On the surface he was living the dream.
Promoted to Director at age 32, Vice President at 37, Executive Vice President at 41 and C.E.O. at 44 the world appeared to be his oyster – he had it all.
A 17,000 square foot house.
Three vacation homes.
A collection of exotic cars.
Servants to cater to his every imaginable whim.
A near priceless art collection.
The corporate jet to whisk him anywhere in the world he wished to be.
The envy of his friends and colleagues.
The bought and paid for respect of his employees.
Yes, he had everything.
Emptiness of the soul.
He sat across from me in the restaurant wringing his hands sadly as he painfully asked me– actually, asked himself –this question, “how could I have been so wrong?”
He had joined this company right out of university some 25 years earlier and had set a goal for himself – a lofty goal; to be President and C.E.O. of the company before his 45th birthday.
And boy had he succeeded.
He had worked day and night to get where he is. He had put his career, and the company ahead of everything else in his life.
He had worked weekends, foregone vacations, missed many of his kids birthday parties, spent many of his anniversaries alone in hotel rooms while away on business, attended meetings instead of ball games.
And as his career, and his wealth, had increased he had lavished all kinds of luxuries on his family as he continued to strive towards the attainment of that goal.
His family had vacationed in some of the most expensive and exotic locations in the world – most often by themselves while he was elsewhere looking after business.
And finally, nine months ago, the big payday arrived – the Board of Directors appointed him as President and C.E.O. – he had achieved his goal.
Life was wonderful.
Except, it wasn’t.
Three months ago he had come home from a business trip to find his magnificent mansion empty and abandoned.
His wife and children had decided that they didn’t need the 15,000 square foot home, they didn’t need exotic cars; they didn’t need servants; they didn’t need an art collection or a corporate jet.
They had lived with all of those things for many, many years and none of the things that made them happy.
They wanted something of far greater value.
Something that money cannot buy.
They wanted time – quality time – with a husband and a father.
And he had been too busy achieving his goal to give them what they really wanted.
He had made the very same mistake that is so common to many of us.
He had believed that the goal he set for himself was what he really wanted.
And that is so seldom the case.
You see, when we set goals, we frequently believe that these goals are what we really want.
For example, when we set a goal to lose 40 pounds, we believe that losing 40 pounds is what we want.
What we want is what we believe that losing 40 pounds will do for us – make us feel better about ourselves, look better, feel sexier, be healthier etc.
That’s what we really want.
In other words losing forty pounds is simply the pathways to lead us there.
My friend hadn’t realized this. He confused his goal with what he believed achieving his goal would do for him.
He believed that becoming the President and C.E.O. of his company – and the wealth that accompanied the title – would give him a loving, close family and the happiness and joy that goes along with those wonderful gifts.
And the morning we met for coffee recently was not a sad day for him.
It was a joyous day – a new beginning.
He had spent a great deal of time examining his life, asking himself what truly was important to him.
And he had come to the conclusion he had chosen the wrong means to get to the end he truly wanted.
And he asked his wife and daughters for another chance.
A chance to be a husband and a father.
And they had said Yes
And the evening before we met for coffee he had tendered his resignation to the Board of Directors.
And he now knew what he really wanted – the love of his family and the happiness that comes with being together and enjoying each other’s company.
And he had a new goal – a means of getting there.
He was going to start a foundation to help those less fortunate.
And his wife and kids were going to help him develop it.
And they were going to sell the mansion and the vacation homes and the cars and lots of other stuff – not because they could no longer afford these things, but because these things do not produce happiness.
How do I know this man?
I knew of him.
I had read about him in business publications
The day we met for coffee was the first time we had met.
He had called me the day before and told me that one of his employees had given him a copy of my book, Life Sinks or soars – the Choice is Yours, right after his family had moved out.
And he had read it and realized that if he wanted different results in his life he needed to make different choices.
And his invitation to coffee had simply been to thank me.
And I told him that it was I who should be thanking him because being able to help a fellow human being – in this case, a stranger – is the most rewarding gift in the world.
There’s no feeling like it.
Till we read again.