When my son was six years old, I got home from work at his bedtime. We would take a few minutes in the dark of his room to talk over our days.
One evening he told me he imagined his closet was a magic closet that granted his wishes.
“What do you wish for?” I asked.
“I usually wish for lots and lots of money to come out.”
“What would you use the money to buy?”
“A Go-Kart!” (He was obsessed with Speed Racer.)
“Then why not just wish for a Go-Kart? It would save you considerable time and effort in trying to locate a dealer. And even if you found someone willing to sell you one, you might run into trouble trying to negotiate a good price as a kindergartener.”
He told me he thought the money would give him the ability to get whatever he wanted, in case he changed his mind about the Go-Kart. I pointed out that he was already in the realm of pure fantasy with his magic closet. Wishing for money just set up an unnecessary middle step to achieving his dreams.
I asked my son what he wanted to do with the Go-Kart. He said, “Go real fast!” I suggested he could get that wish fulfilled much easier than having to deal with the hassle of a vehicle purchase, licensing, storage, taxes, and maintenance.
At the time, there was a Go-Kart track near our house. He was still too little to drive one by himself, but he could ride with his dad. I offered that if he slightly modified his wish – to name the experience he wanted rather than the object he thought was necessary to achieve it – his wish might come true.
It took more than a year for us to arrange, but he eventually found himself speeding in circles through clouds of diesel smoke, inches above the asphalt. His father didn’t hesitate to drive with the reckless abandon young kids crave. My son’s magic closet worked!
Money is only one way to acquire products, services, or experiences. When we wish for money, we are longing for the power to get what we want. That can knock us off course as we pour energy into securing the means to the end, instead of clearly identifying the true nature of our heart’s desire.
One thing I love about talking with kids is that the advice I give them inevitably applies to me as well. I don’t think I could have come to this realization on my own. But, ever since then, when I find myself fantasizing about money I stop and ask myself, “What is it I really want?”
Our dreams are closer than we imagine.