Health, Wealth, or Something “Elth”?

Remembering back to when I was kid (that’s way back!), the local Chinese American restaurant might offer special “family” combinations leading to the iconic phrase “Choice of one from Column A and two from Column B” and its variables. Those restaurant menus used to have long columns of dishes (Column A, Column B, etc.) and whenever you were ordering food family style, it was a pretty cool way for each member of the family to get their own special choices. And even better, it was usually specially priced because you were getting multiple items at once for the big meal.

If life were like a Chinese menu, with choices from column A and column B, what would you select? Are you working in real life to obtain these life choices?

Column A or Column B?

One could choose one item from Column A, two items from Column B, and so forth and this method became so familiar that choices from “Column A” and “Column B” in anything (business, mathematics, whatever) often were called a “Chinese menu” in the slang of the time. The “Column A, Column B” sorta became a joke around the country back then.

Sometimes we haven’t been so nice to immigrants such as the Chinese, making fun of this and other things like saying something confusing was like a “Chinese fire drill”. These kinds of remarks date back to the first Chinese immigrants arriving here in the U.S. before the turn of the last century. But, I got to thinking today, those Chinese certainly had some kind of great idea in choosing from Columns A and B. Wouldn’t it be outrageous if life was like that! All you’d have to do is to pick from certain columns and choose exactly what you wanted out of life. I mean, what would you pick…health, wealth or something “elth”?

A Myriad of Life Choices

If I held a focus group (yeah like I would ever really do that!), I am certain I would get a laundry list of peoples wants, needs, desires, cravings, etc. from amazing to WTF? We all are basically a little different, but having said that there would be some things on that list of things that an awful lot of people might choose.

I’m thinking of such things as money, fame, and perhaps fostering world peace (at least for some of those who seek to be the next Miss America). So, here are some of the choices that might show up on that list. Are any of them on yours?

Column A Column B
Healthy children Freedom
Fall in love Good luck
Be a movie star Be a sports star
Own a fancy car Own a business
Be happy Be healthy
Die peacefully Lose weight
Quit smoking Have a lot of money
Travel the world Have more free time
Be popular Have a better sex life
Live to my full potential Stop worrying

I think you can see the possibilities here.

What to Do About It

Since there isn’t a Chinese menu available right now that can offer you what you really want out of your life (unless it happens to be thin crispy skinned Peking Duck served with pancakes, sweet bean sauce and mashed garlic!), you will have to go about things in a slightly different way.

Think about the kinds of things in life that are most satisfying and rewarding to you, and then break those things down into specifics. For example, maybe being able to provide well for your loved ones is something you find extremely satisfying and fulfilling. Build on that by asking yourself what it is exactly that you want to provide. Do you want to send your kids to a private school? Make enough money so your spouse doesn’t have to work and can retire early? Treat the grandkids to a week at Disney World? Provide live-in care for an aging parent?

Once you solidify that idea of what it is you want, work backwards. Think about what it’ll take to get it. Then think about the kind of time and effort you’re able to invest in pursuit of that goal. Next, get working on it!

It won’t help at all to just keep “wishin’ and hopin’ and singin’ and prayin’” a la Dusty Springfield (yes, another great hit from the 1960’s).

Can You Have It All?

There are trade-offs in life for sure; everyone has them no matter who they may be. Some people are willing to cross a line, hell all the lines, to get what they really want. I am in no way recommending that kind of action here.

Let’s be clear and honest though. Unless you’re Superman, you’ll have to pick and choose, some from Column A and some from Column B.

You will make some compromises along the way to getting all the things in life that you really want and/or need. There is nothing wrong with doing that. There are no magic pills out there that will just hand over to you all your desires. It’s going to require some work and thought and sacrifices and, well, lots of effort!

Final Thoughts

After you have done all the prioritizing of life choices and considered what kind of compromises you’d have to make you will be able to pursue that goal, you are set for action. If you do it right, you may have helped re-invent the Chinese menu!

Do you sometimes drift to thoughts about your life and its trials and tribulations? Do you have questions or doubts about decisions you make and “wish” you could have that “thing” that you have always wanted? Are you hoping that your deepest wish will someday be granted or are you actually doing something to make that wish happen?


  1. Interesting take on the topic Gary. I wish life was as easy as a checklist. 🙂 I try not to waste time dwelling on the past, not much I can do about it now, other than learn from it. I’d rather focus my time and energy on my present and future. Making improvements as I go.

  2. Very interesting post Gary. I agree that there are trade-offs in life. But people should also realize they can do choose for trade offs on their least priority in order to increase their highest priority goals. I think we have freedom in choosing where the trade-offs are, most of the time.

    1. If you happen to be a good negotiator in life, trading the less important for the more important certainly would work really well. I don’t know of anyone who gets everything they want in life. I guess the real trick is to make what you get in life valued, and not to always be looking for a better deal. Thanks so much for your comments.

  3. Jack

    I like the analogy. Life is about choices, especially choices made with imperfect information.

    Personally, I’m a big fan of the 7 Habits approach – big rocks & pebbles. Make room for the big rocks intentionally, and let the pebbles fill up the time left over. I’m sure there a video somewhere about it.

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