By: Pete Zubof
As a Naval Officer, I am fortunate in that I get a chance to work with many young men and women, some of them as young as 18. In some ways they are very mature for their age…serving their country…going to war. In others, they are still very much, 18-year-old kids and reflections of their generation’s philosophies and desires. In working with these young Sailors, I’ve obviously had some great moments, but I’ve also spent countless hours and days of my professional life counselling Sailors on their financial difficulties, largely as a result of purchasing beyond their means. In the past, living beyond one’s means often meant buying a car or a house that was too expensive or having big-ticket-item payments that were too large. Today, this situation is exacerbated by a rising need for immediate fulfillment. Many of us are willing to pay a premium, in both time and money, to have possessions immediately rather than wait for prices to drop or availability to rise. Too often my Sailors get themselves in financial trouble because their need to be the first of their friends to have the latest technology outweighs their financial abilities. Obviously this isn’t a Sailor thing or even a young person thing. It is a somewhat disturbing reflection of our modern society – an entitled society that doesn’t want to wait for fulfillment and doesn’t want to earn its desires.
Perhaps nothing better illustrates this point than the recent release of Apple’s latest iPhone. The media was full of stories of eager consumers camped out overnight to be the first to get their hands on this latest iteration. Usually sitting in a long line would be an example of fortitude and patience. Want to get an autograph from your favorite author? Playoff tickets? Seeing the smile on your child’s face from his/her first ride on the Dumbo ride at Disney? These all strike me as reasons to stand in line. Spending precious moments waiting for an item, especially one which will be available in an unlimited number within weeks, seems frivolous, wasteful, and sad.
Our “gotta have it now society” is not limited to Apple. Sitting at home with my wife, in September mind you, I saw the first Christmas commercials appearing on TV. Some, such as Kmart’s “not a Christmas commercial” commercial, were “cleverly” disguised. Others, such as on the Hallmark Channels , overtly built excitement for their Christmas holiday special offerings. As a Jew, I actually love Christmastime. I think, however, that our growing desire to experience Christmas throughout the year actually diminishes the beauty and uniqueness of that season.
As a child, I may not have understood patience. As an adult, however, I have become somewhat of a patience addict. When I buy a car, I pine for it. I research every detail and visit the manufacturer’s website over and over to design and redesign my dream while I simultaneously sock away my ducats to make my purchase. When the day that I can actually purchase that car arrives, it’s a magical moment to me. For my own son, I hope that patience and an appreciation for waiting to fulfill desires are traits that I can instill in him.
I am not anti-technology or anti-materialism. I, too, will have my iPhone 6. I will wait, though. I will wait until I can spend 5 minutes of my lunch break and not 5 hours of time away from my family to walk into the store and make my purchase. The period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is supposed to be for reflection. Consider this, then, for reflection: What is your time worth? For what and for whom should you spend it?