I cannot stress this enough, and I was slow to learn this. I am hoping that if you stumbled across this blog that you understand what I am trying to share. The message in those eleven words carries more weight than eleven elephants. Allow me to elaborate…
When I was younger, like many people, I thought I knew it all. I was quick to judge, even faster to condemn. I thought that since I was on my way to being very good at something that the rest of you should get in line behind me. I was angry often, and I can’t really even pinpoint why. I thought the world owed me…something. I don’t know what that was either, but I seemed rather convinced of it. I did things based on the measure of if I would get caught or not instead of right or wrong. I wanted to be rich and famous, and have people fawn over me when I walked into a room, any room. It is easy now to see the error of my ways then. I think to some degree that is our lot in life, to figure these things out, and of course the sooner the better.
Looking back over the 50 years of my life this far, it is easy to see I made a lot of mistakes. I was wrong about things and not adult enough to admit it. I made poor choices and doubled down on some of them in effort to prove I was right. I didn’t always ask for help when that would have been an easy to resolve a problem. I equated my ranking on the Pro Racquetball Tour with my own social ranking, suffering with self esteem issues when losing and glossing over wins like “that is my job and was the expected outcome”. I avoided the corporate world like it was a disease, determined to break all the normal rules and still come out on top. I wanted to do things my own way and yet get the results that others who went the more common route ended up with. This mindset trapped me for a long time, and while I cannot pinpoint when things started to shift, I can be sure that changing the people I surrounded myself with had a huge influence in pushing me into a different mindset.
At some point I started to see the pattern of people who had done well for themselves financially split into two main categories: Those who focused on accumulating as much money as possible and those who focused on living a life they enjoyed. The former were slaves to the grind just like those who were barely getting by financially, they just lived in a better zip code. Those who focused on living their best life had a very different approach and far different priorities. The second group didn’t care what others thought, and focused on the things that they loved to do, things that brought them pleasure and joy. The former group wanted the world to know they had “made it”, even if they were mortgaged to the hilt and crying in their mansion. That just doesn’t make any sense once you peek behind the curtain of that lifestyle. At a quick glance it seems like they are the ones who are living it up, but upon closer inspection, they are far from it in many cases.
Because of being influenced by both of these groups, I am coming to understand what things I want to focus on moving forward. Even from the fool you learn not to be foolish. Luckily I have gotten smarter as I have aged, and I realized a couple of things that are really important. From the first group mentioned, I learned a bunch of things I DON’T want to do. From the second group I learned how to construct a life well-lived. Depending on your view of the world or your current age to some degree, this may make sense or it will sound like incoherent drivel:
The last thing I want is to be famous
It seems today that every person you ever cross paths with has a cell phone, and that cell phone has a camera in it. Far too many people are just waiting for a famous person to do something bad, out of anger, illegal, whatever, to either get InstaGram famous for posting it or get paid for selling it to TMZ or some other disgusting entity of similar fashion and ethics. I don’t want people looking for me to mess up just to broadcast it to the world.
I don’t want to be rich— I want to be financially comfortable, I want to have enough money to have maybe more than one house and no debt. To travel and explore and purchase things I wish to have. I will so do within the context of my own finances, not what I perceive that the world thinks I should have or do. I NEVER want to own my own plane, I’d rather just travel first class and call it good. I do not want to be running an empire based on the ebb and flow of the stock market, the real estate market or things the government has direct influence or control over. That is more stress and vulnerability than I want to have in my life. As soon as someone finds out you are rich, their attitude changes in many cases. It ranges from jealousy, to contempt, to assuming that you screwed a bunch of people to get where you are. Rich people get hit up all the time for donations, charitable contributions, loans, etc.
I will (likely) never buy a new car again— Despite being able to afford it financially, there are a couple of good reasons against this in my book. First, it is a terrible invest. NOTHING depreciates like a brand new car does. Once you drive it off the lot it loses 10% of its value. In the first two years of ownership it is likely to lose 30% or more of the value of the car. You will never recoup your money. If you buy a vehicle that is a couple of years old and the right brand, you can literally almost break even on it. I bought a 2002 Toyota 4Runner and drove it for 4 years, only to sell it for the exact same amount I paid for it. Second, I (now) have zero desire for the world to now that I have lots of money. I don’t want the outward expression of my financial status to be my calling card. I don’t want to have my car keyed by some jealous asshole who didn’t like the fact that I had the car he wants. I don’t want to stand out like that, and I don’t want to worry about where I park my car when I go to the grocery store or out to a restaurant.
Money does not buy happiness— I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of people over the course of my life so far, and many of them who are rich by classic definition are not happy. Some of them work way too much to keep the financial machine running, some are in a bad marriage and/or have a marginal relationship with their own kids or other family members because their focus is their job. Many are a slave to the processes they set up to get themselves where they are, and they can’t escape. They live in a very expensive house in a nice part of town, they buy two new cars very couple of years, and try to have the best of everything, seemingly thinking this is “winning”. The idea that “I’d rather cry in my Ferrari than be happy in my Honda” is ABSOLUTELY LUDICROUS.
Here is the key to life in my opinion:
Be a face in the crowd
You don’t need the adulations of others to valid who you are. You don’t need the flashy expression of your hard work to “prove” that you have what others do not. How about this…try living as a face in the crowd and spending your money wisely to ensure the comfortable lifestyle you live. Invest your money instead of blowing it on a new car or worse yet a fancy watch. Your phone has a clock on it, remember?
So, now that we have the above clarified a little better I can focus on the real point of this blog, which is living a life that at the end you can look back and say “Well Lived.” Despite what I said about my life in the beginning of this blog, I have carved out a path in my life that does lead me to believe that I have been doing things “right”. And by “right” I mean that focusing on the things that make me happy. I chased the dream of being a Pro Racquetball Player until age 30. I tried several different entrepreneurial ventures and learned a lot from them (including that I don’t want that level of responsibility). I bounced around in different industries, bringing solid sales ethics and techniques from one to the next and doing well in any market. I coached the ASU Racquetball team for 15 years and will likely always consider this the most personally rewarding thing I have ever done. I work now in a role that allows me a ton of freedom and a very good wage, which has put me and my wife in the position we’re in. I didn’t get married until well into my 40’s, having dated a ton of women to be sure that when I did find the one I was looking for I would A. recognize that and B. Know how to treat her to make sure she knew that those days were over and I was in this marriage for the long haul.
My goal is to look back and say “Well Lived” when I get to the end of my life. None of us know when this time comes, so the trick is to live so that AT ANY POINT you can make that statement. Yes, I am laboring under the premise that the more time on Earth I have the better I will be able to illustrate the life well lived at the end, but if things did end tomorrow, I believe I can already make that statement.
What can you do differently today, this week or even this month to get your path in life clarified? There will always be questions that are not going to have answers, but have an overarching mindset about where you want to get and how you want to live can be a guiding principal that you use as a beacon of light in the dark. If you define what you consider the target you are aiming at, you can refine your aim as you go. If you are waiting for answers to reveal themselves in this particular realm, I think you will flounder in the dark for a long time. This wasted time will, in the end, detract from the quality of your life. I already regret not getting to where I am in life any sooner, but then again I don’t know if that would have even been possible. I am the sum total of all of my experiences and decisions as of this moment, and with that in mind there likely are no shortcuts. You are too, that’s how it works.
So don’t point fingers or cast blame or kick yourself in the shins, as all of the errors, adjustments and growth is part of the process. But if you can craft an idea of where you want to end up, then you can lay out a path to follow to get there. And if you agree and make the goal to live a life you can look back on and be proud of and that others would agree that you got a lot out of personally, than I think it is safe to say you were on the right track.