How Much Is It Worth?
Dec 2012 05

When I worked in private aviation and sold time on Warren Buffet’s fleet of jets, I learned a lot about the way that incredibly successful people think about their most valuable possessions. The reason that a successful businessman paid tens of thousands of dollars for a single flight with his family was not so he could tell people he was flying private, but so that he could know without question that his vacation started 15 minutes after arrived at the airport and their plane was in the sky.

The question that my former clients asked themselves before stroking a rather larger check to me was not “Can I afford to fly private?” but “How much additional happiness will this create?”

If we look at a transaction, not in terms of dollars, but in units of happiness acquired, it can change the entire outlook on the thought of “How much is this worth?”  There are experiences and moments that can never be truly valued based on the number of units of happiness captured or conversely, the number of units of hardship or annoyance avoided.

In a small way, I was thinking about this over my third cup of coffee this morning. When we moved into our new apartment earlier this year, it was an arduous process. Between the coop board and the moving company and delays in new furniture shipments, it wasn’t the smoothest few weeks. But in that time, I made a purchase that has proven to be the most valuable thing that I bought all year. I splurged and spent more on a coffee maker than I ever had before. I went top of the line and get all the bells and whistles. And while it felt a little bit silly walking out of the store knowing how much I just spent in dollars to buy an appliance that had another option 1/10th the price, it was my splurge and I wasn’t apologizing.

A solid 10 months later, I have enjoyed a freshly ground pot of coffee waiting for me every morning when I wake up. Most mornings I don’t even hear my alarm because I am already up from the smell of freshly ground Sumatra wafting through the apartment. In the quiet of the morning I can savor that first cup and focus on the day ahead. It is effortless and all about units of happiness acquired and as such, it is also the purchase that I made this year that, I don’t care how much it cost but I do know how much it is worth.

  • Alex

    Great read! As a lover of all things coffee I completely agree with this purchase!

    What if we compare incredibly successful people to broke college students who want to take a cab to class in a snow storm. Should the student take the cab or walk the mile to class in the blizzard?

  • Fred H. Speno

    I had occasion in the early 1990s to accompany my company’s president on his travels throughout the world and got used to the luxury of dedicated aircraft and the accompanying perks. When I returned to reality, flying commercial planes, even in first class, was a big let down. No limo to meet your plane. No concierge to unpack your bags and place your clothes in the closet. The plane was not ready to go when you were. It was a crash back into the real world!

  • Andy Ellwood

    I would look at it via Cost of Time. What does the student think their time is worth and can they make up the difference in cost between the cab fare and the value they create in the time that they save. With a little hustle, I bet they could.

  • Andy Ellwood

    Fred, you are so right. Private aviation is the most addictive drug in the world and it is really tough to “go sober” after you’ve had a taste.