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.Tweet
When I worked for Marquis Jet, I had the privilege of interacting with some incredibly wealthy people. (And when I say interacting with, I mean cold calling them until their secretaries finally put me on their calendar and I could woo them with the charm of my pocket square) But in that close proximity to the 1%, my definition of wealth changed. Previously it had been something to the effect of “someone with a lot of money” but this new understand of wealth was most clearly articulated by my boss, John Daut, “Wealth is defined by having more options.”
Growing up in middle class America, my life wasn’t too hard. I didn’t live on the wrong side of the tracks or have to get a job when I was 12 to support my family. But I also had to learn the value of a dollar saved in order to buy something that I wanted down the road. I started saving to buy a truck when I was 14 years old. Two months after my 16th birthday I finally found the truck of my dreams and handed all the money I had in the world over to get it. That 1985 Chevy Silverado was and still is my favorite vehicle I’ve ever owned.
But, looking back on it, the process of hunting for that truck that I first learned about the freedom that comes from wealth. The scope of my search, or the options that I had in making that purchase, were limited by the money that I’d managed to save for those two years prior. In the same way, when thinking about life after high school, the number of colleges that I got into was another variation of wealth. The more options I had, the better the choice that I could make. Again in job offers after college and career moves since then. The more options you have, the more wealth, not just money, you have accumulated.
I was asked recently if I could define “hustle.” (And no I didn’t just tell them to Google “Andy Ellwood”) And while there are a lot of variations of how I’ve heard hustle thought about for various situations, the short answer I went with was this:
Consistently taking action toward an ultimate goal or objective.
For me, I hustle for options. The more I hustle now, the more options I will have in the future. The more options I have in the future, the more freedom I will have to spend time with people I respect creating things that I’m passionate about. It isn’t about hustling for hustling’s sake. It is about knowing why you hustle and taking advantage of the options you create along the way.
So, on this 4th of July, here’s to your life, your liberty, and your pursuit of happiness.Tweet
May 18th, 2009 – “Andy Ellwood has joined Marquis Jet as the region Vice President for Dallas and North Texas.” (Full text can be found in the 5/15/2009 edition. Their online edition is for paid subscribers only.) Tweet
2:11pm – Suburban pulls up to waiting Marquis Jet Citation Excel at Signature FBO in Dallas.
2:14pm – Citation Excel taxis onto the runway with the three passengers, two pilots, and all their luggage on board.
2:25pm – The plane disappears through the clouds en route to San Antonio.
If flying private is something you have considered, but never taken action on, remember this time sequence above next time you are waiting at DFW for two hours, your flight gets canceled, or your bags get lost along the way. Your time has never been more valuable than it is now.Tweet