There was a lone french fry lying on the carpeted floor almost under a table in the busy Sports Center Cafe. I pointed it out to my exercise partner. And I said, "There are people who would offer you money to pick that up off the floor and eat it, but I'm not one of them."
"I'd do it for five dollars," he told me and sipped his coffee.
Of course, he surfs in the shark infested waters of North Carolina every day, for hours, and for fun.
Later that day I recounted the situation to my wife. "A million dollars," she said.
"Wow," I replied. "I was thinking more like a thousand."
That's a big gap, I thought, between five dollars and a million, or even a thousand.
Disgust and desire. We're all different in how we react to each. But we all do react. We find certain things disgusting, and others desirable. Disgust is usually associated with an underlying perception of risk, and desire with a lure of reward. A fry on the floor, I'd prefer to avoid. Money, I can always use to good effect.
Now, let's take a big step back from disgust. There's another, lesser, and much more common negative category - dislike. There are many things we dislike that don't in any way disgust us. We just find them unpleasant. They hold no intrinsic attraction at all. In fact, to the contrary, we'd rather not do them. But the problem is that we often have to, for the sake of some related need, or a greater good.
Suppose, for example, that you don't like to travel. But a job that could pay very well demands it. Is there a number, a salary, a financial scenario, that will make you take that job, despite its involving what you dislike? Or consider another possibility: You have an idea for a new business. But starting up a new company will demand almost all your time. You'll hardly see your spouse or your children, for at least the first two or three years. Is there a number that would motivate you to do it? Do you think there's a number that would motivate them to want you to do it? Your answers will tell you something about your values, and also how you think of theirs.
We make choices all the time. Life is just a string of choices. How do you make yours? What are you willing to do to get what you want? What would you give up? What would you take on? Do you decide and choose wisely? Do you consider the costs? The risks? The downsides? Or are you more typically just fixated on the positive possibilities? Too many of us get so mesmerized by what we desire that we take on far too much of what we dislike. And some people who make a life of doing that end up with a situation the eventually evokes their own disgust. Let's try hard not to be among them.
My friend sees a french fry on the floor and sees an easy five bucks. I just see grossness and germs. My wife apparently sees the Bubonic Plague. How you view the challenges and opportunities of the world says a lot about you. And considering such scenarios can be a path of new self knowledge.
I'd like to recommend that path. But I just have one question: Would you like fries with it?