While Alexei Orlov was working and living in China, he was fortunate enough to meet many fine people, and many of them came with lovely stories and anecdotes. Like most people around the world, the Chinese certainly enjoy their fables and wisdom. In China, Orlov was told a tale by an ancient Chinese storyteller. The story dealt with the difference between how a Chinese mother would reason with a son who would not eat his carrots versus a western mother and how she would handle her son in the same situation.
Alexei Orlov and the Chinese Proverb
The storyteller told Orlov that it is believed that the western mother would ask her son questions to coax him into eating the carrots. She would ask pointed questions like didn’t he want to be the strongest in the class or didn’t he want to grow big enough to play on the football team. If the son still didn’t eat his carrots, his mother might comment that the girl he liked and wanted to ask to the dance would choose someone else, a more muscular boy who, perhaps, ate all of his carrots. The western mother would use anything she could think of that her son might want or, at least, not want taken away to make the boy eat the carrots.
On the other hand, a Chinese mother would tell her son that he must eat his carrots because of the poor farmer who worked long hours in his field every day, whether it was raining, snowing, or so hot he might melt. The farmer worked hard to make sure the carrots grew sweet and delicious. The Chinese mother would say that the farmer depended on the young boy and all young boys to eat their carrots to continue to make the little money he did. With that money, he could continue farming the fields and making more food for the boy to eat. The mother would tell her son how much the farmer needed him, how his family needed him, and that he should understand how important he is to the farmer. The Chinese mother is appealing to her son using the ‘need’ of the farmer to push her son to eat the carrots.
The Psychology of ‘Want’
According to Alexei Orlov, the storyteller’s tale is the perfect example of the difference between want and need.
Want is a desire, a desire for anything. Intriguingly, as a noun, the very same word could mean ‘lack of something’ or ‘deficiency’. Alexei Orlov believes that this psychology is straightforward. The fundamental reason we always want more, especially in today’s day and age, is that we already have too much choice.
Alexei Orlov continued to explain how this idea ties to both life in general and the life of business. In both of these circumstances, humans are ruled purely by impulse and share an unrelenting desire to be the best or at the top of the heap compared to their neighbors, colleagues, or friends. Alexei Orlov pointed out that, though at different stations in life or on different levels, the commoner has an innate want to gather more things than necessary. If we saw ourselves from an outside perspective, we could attest that we rarely ever ‘need’ the things we desire as much as we say we do.
Yet, humans need to measure themselves against others because we assume that society is doing the very same measuring to us. Our status, wealth, even our job title are all a part of this human-created, self-obsessed ranking system we use along with other categories we create, all of which are as frail and breakable as they are fleeting.
From Alexei Orlov’s practical experience and observation, the amount people want is usually directly correlated with the size of their unhappiness.
Do you remember that Notorious B.I.G./Puff Daddy song from the ‘90s called Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems? In the chorus of the 1997 hit, they sang, “The more money we come across, the more problems we see.” The same is said for the man who wants more. He always endures more hardship for it. And the unhappiness compounds when he has to wait for that ‘want’ to arrive, or, much worse, if he desires that which he can never have.
Eventually, Alexei Orlov concluded that ‘want’ is fragile, often without a factual foundation, yet compelling. He defined ‘want’ as a mighty currency and added that it has made fortunes and shall continue doing so.
What is ‘Need’?
Alexei Orlov then turned to speak of ‘need’ or the Chinese mother in the storyteller’s tale. He elevated Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the correlation between needs and motivations; basic, psychological, and lastly, self-fulfillment. However, Orlov expressed that he was unsure that Maslow’s thesis could hold up in our quickly evolving world, but he likes it as a reference point for ‘need.’
From Alexei Orlov’s perspective, ‘need’ is about self-determination, the things that matter to our progression in life. Actual ‘need’ matters and brings a different focus and entirely different dimension on how everyone behaves and the reward.
Alexei Orlov added that, in perfect moments, everyone is true to themselves and knows what they need to enhance their lives and contribute to society. No matter our role, when we know the things we need and get them, there is positivity and a forward progression in a person even in the most trying and difficult times. And as they reach their goals, the satisfaction they get makes them happier than anything they would have attained from a fleeting moment of ‘want.’
Alexei Orlov Sums it Up
According to Alexei Orlov, ‘just as a tree needs light, soil, minerals, and water, so too do people have absolute needs that can and should give anyone a true sense of self if understood, carefully gathered, and utilized.
Finding, holding, and sharing what matters will enrich and serve everyone well, but it starts with the fundamental truth about the difference between want and need.
About Alexei Orlov
With experience spanning 30 years, 40 countries, and 50 brands, Alexei Orlov has made life his business and business his life as a seasoned leader in Global Marketing. Alexei’s passionate and dynamic leadership has been a driving force throughout his career, a proven specialist in global brand strategy, marketing deployment, and operational change management.
Alexei Orlov is the Founder and Global CEO of MTM choice, a boutique network of skilled practitioners specializing in high-precision brand activation and media optimization. Bolstered by market-enabling technologies, mtm agencies seek to help brands excel at the “moments that matter” for their customers and consumers.