Is it better to do something than to have something?

Or is there a fine balance in between?

My therapist suggested I think about doing more activities, than having more stuff the other week.

Not in a “you should probably stop buying so much stuff from Amazon…” but more in a “why not think about experiences” instead.

And I agree.

Clicking “add to cart” when you’re down in a slump is easy, and it provides for a short-term fix only, an injection of happy, that “ooh, UPS just delivered” feeling we all love.

But it’s not for the long haul.

Doing, and therefore experiencing, whether with someone else, your family, friends, or alone, will build memories for a lifetime – regardless of what takes place. I associate very strong memories from my childhood with doing, and almost none with having.

When I was a kid, probably around 6 or 7, my dad introduced me to the ocean. I had taken swim lessons, sure, in a pool, and been around water my whole life having grown up on the west coast of Sweden.

But dad was a rescue diver in the Swedish Coast Guard, and had his own plans.

My sister Maria, me, and my dad on his boat in the Torekov harbor.

“It doesn’t matter how deep the ocean is if you can swim!” he shouted from the safety of our boat. I was treading water somewhere in Kattegat (a feeder body of water to the North Sea), and was beginning to panic.

“How deep is it?” I shouted from in between gulps of seawater, the cold taking its grip on my body, and with the slight fear that he’d make me swim home…

“It doesn’t matter.”

Then he hauled me back in the boat, handed me a towel, and gave me a warm hug. A childhood memory captured forever.

Later on, when I was in a Master’s program at Kent State, and we discussed the proper mindsets for learning, that memory came back.

“Fear,” I said, “can be an effective mindset, too, right?”

I started to remember my days at Fort Knox, in basic training for the military, where each day held a hefty dose of fear. Not fear for our lives (at least not every day…), but fear of falling out of line, of not meeting spec, of being late to formation. And we learned at a 100 MPH pace, and became very good, very quickly

A healthy dose of fear, like being thrown into the ocean by your dad, teaches you something. You learn very quickly what works, and what doesn’t, and you’ll remember the outcome forever.

“Um, no…?” said the instructor. “Fear is not one of them…”

I don’t know if I agree.

So what about having, then? Does that leave lifelong memories in its track?

Probably not.

Whether you have food on your table, and a safe space to sleep at night? Yes. But whether you have the latest fashion, the video game console, or something else is less important, perhaps.

I have no idea what toys I had when I was a kid. At least not the ones I didn’t make myself out of sticks and other materials. And yes, that’s a true statement…

That time I almost chopped my finger off with an axe? I’ll remember that forever, and I still have the scar to prove it.

Dad was the one who took me to the hospital after a bit of “it’ll probably stop bleeding in a bit…” and with a sly smile on his face. He knew. That kid will never make that mistake again…

Thanks, dad, for all the memories you gave me, and for continuing to inspire me 30 years later. Here’s to making some more, soon.