What I Really Want

“How bad do you want it?  Not bad enough.” Don Henley

Does fate brings us where we are? Is everything just coincidence?

An interesting statement arises from this week’s Torah portion. King Balak is afraid that the Jews, while on their way to Israel, will make war and defeat his people. So, he asks Bilaam, a sorcerer, to curse the Jews. Balak sends a delegation to make this request. Bilaam asks G-d and is told, “No, you can’t curse the Jews.” Balak sends another delegation of greater prestige, and G-d agrees to let Billam go as it is clear this is what Bilaam wants.  There is much that can be discussed regarding this scene and the portion itself. One point the sages gathered from this exchange is that G-d leads us in the way we want to go.

I’ve been wondering what that really means. If I really want to win the lottery, will G-d make it happen? I want a date with Sofia Vergara (if I weren’t not happily married, of course), so will G-d set us up? Maybe, this wanting thing has to be more personal. I want to play third base for the Phillies. How ’bout it? Is G-d going to put me on the team?

Picture courtesy of Google

Picture courtesy of Google

Many of us probably realize these situations — while certainly in G-d’s capacity — are far-fetched. The sages probably did not mean this when they were talking about the wanting thing. Okay, so no date with Sofia.

Then what did they mean? I brought this issue up the other day with my wife. And we both agreed that a person needs to put in their effort. They can’t just sit back and say “I want to play third base for a professional baseball team.” They must practice for hours over years and years. Maybe that magic number of hours it takes to attain greatness is 10,000 hours, as Malcolm Gladwell said in his book Outliers, which is based on a study by Anders Ericsson.

Book cover picture courtesy of Google

Book cover picture courtesy of Google

Doing something just over 416 days 24 hours of a day (I did the math) would certainly quantify as wanting something. Yet are you telling me that everyone who ever wanted something and achieved it put in that sort of time? I highly doubt it.  So, maybe effort, while significant, is just part of the equation.

It has often been said that Michael Jordan sees everything as a competition and wants to win every time. While that doesn’t sound like someone I would want to be around, maybe it takes that kind of intensity to succeed.  You have to want something and not let anything get in your way.  I’m certain that kind of singular focus could only enhance your potential to achieve what you want. Yet, I still question if that is enough. Have you ever seen commercials for American Idol? Potential contestants are left crying when they are told they are not going to Hollywood. Clearly, they desperately wanted to be part of (and win) the competition to be America’s next idol.

Jordan and his championship rings picture courtesy of Google

Jordan and his championship rings picture courtesy of Google

Can you want for someone else? I want so very badly for my boys, BR and SJ, to achieve great things, to be happy, to be decent and to live long, fulfilling and meaningful lives. I am sure I am not the only parent who wants such things for his/her children. Of course, some parents see this want go fulfilled and others do not.

Ultimately, I do not have the ‘answer’ to this. However, I would like to share some thoughts. First, it is important to be clear on what you want. Being wishy washy is okay for choosing your favorite ice cream flavor, but not achievement. Second, I think one must be willing to put in the time to achieve his/her want. Lastly, having some form of support — whether it is family, friends, mentors or colleagues — is imperative to help one deal with and overcome the inevitable bumps in the road.

Finally, I do believe that G-d does lead us in some form or fashion to where we want to go. One question you have to ask yourself if you have not attained something you want is: How bad do you want it?  Maybe, the answer is not bad enough.

36 thoughts on “What I Really Want

  1. Interesting post and all things I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. I also wonder if sometimes we lack success because we’re trying to achieve success in something that is not in G-d’s design for us.

  2. I also thought about this on Shabbat. My thought is that G-d helps you go in the direction that you want to go. He doesn’t guarantee that you’ll reach every goal. But you’ll be heading in that direction.

    • My wife and I talked about this idea as well – the non-guarantee that is. I suppose depending upon the want, that very well may be enough.

  3. I was commenting on a blog a while back whose writer’s basic message was that she didn’t have many noteworthy goals anymore. She just wanted a nice life. I sort of agree with that. I think I would like to just like to live life to the fullest. I’m not always sure how to accomplish that, but I try.

    So what are your goals, Larry, beyond playing for the Phillies?

    • But what is a nice life? And isn’t that a goal?
      Good question. It actually has been running through my mind as I think about all the writing I want to accomplish this summer and what I want to accomplish with that. I can give you a longer answer, but I will leave it at that.

      • But don’t they say that goals should be measurable? Mine seems a little more open-ended.

        I’ve been meaning to ask you, do you get the summers off?

        • I suppose they are. However, I did say a want. Also, if you really cared, you could come up with some sort of measurable. I am sure many studies have been done that calculate happiness and you could come up with your own. Not my thing, but whatever.

    • How long has your school year (home schooled -right?) been ended? You might have to start school up again or fast forward to vacation, or get them to camp.

  4. Nice post. I like reading about how you see how G-d is involved in your life, I am not religious myself, well not in the traditional way anyway, but I do find your views very interesting.

    • Thanks Elske. I don’t like to get to push my views. I am glad that someone like yourself can find this interesting even if you may not share my viewpoint.

  5. This is a great post, Larry. I personally believe, that if you want something, then you got to work into the “right direction”. To take over your analogy: If one likes to be next “America’s Idol” it doesn’t really make sense to prepare oneself by practicing baseball on the field (humming Britney Spears songs).
    Do I think that everyone can achieve everything they want? No, unfortunately not.
    Next to talent, which is in most cases necessary, there are things like “connections”, “co-incidence” – and often “jealousy” that are significant for either success or failure.
    It’s unfair in many cases, but hard to change. I could imagine, that the saying: “When you fall, Princess, pick up your crown, get up and go on walking.” – is true.
    Try and try again… even though sometimes this isn’t the very best advice, in particular when one bank robbery failed and ends you in prison… but I figure that’s another story…
    There are people trying the wrong thing for the entire life…
    Even though I have to admit – at least they try… if I can’t stand something than it is people sitting on their lazy butts telling the entire world how bad they are and how much bad luck they got and that life owes them something! AARRRGGHGHHH!!

    • I am glad you like it.
      I happen to agree very much with what you have said here. I especially am with you on the annoyance with people who don’t try and just complain.

  6. I feel good that I don’t have any goals that I haven’t reached, but, I must add the disclaimer that my goals change and sometimes frequently! What I wanted and where I thought I wanted my life to go even just 10 years ago are totally different today. My friends and I all joke – especially since several of us are planners – we plan everything – and the quickest way to make God laugh is to plan our lives. The moment I plan what I want – and it’s not the direction He wants me to go – He is very clear about letting me know!

    • I hear you about the changing goals. Not that you asked, but I think that is okay and normal. Maybe, I think that beacause I am in the same boat. Anyway, I believe that as we get older, we view life differently via our growing experiences and therefore, it is only nathural that our needs, desires, wants, etc. change.
      It’s good that you can get clarity on your goals. Sometimes, I feel like I muddle along.

    • Yes!
      One of my favorite compliments (well, I took it as a compliment was when a student said to me after discussing a particularly complex part of a book, “Mr. B – you make my head hurt.”

  7. This makes me think of Joshua when he was about to battle with Jericho and an angel with a sword appeared before him. He asked the angel “are you for me or my enemies” and the angel said “neither, but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.”

    This has been pointed out to me that it teaches instead of asking “is God on my side?”, you should be asking “Am I on God’s side?”

  8. I’d like to add my Evangelical Protestant two cents to today’s discussion…

    Our understanding of the Word is that when our hearts are fully set on honoring God with all we have and all we do, then we seek His way in all things. It often means that we have to let go of some of our own desires to find His.

    And with that attitude, we cannot fail. Even if we concentrate on one of the most basic commands–to love God and love others as ourselves–we will be successful. We might not play for the Phillies or date what’s-her-face, and instead we might have what some of the above comments referred to as “a nice life,” but that IS success if we’re seeking His way above all things.

    End of Evangelical sermon for Tuesday afternoon. 🙂

    • Thanks for putting that out there.
      If I understand you correctly, we need to have our wants in line with the wants G-d has for us. Is that accurate?

  9. Hi Larry,
    Interesting post from an interesting story in Scripture. I recently studied this exchange in the book of Numbers. As you said, Billam was a sorcerer, not a prophet of God. Balak hired Billam to curse Israel. Billam wanted to go for the paycheck. God allowed Billam to go, but he never allowed Billam to curse Israel. When Billam opened his mouth, he could only speak a blessing over God’s people.
    I was personally encouraged by God’s protection over his people whom he loves. When we live for him, Larry, nothing can touch us unless God allows it. He is my safe place.
    Thanks for sharing your perspective on this Scripture! Peggi

  10. Your post generated many, many thoughts for me on this topic. Thank you for bringing it up and leading the discussion so clearly. I agree with everything you said – have a vision, work toward that vision, let other people in to support that vision. The question that comes up for me most often is: Can I find enough joy in the process of writing – learning the craft, joining/supporting/being supported in a community of writers, putting words on paper – to make it a worthwhile pursuit or is it solely the outcome – publication, recognition, number of readers, money, fame, etc. – I’m after? I wish I could stay focused more on the process than the outcome, but I flip flop regularly. Great post!

    • I like to make people think – it’s a good thing for teacher.
      As you very well may suspect, I have similar issues when it comes to writing. Before I began blogging, I would go through phases with writing. When I was less happy with something in my life, I missed writing more. However, I would go long stretches and write little and be pretty much fine with that. The consistent writing I have done the last couple of years has changed that for me. I do find joy in the process. Yet, I don’t need to write to live – not all that dramatic. I also don’t always have the patience to get depth. I think blogging really appeals to where I am now. Or maybe, where I am now is because of blogging. Makes sense?
      Anyway, I’ll come out and say it – I want recognition. I don’t know how much I want/need or even why exactly, but I do love it. I know that may make me sound shallow but I would rather be frank here. I would like to understand what is enough for me.

  11. I love this line of thinking! I have the book Outliers and have even lent this out to friends who have thankfully returned it to me with the same thought process that I got out of it. All of those people had two things in common – the amount of time they put into something (so to all those youngsters who think they can be famous/rich overnight, it just doesn’t work that way!) and they were really in the right place at the right time. I think that’s where God or your higher power or whatever you want to call it comes into play. You get put into this places, meet these people to realize your dreams but its up to us to do something about it.

    • I also enjoyed the book as well as Gladwell’s others. It would be nice to see him put out another book by the way.
      I definitely believe it is a combination of elements. I like your point about how kids think can happen instantly – seems to be a though of many in this generation.

  12. Hi,
    This is an excellent article. Again, I see a side of you that is full of faith and that is refreshing. I too believe that God will leads us. The passage of scripture that you mention, I know very well. One of my favorites, and I must admit I have many favorites, is from Psalm 37 verses 4 and 5 and from Proverbs 16 and I believe it is verse 3 but I am not sure. In Proverbs 3 it says commit your thoughts unto the LORD and he will bring it to pass. That is of course my interpretation, but I have found out that whatever I commit with my heart, with the desire to achieve without stepping over someone or pushing someone else out of the way, usually comes to pass. I have also found out that the pie is big enough for me to share. That sometimes things do not come right away because I am simply not ready for them yet. I need to mature more and get my act together.

    Last, I love your three points because they are so true.

    As I said before, this is an excellent article and it inspired me to keep going.


    • I am glad you enjoyed this post.
      What about times when things don’t come even when you have seemingly checked off in your list? I am sure that is happened for you just as it happens for all of us. One of friends was saying G-d leads us but it never says he actually gets us there.

      • Hi,
        You’re so right in your assessment. There are and have been times when I have asked for something with total optimism thinking that God wanted me to go that way, or have that thing and it did not happen. There are even times when i have tried to make it happen and God in his humor and love has allowed me to achieve it, but after I have achieved or reached that goal, I have found it to be hollow, and it is or was something that I really didn’t want. I had let myself be persuaded from what I saw everyone else had or was doing.

        I believe God leads us there. He never leaves us in our wilderness experience unless we are so pigheaded and determined to have our way that He allows us to die in the wilderness because we refuse to see our own lack of wisdom in knowing what is good for us. In such cases, we refuse to trust God and have faith in Him.

        So slowly but surely,, I am learning that when somethings doesn’t happen there are several reasons for it. For example,

        1. I am not ready yet. That means there is more for me to learn. Things that I need to grow into. So is it with writing my book. I have a good story, some agents have told me, but the manuscript needs improvement. When I have learned what I need to learn to improve my manuscript and then implement those changes to make it better, I firmly believe that door will open and an agent will say, its time. Come, child, into my corner, you’ve got something worth publishing.

        2. Another reason is that you really don’t want what you think you want or you don’t need it. How many times have I bought something to see it lie unused or have won a contract for training in English and realized that was not what I wanted to to. I struggled through the contract and was glad when it was over.

        As I began to trust God and let Him open the doors then he opened the doors to what my heart desired and that was writing. I earn money from my writing every now and then. Sure it is not the world, and it is much less than I would earn training managers how to speak English and do presentations, but when I get up to write I have a much different feeling than when I get up to train someone in English. These are the times when I realize that God is saying No, you really don’t want that English training contract, and I have learned to listen and keep going.

        There are other reasons, but I don’t want to dominate your blog. But I did want to reply to your question before I began working on my manuscript because it was important to give you an answer.

        Have a great day and I sincerely hope the sun in shining in your part of the world. It is shining in mine and my characters are dying to talk to me and I am dying to see where they lead me.

        Shalom my friend,

        • I think the biblical character Bilaam would fit into the definition pigheaded and determined to have his way. He refused to trust God and have faith in Him.
          Sometimes, it is hard to know when to know we are to move on to something or work even harder.
          I am glad that the writing gives you such satisfaction and that you really appreciate it. One of the things I admire about you is the way you seem to embrace life and see the good in everything. Like with the writing, you are enjoying what you are getting out of it, even if it is not all that you wish for.

  13. This is very interesting! I really believe that Faith in G-d is a very important factor in making decisions and in Life, generally.

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