Krug: Knowing what you want is as challenging as asking for it
Krug: Knowing what you want is as challenging as asking for it

I blame my virtually worthless Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Arts from a liberal arts college back east every so often when people ask me why I never seem satisfied.

It’s a convenient excuse, but it’s mine – and it usually puts an end to any conversation. Nobody wants to talk about lib.....

I blame my virtually worthless Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Arts from a liberal arts college back east every so often when people ask me why I never seem satisfied.

It’s a convenient excuse, but it’s mine – and it usually puts an end to any conversation. Nobody wants to talk about liberal arts colleges back east. Ever.

But as I reflect upon it, I think I was trained to not be satisfied. Conditioned to never dig into any one situation too deeply. Taught to be flexible and to seek out new challenges, leaving those tasks that I had conquered (or grown tired of repeating) too often.

So I can relate to people that don’t know precisely what they want but go wanting nonetheless. It’s all right to be equal parts restless and quest-less.

I put myself to sleep by looking at classified listings for Porsche 911s. Will I ever actually buy one? Doubtful. Why? Because I know that as soon as I get one, I’ll want something different. If I bought the Targa, I’d want the Turbo.

Also, I know that as soon as I put that iconic dream machine into the first hard turn that it’s bound for a chuckhole. And I’m far too pragmatic to live to see the day when a mechanic tells me that my low-slung German rocket sled needs a new front suspension that cost as much as my freshman year at the aforementioned alma mater. Ca-ching.

I also blame my liberal arts education for an affinity for reading books that nobody else likes as well as a consumptive interest in independent films and documentaries. Sorry, I’m a product of my environments.

I swear that this column may have a point. Just wait one moment longer.

Among the films that truly have resonated with me in the past year or so is a documentary about happiness, and the sources of joy that somehow affect the human condition. The name of the film is “Happy,” and the last time I checked it was available on Netflix.

I would do no justice to offer a critical review of “Happy,” and the film is less than 70 minutes long – so any summary I might put forth would gut your pleasure if you chose to track it down.

Instead, let me pluck one piece of thinking from it. The film purports that after all of life’s basic necessities – food, water and shelter – are met, there is not much of a difference in the basic happiness that can derived from money.

The film further intimates – quite literally – that the fundamental difference between a person that makes $50,000 a year and $50 million a year is marginal. I wouldn’t fault anyone that thought precisely what I did when that was introduced: That I’d like to give it a try, if only for scientific purposes.

But let’s say that it’s true, and the “Hedonic Treadmill,” the desire for new stuff that makes us temporarily happy but offers no long-term satisfaction is true. Then what is there? What makes a difference in our level of personal satisfaction and therefore our happiness?

Well, status offers us a minor bump up – but statistically not materially more than wealth and the stuff that comes with it.

Eventually, the film suggests that some modicum of exercise, appreciating the stuff you already have, friends and family, and a sense of purpose are the primary source of happiness – and that the people who have some tie to those things and a connection with a community of some kind are statistically the happiest.

Our families are something that we can’t pick. Our jobs, our friends and our willingness to participate in something selfless or communal are things that we can choose.

As a long-time manager and high-climber that once was willing to step on the head of anyone to get to the next rung, I know how some can be driven by the quest for the next thing and the next pay grade. The journey may be the reward, but the reward keeps you on the journey. Or perhaps not. I’m not sure, and probably not the best person to ask.

Knowing that you want more doesn’t always mean that you know what you want. And then there’s the asking for it. Even the most ideal situation is imperfect. We’re human. We’ll always want more. Or less. Or want to be paid more to do less. And, again, that’s OK, because, well, we’re human.

But even if you know what you want, or think you do, there becomes the task of telling someone that might be able to make that happen for you about it. Soon there after, it becomes time to compel him or her to see it your way, and for the betterment of all involved.

Not for a second would I ever suggest that anyone repress his or her dream. That would be ludicrous. We want to work in places where people dream out loud, and where our coworkers and associates express their most relevant desires. We want people to be happy.

If any of us could actually know for sure what happy was, or for how long a dream might make one happy, perhaps knowing what to ask for would be much easier.

And we’d all do it.

I write about the issues around our businesses each week. I’m quite certain I did that this week, too.

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As always, stay classy.

Chris Krug is president of the progressive media communications firm No Limit Agency in Chicago. No Limit is a full-service agency whose practice focuses on strategy, brand management, creative campaigns and delivering unparalleled placement in the media. No Limit Agency works with some of the best-known brands in North America, and that’s not a coincidence. Contact Krug by calling 312-526-3996 or via email at [email protected].

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