How One Memory Taught Me to Value Experiences, Not Things

February 1st, 2016 / Comments Off on How One Memory Taught Me to Value Experiences, Not Things

For my fifth birthday, my father took a few of my friends and me to a University of Miami football game (where he went to college), at the Orange Bowl. I loved it all: the stadium food, the excitement of the game and hanging out with my friends and my dad. I couldn’t wait for the next one. But there never was a next one as my dad passed away, unexpectedly, when I was six.

Still, watching sports continued to be a way to bring my family together. We couldn’t afford tickets to the pro games, but I always played sports and my family always came to cheer me on. (Sort of. My mom was also known to egg me on too. She once screamed from the stands, “Too bad you can’t hit as well as you throw, Webb!”) My siblings and I enjoyed watching games together and rooting for the same teams or vying when our teams competed. As I got older, I started to appreciate the chemistry of teams and was often reminded of life lessons in what I saw on the field. Even the best teams lost sometimes. Teams that were way behind were often able to sneak ahead.

Going to the Orange Bowl with my dad long remained one of my happiest and earliest memories, and became something I hoped to replicate with my family once I had children of my own. And as I progressed in my career, I started to have an opportunity to do so. We went to the Super Bowl as a perk at first. I took my wife, my brother, my kids. We loved it so much that we made it a tradition of our own.

This tradition led me to understand the value of sharing experiences together. As I became more successful, I began to focus on how I wanted to give back and found that providing experiences that bring people joy was something very powerful (and fun). There’s tons of research that backs up this idea — social scientists have found that over time people’s satisfaction with the things they bought went down, whereas their satisfaction with experiences they spent money on went up.

So now, instead of buying things for people, we aim to create experiences we can enjoy together. Periodically, we go to the Super Bowl and sometimes take guests and see it as an opportunity not only to cheer our teams and lament our losses together, but as a way to carve out time to connect and catch up. We also have season tickets to our home team, the San Francisco 49ers, and we share these with friends and family too, each week inviting different people to join us.

I love knowing that every Sunday, I’ll be seeing some of the people who are dearest to me and we’ll be sharing an event together. It’s a way to take time out of our busy lives and share a focus and stay close. For me, that sets the whole week off to the right start. But it’s even more than that. As I learned from the game with my dad, it’s a feeling that can last a lifetime.

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