A few months ago we purchased a small building in downtown Punta Gorda, Florida to serve as our new world headquarters for Living Well Spending Less Inc.
The building—an old historic house—is bright and cheery and full of charm. We’ve got a conference room and a studio for filming and a kitchen and lots of space to spread out….there’s even a sleeping loft, which is the perfect place for team members to stay when they come from out of town.
It’s practically perfect in every way!
And it is a HUGE step up from the office space we had been renting for the past four years. Now, don’t get me wrong–I loved our little office—it was bright and cheery and full of color, and I always felt like just being there made me a little more productive.
But it certainly had its fair share of quirks too. You see, our (very affordable) space was located in what used to be the garage of this historic building. The ceilings are super low—not ideal when you are 6’2” like me—and I almost knocked myself out a few times going through the low doorway to the back storage room. Not only that, the shared bathroom was in the main building, which was never convenient, and was frequently out of toilet paper. Luckily we always kept a backup supply on hand!
But now that we are finally all moved out and not in danger of being evicted, I can tell you that the weirdest little quirk of all was that none of the tenants in our building were ever allowed to park in the parking lot.
We all had to park in the field next door. For real. It wasn’t normally a problem, as long as the weather was nice, but in the rain, the field would turn into a muddy mess and we would all get soaked running from our cars to the front door.
The theory, at least according to the landlord, was that the parking lot was supposed to be for clients and visitors. Which I guess sounds okay in theory, except that none of the tenants in the building actually had clients coming in and out, which meant that every day, the parking lot sat completely empty and unused.
But it gets weirder. You see, our landlord was pretty particular about his parking lot. You might even say obsessed. I’ve seen him scream at people for bumping into his curb and completely freak out over a grease stain. If one of the tenants ever did dare to park in the lot—even just for an hour or two—he was very quick to let them know that’s not allowed.
One weekend he had the entire parking lot repaved and then repainted. And if that seems a little odd considering that no one ever parks there, consider that it was the third time he had repaved the parking lot over a two-year span.
But the reason that one particular weekend stands out to me was because that Monday, when I came in to work, he proudly pointed out the freshly painted lot, saying “doesn’t it look great? I think everyone’s going to love it!”
And I couldn’t help but laugh to myself at how badly he has missed the point.
You see it’s a parking lot. Its entire purpose is a place to park cars. And I knew for a fact that not a single tenant in our building really cared how clean and sparkly it looked when we were not allowed to use it as the one thing it is meant for. In fact, I’m pretty sure, if asked, every single tenant would have chosen being able to park in a scuffed-up, oil stained lot versus not being able to park there at all.
But that whole situation was good for one thing, and that was that it really got me to think about life, and about how often so many of us miss the point the same way my landlord did.
We spend countless hours worrying about insignificant details—painting the parking lot over and over again—when we should be focused on the big things that actually matter, the ones that will serve a purpose, the ones that fall in line with our biggest priorities, and get us closer to our goals and dreams.
For instance, instead of going after that big promotion, we busy ourselves with 100 different menial tasks and then convince ourselves we didn’t want it anyway. Instead of getting serious about paying off debt and getting our finances in order, we always find one more reason to spend. Instead of digging in and working to accomplish that big goal, we watch the day slip away, distracted by Facebook and Instagram and whatever other squirrel catches our eye.
Winston Churchill once said, “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”
Along those same lines, as CS Lewis pointed out, “if we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come.”
In other words, we have to make sure that the things keeping us busy are really the things that matter most.
The challenge, then, for all of us, is to make sure we’re not missing the point.
Because, quite frankly, it is easy to do. There is a lot in life to keep us busy and to keep us distracted. We could spend all our days painting the parking lot, but then what? What will we have really accomplished? It’s still just a parking lot.
And I think we were made for more.