The time working for PSA (Pacific Southwest Airlines) in the 70’s was foundational in my journey of self-discovery because the environment was that of a “human smorgasboard”. I was based at Oakland International Airport and met thousands of diverse and interesting people every week. Met some stupid ones, as well:
“What do you mean, the flight has been delayed indefinately??”
“Did you notice the fog this morning as you were driving to the airport?”
“Well, yes I did, but can’t you guys take off with instruments or something?”
“We actually use instruments in all our take-offs, but would you feel comfortable if we blind-folded our pilot just before the plane hurtles down the runway at 150 MPH with you onboard?”
“OK, ok, well I have a meeting in LA at 10 a.m. Am I going to make it to that meeting? When will the plane take off?”
“We’ll take off just as soon as the fog clears and it’s safe to do so.”
“Well when will that be? Can you give me some idea so I can tell the LA office when I’ll be there?”
With exasperation, “Just a moment and I’ll make a call…. Hello God, this is Liz again. Yeah, we have another passenger who wants to know when you’re going to lift the fog here in Oakland….. 9:30? Great, thanks!”
“God says you’ll be there by 11.”
I left the airline business 4 1/2 years into it. Before doing so, I hobnobbed with professional athletes, their owners, entertainment personalities, business magnates and politicians. I traveled internationally with some of these friends and socialized regularlly with them and their families. I was not enamoured by celebrity and felt comfortable running in these circles and maintained these friendships for many years. When I left the airline business and started my advertising & printing company, Designed Communications, some of my friends became good clients, as well as friends. I noticed disconcerting changes in myself which served as warnings to me, to adjust my thinking and which became valuable life lessons, as follows:
1. As one developes more expensive tastes in food, travel, clothing and material things in general, one’s capacity for happiness and satisfaction diminishes. I noticed that I didn’t enjoy a fine meal, unless it was at the best table in the trendiest restaurant, having arrived by limo, with a curious and admiring audience. Huh?
2. Wealthy famous people are insecure in their relationships because they often wonder if they are loved because of their wealth and fame, rather than who they are as regular people. Most fear aging above all else.
3. If one’s wealth and fame resulted from positive media attention, one can be disgraced by that same media attention and all can be lost overnight. Terrifying prospect to the untalented.
4. Money is nothing more than a tool to be used to fund a life with meaning.
5. People matter more than things.
6. You aren’t your car. Finally accepted that when I had to drive a minivan.
7. Things are not adequate substitutions for time spent together.
8. When considering problems, I always ask myself whether $100,000 would solve them. If it’s about money, I can relax. If money won’t fix it, ie; disease, insanity, lonliness, death, betrayal, etc., then it’s a real problem and I had better ascend to a spiritual level in dealing with it.
9. At times, one may allow the purchase of one’s companionship. I spent a weekend in Chicago with Charley O. Finely, owner of the Oakland A’s when I was 25 yrs old. He was in his 70’s and offered me a job in his large insurance company and wanted me to come to Chicago to check it out. His home in Lakepoint Towers was decorated in the Oakland A’s colors – Bright yellow and bright green – with several of his World Series trophies as focal points. He was articulate, brilliant, arrogant, suffered a “short man’s” complex, was extremely generous, hated some of his players, was respectful to me and liked having me accompany him in public. I was at least 8 inches taller than he which made easy work of glueing on his toupee – a one-time experience. I declined the job in Chicago along with his invitation to be his paid companion (no sex involved!) and went back to California to re-evaluate my focus on obtaining money and power.
10. Realized that real power has to do with governing one’s own appetite, one’s own responses, one’s own expectations and one’s own passion.
Big lessons learned that saved me a life time of chasing the wrong things.