constantly progressing and learning. If you don’t re-evaluate and define your goals/ aspirations frequently it’s easy to feel as though you aren’t doing anything significant or worthwhile.
The first step towards progress is articulating a destination you can feel proud of, and doing it over and over again. So first things first, go ahead and sell your TV. Trust me, you’ll be much happier.