Wanting What You Get vs. Getting What You Want

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Wanting What You Get vs. Getting What You Want

I recently came across a 1953 comedy act that made me laugh harder than I’ve laughed in 4 months…

Abbott and Costello, “Who’s On First” (1953).

The funny thing is, the reason I was watching this was because I was sadder than I’d ever been in 4 months.

Gee, what got you in this mess of emotions?

Well, I'd been trying to painstakingly maintain relationships virtually during COVID-19 for 9 months. One day, I just stopped and thought of every friend I had. 85% of my friends hadn't ONCE reached out to me before I reached out to them in the last little while😢

Ummm, why do I need to know this?

Well, this one standup routine taught me how to deal with the confusion of trying (unsuccessfully) to get what I want out of life.

Okayyy, what's so important about this standup routine?

Oversimplified summary: the short guy (Costello) is joining a new baseball team. He wants the manager to tell him his teammate's names before he meets them… and he just CANNOT understand the manager at all. I'll let you watch it yourself to see why it's funny 😁

But the key message is that two people can say the exact same things and have completely different meanings behind them. And when one person's trying to get to their goal, it's just rid-ON-culously hilarious how often misunderstanding and misalignments can put a dash in your plans. There are at least SOME times you'll also struggle with this in the real world.

But how well could a 1953 comedy act apply to today's world???

Well, just take a look at everything around you. I bet you'll see at least one thing that was created by humans just like you. (And in COVID-19 lockdowns, almost EVERYTHING you see indoors is probably man-made).

But notice that none of those things are absolutely perfect. You don't go around all day thinking about JUST HOW PERFECT your water bottle or your wall is! It's like people got together to create those things one way, but there are always little imperfections from that design. I think that's fundamental to human-made things. It's just very easy to get incentives misaligned slightly and very hard to get them aligned how you envision them to be.

For example, take driving down the road. Everything from the road signs to the parking lots on the side to the drivers following certain rules happened because of humans working together. But if you've ever been driving on a road, you KNOW one of those things is going to be broken at any given moment 😅

Well, the architect who designed the road doesn't get exactly what they envisioned because some driver's in a hurry and is cutting off other traffic. Just like that, tiny misalignments of incentives exist in so many things you do!

  • Getting a relationship to work how you want
  • Being able to communicate to others how you intended
  • Being able to align a team on a common goal
  • Getting those annoying drivers to stop cutting you off… 😖

But everything around me still exists! How bad could misaligned incentives be?

Well, yes. Everything does get done to some degree. But no one ends up with the exact outcome they want. It's like we're always pushing for what we want and falling back to what we get. So why do we so often keep pushing for perfection, though we know it's probably never going to happen?

I bet that even in your life today, you've caught yourself reminiscing about changing the past (remember that one awkward conversation…?) or planning the future (which shirt to wear for yet another day of Zoom meetings…?) 😉

Most people are constantly trying to FORCE the world to give us what we want - even when the past moments we're thinking about can no longer be changed and the future moments can't take place now. And at the end of the day, everyone sees the world through the incentives of what they want to get… and those are REALLY hard to align!

But if life always has these kerfuffles of conflicting incentives, why can't we just accept that we'll have to accept things? Wouldn't it be simpler to understand the areas where incentives are usually kerfuffled (ex. relationships) and train ourselves to want what we get instead of trying to get what we want?

And my fine sir, I prithee tell… HOW exactly shalst I do that???

*What, you don't speak like that? 😁

Well, luckily for you, THAT is exactly what I've been learning about in my ups and downs of sadness. Here are some tips to learn to want what you get:

  • Remember, nothing is certain. Things could just as easily go right as left. So why bother figuring it out? Just have a kid's voice say in your head: "Well, I don't know WHAT'S going on, but I bet I'll have fun when it does!" *The kid's voice is absolutely paramount 😄
  • Just stop and notice JUST HOW AWESOME one tiny thing around you is! This morning, I woke up feeling sad about a broken friendship. Then, I just started watching the music video for the song Happy by Pharrell Williams! There's no WAY you can watch that without smiling and being happy about something as small as watching a video😮
  • Keep an eye out for the small opportunities that pop up. Then, you can just start wanting to get them (and KNOW you can get them too)! For example, I was out jogging in the rain the other day and I accidentally stepped into a puddle. My feet were cold, so that was inconvenient. But then, I just said, "HEY… I haven't splashed in puddles on purpose since I was like 7. Now's my moment to shine!!!!" I splashed in EVERY puddle on the way back home and my mother was SO mad about the mess 😂
  • And of course, it could always be worse. If you're frustrated in high school about the boring assignments and a sore back from sitting all day, just think: "Well, when I'm 60 and have a sore EVERYTHING, I'm probably going to wish I could be in high school and ONLY have a sore back." It's like you're constantly living in the 'good old days' in some way, because SOMEthing will get worse later. So even if something's probably going wrong in life, try to want another thing that is going right that won't continue to go right in the future.

By trying these things, I think a lot of people could learn to be happier in everyday moments. Just like our friend Costello trying to understand what in the world is going on with his baseball team: 😉

"I don't know… and I don't give a darn!!" - Costello

- Madhav Malhotra

Sun, 20 Dec 2020 15:35:05 +0000

About me

I'm a student training to solve globally neglected issues!