What is Wealth?
Step back for a moment and consider the life of this individual: rich beyond wildest dreams, eating at the best restaurants in the world, travels to exotic locations, owns multiple homes and cars, and enjoys membership at some of the finest clubs.
Also this person: 75 lbs overweight, constantly overeats, never finds time for exercise, very little time spent attending to their spiritual connection to the world around them, is a borderline alcoholic, and doesn’t see his family very often.
The question I ask you: Is this person wealthy?
Now, the picture I paint is quite the extreme; this person seems very materially wealthy but when it comes to their own personal health and life balance, I would say they are very poor.
Life at 80+ Hours a Week
In my own life, I have discovered the importance of maintaining my physical, mental, and spiritual prowess and health.
My first internship was at a private equity firm - it was an overall great experience - the earning potential was lucrative, the status of the industry was great, and being able to rub noses with some of the wealthy CEOs in Palm Beach, FL was quite an experience.
However, I quickly found that working from 7 am - 9 pm, then going out drinking on the town was not something I wanted to do with my life. I could not imagine working these type of hours and having this type of lifestyle for the rest of my career. Where would I find time to stay physically healthy? Spiritually healthy? Where would I find time to explore the world around me?
The end goal of such an experience did not seem to justify the path to achievement. Even if it meant forgoing a potential multi-million dollar salary, I still do not believe those worldly riches are worth the sacrifice.
Do not get me wrong, I am, by my very nature, a type-A, “busybody” personality. I like to be active and engaged in projects, work, and life. Some weeks I would say I end up working close to 80 hours on my own personal projects. However, the more I reflect on my own working life, the more I realize that balance is the key to a life well-lived.
Balance: My Muse
Many of us have heard the phrase ‘Everything in Moderation’. I strive for daily adherence to that phrase in my own personal affairs and would offer the phrase works in regards to work as well. My personal motto has become ‘Everything in Balance.’
One of my main reasons for seeking out Financial Freedom is to achieve the elusive dream of Time Freedom through having enough money to do what I wish to do. At the heart of my desire for this Time Freedom lies an essential desire for living a well-balanced life.
The question I find myself asking is this: If I have all the money in the world but do not control my time, what type of life do I have? Am I truly free?
To me, my life needs to be in balance to be what I want it to be and I can better achieve this freedom through having both Time and Financial Freedom.
Keeping that mindset in perspective, I am thankful for my foray into a position and a world that required me to work so long and so hard to achieve success early on. Because of this experience, I was able to reflect on how important a life not lived in 'working just to work' is to me. I learned that I want work to be a means to an end, not the end unto itself.
A Spiritual Side
There is also a spiritual fulfillment I seek in being balanced as well; a place where purpose meshes and intertwines with work. There is a sincere desire to leave this world better off than I found it.
This became even more apparent after living a life working in positions where I made good money all while sacrificing some of my heart and soul to the job. In these positions, though I am filled with gratitude and thankfulness for the experiences, I realized I was not doing what I was meant to do.
I am grateful that I have been shown where I want my life to trend away from and as a result, I am now asking the bigger question of "where do I want my life to go? Who do I want to be?"
A Welcome Trade-off
In asking the question of who I want to be, I am uncertain that I have entirely discovered the answer. However, I am slowly but surely beginning to ascertain where I would like my life to go. Here are some of the resolutions I have made to myself in my quest for a balanced and meaningful life:
I will work in jobs that excite and invigorate me.
If a job begins to become stale or I am no longer finding purpose in it, I know it is time to change some aspect of the position. It might be time for a rework of the job description, it might be time to take on more challenges, or it might even be time for a new company or entirely new career field. I will allow for 'off' days, but if it begins to seem like I have too many off days in a row, then that is my clue to begin to question what I really need.
This quote from Steve Jobs really describes the mindset I am describing:
“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” Steve Jobs
I will make time for daily exercise.
I am already very good at making time for exercise in my life as maintaining a healthy body is one of my top three life values. It is easy for me to work out as I see being healthy and in shape simply as who I am.
However, I can see that as I work my way up the career ladder, or as I continue down a path of entrepreneurship, there becomes the siren song to work longer and harder than my competitors. While I do not mind the natural spirit of competition, I never want it to come at the expense of my values. While I am willing to put in the extra effort, I never want my physical health to slip to the back burner of priorities.
So far, so good, but again I can see how challenging this endeavor can become as one continues to progress in life and becomes laden down with more and more responsibilities and commitments.
I will work for companies that sell or promote products that I believe in.
In my working life, I have been fortunate to be at companies which I believed in. I have worked for CHS, a large agricultural conglomerate and US Commodities, a commodity trading firm. Both were profit-bent, but not so much at the cost of the little guys. I felt like we were doing good at both companies while turning a profit. A 'win-win' in my book.
I want to continue on this path moving forward. It may be a little idealistic to say that 'this and only this' will be my career path forward. But I can honestly say that I would grow very disheartened if I worked for a company that did unethical things. Or conversely the company may be ethical but I do not feel as though the product they sell is one that I believe in. I can think of a few financial companies that sell products like this that I would be strongly against working for due to the nature of the products they are selling.
I will work with people that I like.
Not only have I come to the realization that life is too short to be in jobs that do not suit me, but life is too short to be in companies with people I do not like spending time around.
Overwhelmingly my relationships with coworkers have been positive; the positive has far outweighed the negative in all cases. However, there have been a few individuals that, for whatever reason, we just do not get along. Part of it seems to be that we are cut from different cloth and will never see eye-to-eye.
My old style has been to look at myself to see why the relationship is not working and how I can make it work. There is still merit to this self-reflection, however, I am seeing now that I just will not get along with certain people, no matter what I do for the relationship. I'm more positive, they're more negative; I am optimistic, they are pessimistic; I'm seeing the best, they are seeing the worst.
This is OK and a natural part of human relationships. For whatever reason though, it is hard for me to stomach this type of dynamic, especially if this is someone that I have a lot of interaction with. If the negativity and toxicity get to a point where it is affecting me in an overwhelmingly negative way, I am comfortable in leaving for greener pastures.
Moving forward I will work on teams that I really mesh with and disconnect from those individuals and teams where we just do not see eye-to-eye.
Life is too short to be unhappy!
I will see the job as just a job - not an extension of who I am or part of my self-worth.
This has been a challenging item for me in my search for a more balanced life. I have come to view building systems, writing, and growing companies as my purpose in life. Seeing this as my purpose, I have worked hard - very hard - and have enjoyed much success as a result. However, my self-esteem and self-worth have been on the line in every position or venture that I undertake and the effects are overall negative.
Instead of seeing a foray into a new field as a chance to make a few more dollars, my thriving work ethic tells it that it needs to be 'the best' and 'the conglomerate' among conglomerates. But who can start from $0 to a conglomerate overnight? No one that I know.
This 'overnight conglomerate' mindset, rather than motivating me, is taken as a large, looming goal that I can never achieve. I am changing this mindset around; now I see business as just a way to make a living and achieve something bigger than myself.
This new mindset is accomplishing two primary paradigm shifts: 1) It is making the thing I am doing into something attainable - i.e. I am adopting the 'brick-by-brick' mentality. Rather than needing instant success, I am OK adopting a more gradual and daily approach. 2) I am challenging the idea that this venture is a reflection of my self-esteem and self-worth. Rather than hold it as something that I am fearful to lose or even begin, it is just another way to make money.
The ironic part about all of this is that as I make the job or business less about my value or worth as a person, I get more done and feel more comfortable moving forward. Isn't it strange how the human mind works?
I will strive to attain work/life separation.
I am naturally an 'always-on' type of personality and it has been a large part of my success in the business world. Need to reach me at 11 pm at night? So long as I am not sleeping, let's roll! This type of thinking surely endeared me to the professionals I worked with, but at what cost?
I am not sure that I can ever be a "9-5pm and I'm out" type of person. Being available for those people I assist is one of my calling cards and feels much more natural to me. However, figuring out the balance in all of it can be excruciating and exhausting.
Now that I am a freelancer, this is becoming even more apparent. I am writing this article from my couch, where I also sit when I am done with my day. The question I find myself asking: "Am I ever really done with my day?"
Recently, I stumbled upon a quote from Tim Ferris, which is proving very apt:
'I am a strong advocate of work-life "separation" as opposed to work-life "balance." The concept of work-life balance is a dangerous one because balance is often mistaken to mean blending, where work and personal tasks are alternated in the same environments, or where one activity is expected to provide both work and life... If I'm on, I want to be on and maximally productive. If I'm off, I want to be off and don't want to think about work. When people strive for balance, they usually end up mixing things and destroying boundaries. That's how you end up checking email all day Saturday."
Though I do not have a firm answer to the work-life separation yet, it is the current thought that counts. In my quest to work smarter and not harder, be on the lookout for some life hacks which help me better implement a 'work-life separation'.
I will work towards early retirement - working smarter, not harder.
Asking the question of "why do we do it this way and how can we do it better?" is one of my staples in work and everyday life. Gaining efficiencies in whatever I find myself doing is of prime importance. This type of mindset is 'working smarter, not harder.'
I have discovered that I am, by my very nature, a change agent. If you prefer, you could call me a 'Master of Chaos'. I am never satisfied with the status quo. That report we produce, why do we produce it and does it serve a purpose? Could it be re-worked to be done in less time or perhaps even eliminated entirely? How do I make money while I sleep? How can I retire early?
These are the types of questions that keep me engaged and moving forward on a daily basis. If I didn't ask myself these questions and seek towards their natural resolution, I am not sure I would be able to enjoy life as thoroughly.
Finding ways to work smarter is in my blood.
This all points me towards the directionality of ultimate course I find myself pursuing: F.I.R.E. Referred to as, Financially Independent, Retire Early (FIRE), I am all-in on this awesome idea.
I am a minimalist by nature, so when I combine that with my naturally frugal-oriented mindset, the goal of retiring early is readily apparent. By wanting less and putting my money to work for me, this once elusive dream is only becoming more and more apparent.
I am Healthy and in Balance
Overall all these key points summarize the main avenue which I seek: balance.
I discovered early on that I value good physical health above massive amounts of money. I know that from this mentality, I will never compromise my health seeking after money or material things. Treating my body and mind like the temples they are is far more important to me than any material gains.
In the example above, I do not consider the individual as a wealthy person. Certainly, that person may have much in the way of material possessions and material wealth, but if their physical condition is not in order, I consider that person a poor individual. What is wealth If we do not have the health to enjoy our life?
You and I may never make a million dollars per year, and to me, this is okay. What I wanted to leave you today, is to begin asking yourself the question: what is your definition of wealth? Is it a large house, a big fat bank account, a ton of money?
Or do you have a more holistic view of well such as having enough money to pay for what you need, while maintaining top physical form? Or while giving back to your community? I would like to see us get beyond the idea that material wealth is all that there is. Money is a good thing when used properly but only so long as it is the servant and not the master.
For today, let's focus on living a balanced life and every day that we are blessed to be on this Earth. Let's make the world better off for having known our existence.
Stay balanced my friends.