There’s an essence of life that I think is completely underrated. It’s not the overtly known facts nor the general statistics, but rather the essential matters. It’s sort of like the difference between quantitative and qualitative research; the quant can give you some incredible statistics and proof of reliability, viability, and perhaps generalizability, but when it comes to essential matters the qual data can add a richness that extrapolates our past to our futures and somehow grabs ahold of present reality and creates tangible purpose in living.
This idea of essential matters was not evoked from research methods, but rather from the 1943 novella by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry entitled The Little Prince. He states:
“When you tell grown-ups that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters [italicizes added]. They never say to you, ‘What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?’ Instead, they demand: ‘How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?’ Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.”
Instead the author argues through this children’s book that “matters of consequence” are all that is important for those in the adult world. So what does this mean for our world? What does this imply for those of us in business, in service, in life in general? I would argue that it’s critical for matters of the heart; for matters that are so raw in the elements of our humanity that we’ve forgotten what they really mean or feel like. Children are beautiful in that they think, act, speak, and respond based on essential matters – on things that draw them closer to elements of comfort, joy, and peace, and then develop barriers between themselves and elements that hurt, criticize, or destroy their wellbeing.
As adults, what are our “essential matters?” Have we remembered that life is more than just a matter of consequence and rather one also of essential matters? The fox in The Little Prince says, “One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” Do you remember what it’s like to view the world through the eyes of your heart versus just those of your eyes? And I’m not talking about foregoing the balance sheet and jumping off cliffs to save the world at the expense of basic necessities; I’m merely challenging us to open our eyes and truly see, to open our hearts and truly feel, to open our minds and actually think: what’s important now, and what parts of now truly matter for the long haul?