When Halfway Equals Making Progress

My daughter called for advice on how to complete paperwork for her new job.

“What percentage do you think I should put away into the 401K past the match?”

She’s twenty-five and single. But to me, she still bangs around in my heart as a 10-year old princess asking me to save her from imaginary dragons. But today she’s a young adult with enough instinct to know she should never pass up an opportunity to prepare for her future.

I suggest an aggressive rate; my wife suggested a more balanced number. In the end, what matters is our daughter understands the need to be prepared for her future – much like and elevator I rode last week.

Being prepared is a lesson we generally learn the hard way. From children’s fables – the grasshopper and the ant – to a financial advisor reviewing your retirement plan, we should always be preparing for the next step. Both illustrate you can’t make up for lost time. Work must go in long in advance if you ever wish to arrive at a destination with any level of confidence.

Which brings me back to a lesson I learned from an elevator.

Stepping into the brass-trimmed cabin, my hands held a scone in one hand and hot tea in the other. I’d forgotten the elevator required a keycard for access to rooms above the third level. My room was, unfortunately, on the thirteenth floor. Hands full, I mentally fumbled what to do next.

And then the elevator began moving.

Figuring some divine elevator karma stepped in and would help get to my floor, I decided not to put my drink on the floor and go searching through my pockets for my keycard. Instead, I figured I would go along for the unprompted ride and see where I would end up.

Honestly, I assumed someone above was calling the elevator up to their floor. I figured the elevator would rise, stop at a specific level, and guests climb aboard would push button. From that point, I just thought I could then press my floor’s button and be on my way.

But that did not happen. Instead, I watched the red numbers count off until the 7th floor, where the elevator paused. The doors did not open; people did not get on and whisk me away. I was in the same situation – only now on the 7th floor.

And then I figured it out – the elevator defaulted to the 7th floor, roughly half-way up the tower. Doing this allowed the elevator to reach a requesting party on any level in about the same travel time. And doing so would drive better customer satisfaction. And yes, according to what I read afterward, fancy algorithms drive this piece of science.

My daughter knows she needs to be prepared – much like the elevator. She also knows sitting on the ground floor and not preparing for what is next will make her hopes of reaching her goals more difficult.


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