Ten years ago I needed to buy a new office chair. I had plenty of free time back then and soon fell into full geek mode in search of all the viable options. I pored over websites and brochures and immersed myself in a world that I'd previously known almost nothing about. After weeks of consideration I cut my short list down to two models: the Herman Miller Aeron chair and the Humanscale Freedom chair. Both of these are considered some of the finest office chairs ever built, and depending upon how you spec them out (the level of customisation when ordering a new one rivals the experience of buying a brand new car) you can expect to pay around £1000.
Ten years ago when I was conducting this research I had no right to even consider purchasing a £1000 chair. I earned a lower lower income than I do today, and frankly was punching well above my weight to even consider it. Throughout all of the research, however, I'd read so much about how fantastic these two chairs were, that anything else would have been a disappointment. While the Herman Miller seemed like the fan favourite online the Freedom chair was more to my taste, so I was over the moon shortly after to discover an office reclamation company selling high quality used models for £275 each. Knowing that I needed a new office chair my parents had already given me a birthday gift of £200 cash toward whichever chair I wanted, so purchasing through this office reclamation company meant that I managed to own one of the worlds finest office chairs for an out-of-pocket expense to myself of only £75. I now owned a fantastic chair, but I hadn't earned it.
Fast forward to today, ten years later, and that Humanscale Freedom chair has had a heck of a lot of use and is showing its age. In fact, it's completely broken and ready to be dumped tomorrow morning. This afternoon I went out to buy a replacement. I earn a higher level of income now than I did ten years ago, but I also have two kids now and a mortgage to pay for, so my disposable income is effectively less. Even if I were given another £200 gift today I wouldn't be able to justify spending it on an office chair while there are so many more important things to pay for. Remembering that we had a £40 Ikea voucher kicking around the house I figured I'd pick up a new office chair from there today.
When I got to the Ikea store and began to sit on chairs, my heart sank. These chairs all felt like cheap toys compared to what I'm used to sitting on. After owning the Freedom chair for a decade I'd come to take its high level of comfort for granted and naively assumed that any reasonable office chair from Ikea would feel similar to sit on. I was so incredibly wrong. Every chair I sat on at Ikea felt cheap, squeaky, lightweight and flimsy in comparison, and rightly so, they cost a fraction of the price of a premium chair. I even began to wonder whether I could get away with keeping my Freedom chair in use a while longer. However, I can't, the headrest has snapped off and the plastic surround holding one of the arms in place has sheared completely in two, rendering that arm embarrassingly flaccid.
After trying every office chair that Ikea offered at least five times each I opted for a £39 model, not the best on offer but the best comfort to price ratio. It's called a Torkel, which I can only assume is Swedish for "we're sorry". To be fair to Ikea, I'm sure my new chair is the very best that they can offer for £39, but compared to my old Freedom chair it's a huge steaming pile of junk. However, here's the point: that steaming pile of junk is exactly what I deserve at this time. I didn't deserve to be sitting on a thousand pounds' worth of chair for the past ten years, I cheated it, and I still don't deserve to today. Thanks to my new chair I'm now sitting in exactly the right level of (dis)comfort for my current level of success. I really want a new Humanscale Freedom chair, so I'll have to earn it. I will own one again, there's no doubt in my mind. When I do, it'll be a brand new one, and I'll happily pay full price for it because I'll be earning at a high enough level of income to afford that. Not today, however. Today I have a long way to progress in my career to get to that point, and I'll happily sit in discomfort while I work. Every time my ass hurts or I have an aching back I'll remember how far I have left to go to get to where I want to be. I want to get a little better every day that I'm on this planet (both in my career and generally as a person), and what better way to continuously remind myself of that fact than to sit on my new (crappy) office chair every day, knowing exactly how much more comfortable my ass will be when I'm fully kicking life's ass.