Ask Yourself This: What Burdens Is That Other Person Carrying?

Carl Richards Behavior Gap Other People's Burdens

I was in the airport when I found out that the mother of one of my best friends had just died quite suddenly. She was at dinner with a friend, felt sick, and was dead within a few hours.

I learned this through a message from my mom, who heard about it on the local news.

I called my friend. Imagine this scene for a second: There I am in Terminal 2 of the San Diego airport, calling someone whose mother had just died.

He answered. He was crushed. We cried.

His mom was one of the few people who always saw past my stupid behavior in high school. She always loved and accepted me, despite my being quite unlovable at the time. She gently influenced me to be better by not trying to influence me at all.

She was amazing.

My friend knew that better than anyone. He told me about her last moments in the hospital. He told me about begging the doctor to do more.

Life. Is. Heavy. And then I boarded a plane.

I thought about everyone else on the plane. I wondered if the airline employee scanning my boarding pass could see that I had been crying. Were my eyes red? Swollen? I wondered if there would be room for my bag in the overhead bin. If the person next to me would be nice.

In that moment, I couldn’t help but think about how odd the situation felt. All around me were strangers. I knew no one. And as far as I knew, no one had any idea what I was dealing with.

I thought about the airline employee who had just checked my boarding pass, the man sitting next to me, the woman across the aisle. Did they have a sick child or a friend in the hospital? Were they on that plane in a race against time? What about the person who had been yelling at the gate agent or, for that matter, those who were yelling on Twitter while I checked it standing in line?

As I turned away and stared at the Pacific Ocean through the little window from my seat on the plane, I was left with a bunch of grief and two big questions.

What burdens are all the people on this plane carrying? And how would I treat them differently if I knew? 


This column, titled Ask Yourself This: What Burdens Is That Other Person Carrying?, originally appeared in The New York Times on July 2, 2018.

Did you like this article? Join the thousands of readers of my Weekly Letter. There’s no spam, I never share your information, and it’s free.

Greetings!

Will you try something for me real quick?

Make a mental list of the things you REALLY want to be spending your money on. You know, things you value deeply. My list includes security, time with my family, and service in my community.

Now, gently compare that list to the way you ACTUALLY spend your money.

If you’re human, that exercise probably hurt a little bit because there is almost always a gap between what we value and how we spend our money.

I’ve been exploring that gap for 20 years, and closing it is the focus of my work.

“Carl gets the relationship between money and feelings better
than anyone on the planet.”
– Ron Lieber, New York Times

If that sounds interesting to you… you’ve come to the right place.

I've spent years looking for the best way to share my work. I’ve tried Twitter, Facebook Groups, blogging with comments, courier pigeons… everything. I've come to realize that nothing beats a well-crafted letter delivered to your inbox once a week and your ability to hit reply and start a conversation.

So each week I send a short email discussing topics like money, creativity, and happiness along with a simple sketch. And if I get it right, it will take you less than two minutes to read, but you'll be thinking about it all day.

"I love Carl's hand-drawn sketches. They feel so personal and immediate… like he couldn't wait to scrawl down whatever insight had just popped into that lightning-fast brain of his…"

– Kara Cutruzzula, Brass Ring Daily

So join the thousands of readers of my Weekly Letter. There’s no spam, I never share your information, and it’s free.