Jun-seo’s father loved fine automobiles. He always drove nice cars himself, and went to all the high-performance car shows — a real car aficionado. So Jun-seo grew up with a taste for fine cars himself. Having his own fancy sports car someday was a goal he set for himself at a young age.
But buying nice cars is expensive, so he knew he needed to earn a lot of money. So, at sixteen he started working as an amateur DJ creating custom mix tapes. This was before the days of digital music or Spotify when anyone could do that themselves.
After a couple of years doing that, he started importing hi-fi stereo equipment from Germany and then selling it in France, where the demand was higher. That required a lot of time and travel. But he was making good money.
All that work, however, took away time that he could have spent with his friends. But it was worth it to him at the time because he really wanted that nice car like his dad. Plus, Jun-seo found he liked having money. He even described himself as becoming somewhat materialistic at the time. So his focus continued to be on earning money.
Over the next several years, Jun-seo saved up enough to buy the car of his dreams. It was a red 1990 Mazda Miata, first edition—the hardtop version, loaded with options. “It was beautiful,” he told me. He bought it used with only 36,000 miles for about 11,000 euros. He was proud to drive it and even prouder to have someone ride in it with him.
And that’s exactly what he was doing one day, about three months after he bought it. It was January, and the streets were slippery. He admitted, “I’d never replaced the original tires. And I was driving a bit crazy, really trying to show off the car and what it could do. I remember taking a fast corner and the nice controlled skid turned into an uncontrollable spin. The car spun around completely once before hitting the curb and flipping upside-down, sliding to a stop on the roof.”
Miraculously, Jun-seo and his friend walked away from the crash without any serious injuries. But the car was totaled. “I didn’t have insurance at the time, so I had to sell the car. I think I got about 2,000 euros for it.” So he had lost 9,000 euros that he’d been saving up for seven years, just to drive his fancy red sports car for three months.
Looking back, Jun-seo learned several lessons from that experience. Of course, he should have replaced the worn-out tires. And he shouldn’t have driven it so fast and out of control. More important, however, was this:
I think I should have never set such a shallow and materialistic goal in the first place.”
Today he believes that ended up costing much more than money. “I think it cost me friendships as well.” In hindsight, he knows he had good friends before the age of sixteen, before he had any of that money. And he’s had many strong friendships again after the age of twenty-three, when he wrecked his car. But in between?
“I lost a lot of the friends I had. And I was too much of a materialistic show-off focused on earning money for the car to make any new friends. I was a really different person during that time. In fact, a girlfriend I had in college told me, ‘If I had known you at that point in your life, you wouldn’t be with me now.’”
It’s ironic really. A lot of people want to have fancy cars because they think it’ll attract friends. But at least in Jun-seo’s case, it seems to have done the opposite.
As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.
- Would you like to have a fancy car someday? If not, what other expensive thing would you like to have that could take years to save up and pay for?
- What would you need to do to take care of that thing so that you don’t lose it quickly like Jun-seo did?
- Why do you think his obsession with the car and the money to get it cost Jun-seo so many friendships?
- What kinds of things do you think it is important to buy of the finest quality? And what kinds of things are cheaper options okay for?
Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.
Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a Story, Parenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.
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