‘If I had asked people what they wanted they would have said faster horses’ – Oh Henry Ford, how wrong you are.
You should never ever speak on behalf of someone you don’t know (much less, everyone as a whole, lumping us all in together). Rule 1 of human decency. Yet plenty of people do it. Arrogant people who think they know better than the individual. Poor little consumers, they have no idea what they want. Luckily, clever Henry Ford was there to choose for them. And gave them the faster metallic horses that they so desperately wanted.
But if he had asked what would have been the true answer?
We will never know. The answer from that time is lost. Forever. Because he never bothered to make the effort. After all, he didn’t have Twitter. Perhaps he would have investigated further if he had. But I doubt it. What a cliché – it somehow seems so typical that a hotshot business man would assume everyone wanted what he was providing.
As a blogger with a sizable audience, I thought I would take advantage of the opportunity to discover the inner wishes of a bunch of strangers. I popped on to my Instagram. I opened the Story feature. I added a Question Box. I asked 11,000 people what they wanted. And received a grand total of 0 responses.
Immediately I panicked. Should I just make something up? Love, health, house, career all sound very plausible and I am sure I could string it out for a few hundred words. But no. That was defeating the whole point of this piece. That would make me as bad as Henry Ford.
Perhaps they didn’t understand the question. ‘What do you want’ can be a little aggressive out of context. Or perhaps they didn’t think I would understand the answer.
Perhaps everyone thought that someone else would answer and their own didn’t matter. Especially if what they wanted does not involve the stereotypical 9-5 job, marriage, children, suburban home, existence that will further society (either on the economy side of life or the breeding side of life). Dreams, needs, desires are all shoved to the bottom. Smothered. They are the afterthought. If they survive at all. Life comes first.
Perhaps they didn’t know what they wanted. They forgot. Or they haven’t yet worked it out. Because no one, not their parents, not their teachers, not their friends, not their acquaintances, not Henry Ford, ever asks. When was the last time someone sat down, looked at you and enquired – what do you want out of life? When did you ask yourself?
Perhaps their answer was too personal. If no one asks what they want, they hide it away in the base of their heart, so deep it becomes a part of the lining that they can’t then bring to the surface. Not even to explore the possibility of achieving it. So they certainly can’t blurt it out to a stranger.
Perhaps they were simply too busy to respond. Lives are hectic now. And we have very fast horses these days which propel us from bed to work to gym to pub to bed with a smattering of social media induced self-loathing sprinkled on top. We rush around so fast we can barely breathe. We charge through the weekdays, wishing away the hours until we arrive, panting and drained, at the weekend and spend the entirety of it summoning up the energy to get us through the next week. And the next. And the next. Until holiday or breakdown (whichever comes first). Remember life is a marathon not a sprint. I didn’t realise it was a warning when my teachers told me that.
Are our horses too fast now? I would say so. If anyone asked me what I wanted (they haven’t, but this is my blogpost so I am going to tell you anyway) I would answer – to get off the horse completely. I want to walk. I want to look at the sky, the clouds, the sun, the buildings, the people. I want to see life. Not as a blur, rushing past. I want to examine it in the finest detail (this is more difficult for me than most, my eyesight is terrible). I want to view the beautiful that is nestled within the ordinary. I want to catch my breath. I want to glow. I want to live. And none of that can be achieved straddling the horse, urging it to go faster.
This was exquisite writing! I found myself frantically nodding along to every point you made here, and that final paragraph was so sublime I had to read it through three times. Going back for one more read after posting this!
Love this article and it’s so true!!