Knowing Why You Want

When you ask Gary Vee why he wants to buy the New York Jets, he might tell you that it’s the biggest goal he could find that would keep him playing the game of business for a long, long time. He’s also a die-hard fan, of course, and wouldn’t it be nice if they won the Super Bowl again? They haven’t done so since 1969.

Every now and then, however, Gary will tell the real story behind his Jets obsession, and it’s much simpler than any of the ulterior-motive versions: As a young US-immigrant who barely spoke any English, the Jets became the first American idea Gary latched on to and could rally around with his friends. Since his family couldn’t afford to buy a jersey, however, his mom spent three weeks knitting at night to make one for him. Gary felt both the poverty and the love, and so in fifth grade, he decided he’d one day buy the Jets — and when he did, he’d hang his sweater from the front entrance with the following words: “From not being able to afford a jersey to buying the entire team.”

So, which is it? A selfish motive to make lots of money? An excuse to hustle 24/7? A fan fantasy? Or a giant “Look what my mom made for me!” campaign? A way of spreading the unconditional love he received when he was seven? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that Gary is aware of all these possible explanations — and he can tap into each one whenever he needs it the most.

When I was a child, I had a poster of a Ferrari F40 on my wall and the model car to go with it. I guess it’s wholly unsurprising that I’ve wanted a Ferrari ever since — and many 90s kids feel the same way. There is, however, between blindly chasing something that was dropped into your lap when you were five years old and knowing you’re chasing something because it was dropped into your lap when you were five years old. You realize it’s a game, and you can now turn it on and off.

A Ferrari is still a fun piece of motivation on some days for me; the video game version a consolation prize on others. But I don’t need a Ferrari any more than Gary Vee needs to buy the Jets. As long as we know why we’re on the journey we are taking, whether we die with our without our goals in hand matters little. We’ll enjoy the climb, slopes, and even the occasional descent, and we’ll swap out important reasons for fun ones and vice versa.

Know why you want. It’s the ultimate Lego kit of motivation, and one of the most important aspects of being an adult is remembering how to play.