I often cite a particular Ernie and Bert skit as one of my favourite examples of Art Imitating Life. I’ve wanted to write about it for a while – but I’ve found it tough figuring out how to approach it. If I’m not careful it will look like I’m suggesting that people can be ungrateful for what they receive – but that’s not what I see as the nugget in the discussion between these two Sesame Street icons. It’s more about the importance of knowing what it is that you want so as to avoid a sense of entitlement that you deserve everything that is available.
In the skit, Ernie has two pieces of pie. He’s going to give one to Bert, but first, he takes one for himself. The two pieces aren’t the same size, one is much bigger than the other and Ernie takes the bigger one. Bert is surprised by this and suggests that Ernie has made a selfish decision. The reason he provides for why he thinks so gets right to the heart of dangerous side of a blind pursuit of more.
I believe in more. I talk and write about it a lot. I firmly believe that in the presence of an ambition to achieve something there is always more that I can try, learn and do. The pursuit of more can be limitless. But it gets tricky if you try to apply this philosophy of more to things that you want to get (versus want to do,) and trickier still if you don’t know exactly what you want or why you want it.
Knowing what you want is the best way to be happy when you get it. Knowing why you want it provides you with some perspective when you achieve it and—as importantly—in case you don’t. It is the why you want something that helps you reassess, realign and if you choose – try again. I’ve seen people get frustrated by their sport, business or even social careers because they know that they want something but they don’t exactly know what or why. This is where entitlement seeps in; a sense of deserving something simply ‘because’. It’s sad to see and not fun for anyone.
In the skit, after Ernie takes the big piece and leaves the smaller piece for Bert, Bert suggests that Ernie has taken the wrong one. “Why is that Bert?” Ernie asks, “Which piece would you have taken?” Bert replies that if he had two pieces, a big piece and a little piece, that he would take the little piece for himself and give away the big piece. “But Bert,” Ernie points out, “You GOT the little piece. You GOT the one you wanted.”
I love it. The logic is perfect. Bert got exactly what he wanted. If you find yourself blindly wanting more simply for the sake of more – you will probably also realize that you are unclear on what your goals truly are or why the path /pursuit that you’re on is important to you.
Yes – I know there is some commentary here on being hospitable and that good manners might suggest always providing the more desirable objects to others, but in the end… if you get given what you would have given yourself and you can recognize it, then that’s the key to staying positive and happy as you pursue your ambitions. The pursuit of more is not always fair, but it’s real and it should be fun, and it’s even better when it’s funny.
<a clip of the skit should show here>