Wallet Hacks

How Much Do You Really Thneed?

I love to read. When I was younger, I remember reading all the time. I'd read it on the bus to and from school. I'd read it at home, sometimes after bedtime using my nightlight. I'd read it in the bathtub. I'd even read it while practicing the piano (sorry Mom!).

It's something that we hope to instill in our kids. To help, we read books with them before bed.

Books also help calm their bodies and their minds so they can fall asleep easier. It's a win-win.

As part of that process, we let them pick the books. And I cringe every time our oldest pulls out one of those tongue-twisty four million page Dr. Seuss books (Fox in Socks? Cat in the Hat?)… but the other day he gets The Lorax.

If you don't remember The Lorax, it's really good. It's also fast to read. Which is also really good. 🙂

Here's the quick, less tongue-twisty version: The Once-ler discovers a forest of soft Truffula trees. He harvests some to make great Thneeds, these weird scarf/snuggie/wraps that every one needs. They sell like hotcakes. So he makes more.

Eventually, he builds this big business. He hires his whole family. He cuts down every Truffula tree with this big machine and he pushes out every animal. All the while, the Lorax warns him about how going down this path will ruin this tranquil place. The Once-ler ignores him and eventually not a single tree or animal is left. All the Lorax can do is pick himself up by his tail and fly away.

To our son, it's a story about excess. He immediately identifies with the animals and the forest. It's a story about this guy who keeps chopping down trees and pouring gunk into the oceans. It's about a machine that cuts down four trees with one thwack. I asked him what we should do and he suggests he cut off the guy's arm. That's the only thing sticking out of the machine. 🙂

To me, I identify with the Once-ler… the “adult.” It's a story about a guy who comes into this idyllic place, with the softest trees and these fantastic animals… and just ruins it with his pursuit of a business opportunity. He blows through the Lorax's warnings until there's nothing left.

And why? To make money. To make more Thneeds. More. more. more… to what end? How much do we really need? Of Thneeds? Of Money?

It reminded me of another story.

Many years ago, at a weekend leadership retreat for “emerging leaders” at Northrop Grumman, a corporate vice president appeared early on a Sunday to give us some words of encouragement. His work ethic was legendary in the company. Weekends were for working. Work hard, play hard. Things like that.

That Sunday was the day after his own daughter's wedding. Word was he left the wedding early to travel to our retreat. That's how dedicated he was.

I was in my early twenties and I realized I didn't want to be that guy. I didn't have kids then but I knew I wasn't leaving my daughter's wedding early so I could go to some corporate retreat.

Having a passion for your work is great… but how many times did The Lorax warn him? Will he wake up one day, years in the future, and realize his mistake? That's your daughter's wedding!

Take a look around at what you have right now and think about what you're sacrificing to get more. Will your 70 year old self thank you or chastise you?

We each have our own Lorax barking in our ear… will you listen to yours?

Happy Cyber Monday.