At least 90% of the time when someone begins a sentence with “I want … ” I immediately decide to ignore everything else they are about to say.

Here are some things that everyone in the world wants (and much fewer have):

  • To be popular, charming and respected
  • To have plenty of money
  • To be intelligent
  • To own their own time
  • To be really physically fit, functionally and aesthetically
  • To be properly satisfied with their relationships / sex life

I don’t believe a single person in the world would honestly turn down a no-strings-attached, effort-free upgrade in any of those areas if you offered it to them.

Apologies, I’ve just spotted a typo in my previous assertion: these are things that most people in the world wish for, and a select minority want (and even fewer have).

Saying “I want … “ implies…

  • A desire strong enough that the expected reward outweighs the expected effort
  • The stated target is realistic (in the sense that it can certainly be achieved with enough application, irrespective of whether or not it’s a simple or easy outcome)

Under such conditions, people take consistent action, learn from their mistakes and eventually get what they want.

Saying “I wish … “ implies:

  • EITHER a desire not strong enough that the expected reward outweighs the expected effort, and thus a tacit acknowledgement that the only real obstruction is self-discipline (eg. “I’m fat, I wish I could lose weight”)
  • OR a fantastic aspiration that falls outside the “I want … “ category (eg. “I wish I could live forever”)

Too many people substitute the latter for the former, and brand themselves with my mental “Do not take seriously” sticker.  I’ll cut everyone in the first world some slack before age 16, as until that point most people are legitimately restricted by their parents, self-awareness, peers and society – but after that the clock starts ticking.  By age 21, first world citizens (no, this doesn’t apply to North Koreans, comment troll deflected) have had 5 years to get at least a couple of the things they “want”, but dismal few have even managed a single one.  By age 26, a whole decade of potential has been seized (or more likely, wasted) and by age 31 every first world citizen has had more than ample chance to complete the whole list.

Who makes up the less than 10% of people who don’t make me tune out after “I want… “?  For these people, I listen attentively and take mental notes.

  • Children under 16 (I agree with the saying “Adults only ask children what they want to be when they grow up because they’re looking for ideas”)
  • 16 – 21 year olds that demonstrably have at least 1-2 of the items on my 6 point list above
  • 21 – 26 year olds that have at least 2-3 items on my 6 point list
  • 26 + year olds with at least 4-5 items on my 6 point list
  • 31+ year olds with the whole list (the best ones do, and the rest of the switched on ones never shoot off about all the stuff they “want”)

It’s incredible if you pay attention how often people talk about what they “want”.  Even better it’s an incredibly effective way of filtering out potential friends and mentors from the mob.  Bait the topic of current aspirations with “You seem like a cool guy / girl that’s got it together, where do you see your life heading?” if needed.  I recommend this model as an initial framework for those who don’t already have a conscious list of what makes someone worth listening to.  Food for thought for those who do.  Assume slacker until proven achiever.

Read More:  You Are A Man Of Your Times