Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Finding Willoughby

In one of his signature "Twilight Zone" episodes, writer Rod Serling gave us a glimpse of Willoughby, a small Ohio town where a man could slow down and "live life its full measure". In the story, Dan Daly plays Gart Williams, a harried advertising executive who struggles daily with the battles of the cutthroat Madison Avenue ad business, but all the while longing for a Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn existence.

I believe we are all Gart Williams. We all want the same things… love, peace, security, a family, Sunday Frisbee tournaments with the kids at the park or the beach. But we don't do that, do we?

Instead, we join the vast buffalo herd and stampede ahead, never really sure where we're going or when we're going to get there. And never being really sure just where "There" is.

It’s a uniquely American phenomenon, this herd behavior. And in many cases, maybe we’re not buffaloes. Perhaps lemmings would be a better comparison. After all, aren’t they the ones who are notorious for running off cliffs? I’ve been to Scotland, England, Thailand, Mexico, and my favorite place, my Willoughby, is the little village of Strahan on the west coast of Tasmania in Australia. The people there seem to have it figured out. They work, of course. But they work to live. Nobody lives to work. And everyday they go about their business, the business of living. We Americans, we can-do types, scoff at the Aussies and the Europeans because they really don’t “have any ambition”. But the sad truth is, we’re the ones that aren’t getting it. If you don’t believe me, just look at the stats on anti-anxiety drug sales in America, the divorce rate, the number of troubled kids.

If you’ve been struggling to “get ahead”, stop and consider if “ahead’ is where you really want to be. Look at your boss, your supervisor, your manager. Do they really look happy? Probably not. They’re saddled with a job that demands too much of their time, energy and integrity. And because they bought into that philosophy, they can’t really understand why anyone else would choose not to. They started out just like you, though….wanting more. Do you really need that promotion? Will working more hours for what will ultimately be less pay and less time with your loved ones really make you happy?

Of course, you don’t have to travel the world to find Willoughby. It’s right there. Right where you are now. All you have to do is stop running around trying to get more so you can enjoy life, when all you really need to do is enjoy life more.


  1. Your post here is a reminder to me of a lesson I am in fact still learning. I look at Sam often in positive amazement. He runs around literally all day with his hair on fire but carries no worry. No worry about how many cars he didn't get, no worry about what's for dinner, no worry that much needed tasks need to be completed. His belief is that life is too short to worry. When things seem to be on a down slope, he is faithful in knowing that it will change, so why worry? He takes life one breath at a time, this is to say he enjoys life to the fullest. So when I am frustrated, stressed out, worrying about all that I need to do and haven't got done, I look at Sam and just take a deep breath and a cooling down effect takes hold. It is with that breath, I realize I may be missing out on the big picture.

  2. Sounds like Sam is wise in the ways of Willoughby

  3. Well put sir.

    Sometimes I'm amazed that I got employee of the year compared to some others...I mean...I never took the computer home and turned it on to do work where many others work through weekends to meet deadlines. But at the end of the day, I was able to get more done because I recognized one thing: Work is work, it will always be there and its not going to move or change that much. But your personal life, with your family and friends, that cannot be controlled by anything but fate.
    Maybe it took the largest disaster in US history to get me to realize that 'things will never be that bad', but I'd like to think I'm always learning what's important. Bottom line, its the things you DON'T get paid for that mean the most in life.

  4. Very true, Richard. When you've seen the worst everything else gains the proper perspective. It's the things we give freely (to friends, family or total strangers) that are ultimately worth the most, because they truly are priceless.