Saturday, August 12, 2006

Millions and People

Six of us were at a mandatory business birthday lunch. I was being rather quiet because at least two of the six of us weren’t really in love with me. I think they sensed that I knew their business style harkened from junior high school relationships. These two needed their territory to be “in and cool.” They had decided that I needed to be the center of attention at all times in all places. I wanted them to know that I could easily sit back and be in the audience.

The question came up in conversation, “What would you do if you suddenly got millions of dollars?” Everyone answered in turn and everyone talked about personal change not ways to save the world. When my turn came, I quietly said, “I’d get a chauffer to drive me to work in a cool car when I didn’t feel like driving myself, and I would hire a person to run all of my errands − take the dry cleaning, pick up things I need, do the grocery shopping.”

One of the two said, “Oh, of course, you’d keep working. That sounds just like you. I should have expected that.” She was being totally honest.

I said, “Yes, I think I would. I’m not sure I would like to spend all of my time with people who don’t have to work for a living.”

The conversation moved on and finally, the lunch was over. I managed to maintain my quiet state for most of it.

I reflect on that answer and my life then. I think now that answer was a self-centered one. It was about making the most of my brain power, seeing what I could do with what I had to work with, finding how far I might go if I tried to go far. It wasn’t about people. It was about what I got from work.

Now I think my answer would be a different one. I would spend time and money to visit the friends I don’t see often enough. When I needed to work I would help people with their work without charging them. I’d become an angel investor, so that I could say that name every now and then.

When we left that lunch, those two asked whether I was sick because I didn’t talk very much. I felt like I couldn’t win with them. I had moved out of the limelight, and they assumed I was sick. But in their own way they had picked up that my focus was off.

Maybe they knew was I wasn’t valuing people as much as I valued work.

That would explain her response to what I said. That would explain a lot of things.

It’s probably good that I didn’t win millions then. I think it would be fine if I won it now.
−me strauss Letting me be


Dawn said...

This is a wonderfuly reflective post, Liz. The word that wafts through it all is Investment. At different stages of life, we invest in different things. It always seems to come down to one basic choice: do I invest in myself or in others? There are so many ways to invest, and so much more than money to invest with. I think that, if we're lucky, we discover that investing in the other is really the best kind of personal investment. It comes back to us eventually in big and small ways.

P.S. - I think it would be great if you won now:)

ME Strauss said...

Hi Dawn,
What a lovely interpretation of what I wrote. Thank you.

It's interesting how the same eyes with experience can see events in new ways. That's why, I guess, memories and histories are never set or reliable.

I'm investing now in the people. It's the people that count.

Roberta said...

Hi Liz. I'm still not sure you'd be fine with your winnings. I think when I read these thoughts that you'd probably feel compelled to refuse anything you didn't work for. :)

ME Strauss said...

Ms. Roberta,
I'm not sure that I wouldn't feel I haven't worked for what I would get. I would find a place to put the money to good work. Making things better and building this work and others into something that can help people.

Thank you for your confidence in my spirit. I know I still couldn't spend my time with folks who didn't ever work for a living.

bradford said...

In chapther Six of The Tipping Point, Gladwell points to the innovators as those who see themselves in context to society. Their self-awareness as different allows them to contribute sensitivities to design that change (or introduce) trends. Your style of donation could address the greed epidemic - wing it angel!

Janus Torrell said...

I am afraid I would be really boring...I would pay off all debts (official and unofficial), and go back to college.

Continue writing with alot less stress

ME Strauss said...

Thanks Bradford,
I keep meaning to read the Tipping Point. I only read his other book "Blink." It would be nice to have an innovative affect on how the world turns. :)

ME Strauss said...

I think that would be wonderful. I just had that conversation earlier this week. That college would mean so much more if we didn't get to go until we were old enough to appreciate it. :)

Trée said...

Liz, you are so wonderfully human and I love you to pieces for showing me the way. If you do come into millions, make sure you put me on your list to visit. I think we could say alot without ever talking.

ME Strauss said...

I think if I came into those millions some would have to go to a cookie, tea and art shop that was filled with big leather chairs and wonderful things to read. Places where people could go just to be.

I would like that a very lot. Your spirit would be in every one.