I have a friend, who doesn’t read this blog, that I’ve known for most of my life. We used to have a lot in common. We used to both work full time jobs and spend our free time doing things like going out to bars, spending money and traveling together. He was with me during my stupid years when I bought a car that I couldn’t afford on credit down in California. He was also with me during my transformation from lover of stuff to lover of freedom and options. During a trip to Seattle that I shouldn’t have been on with this friend, we discussed our finances as we drove out to the mountains one day.
3 Years Ago, I Was Jealous of My Now-Broke Friend
“I’m jealous of you, I told him”. He was debt free at the time (besides his house), and I had both student loans and a car loan that I was trying to get out from underneath of. He laughed at my expense since I had debt and he didn’t.
Three and a half years later, this friend is on the brink of complete financial ruin, while I sit here writing in my pajamas with a cup of coffee at 5am, not caring about how early it is because I can take a nap later. I’m debt free and have a pile of money working for me in investments, enough cash to last at least a year and a driving force of potential and opportunity ahead of me. What happened in this picture that changed over such a short period of time?
What happened is that this friend followed the advice of other people. He’s been living the life other people, like his family and friends, want him to live. He felt the need to cave to peer pressure to buy that snowmobile, that scooter and that fancy SUV. He didn’t feel the need to question the whole thing and what he wanted out of life. He also didn’t feel the need to read his friend’s blog or even bother to ask about how his friend was able to accomplish so much financially in just a few short years.
This post isn’t to dis my friend. He’s a great person. I’ve just observed some things that make me believe he isn’t living life with a plan at all, but rather living out what other people want for him. To me, that seems very sad, because there’s so much more to life than that.
Others Will Attempt to Run Our Lives and We Need to Say No
How many times have you heard unsolicited advice from your family or friends? Often, it’s in the form of “What you need to do is…” or “I know this company and if you’d like, I can make a call”. Other times, they may say something like “I’d buy a nice car that’s reliable” or, “I’d look at buying a house if I were you”. When this happens, nod your head and walk away. Of course, don’t be rude, but don’t listen to a word they tell you. The person you should be listening to is YOU.
My questions (did you notice how I said questions, not “words of wisdom or advice”) for you are these:
- WHAT do you value?
- WHO do you care about?
- What do you want to accomplish that’s in line with those values and helps those people?
Now, I won’t tell you what to do with your life, but I will give you a warning. If you live the life others want you to live, you’ll never actually live YOUR life. You’ll be pissed off internally forever and you most likely won’t ever do anything meaningful. In fact, you might find yourself in a situation where you’re barely treading water. The point is, stop listening to others and listen to yourself. Find out what you care about and start doing something about it, NOW.
Let’s Get Some Perspective on the Urgency Here
I’ll be 30 years old in a few months. For all of you younger than this, the exercise I’m about to walk through may not work (but still might). For all you older than me, this should work for you:
- Remember back to some of your earliest memories – For me, this brings me back to somewhere around 1988. I remember where I sat and the friends I made in kindergarten. I remember family members who died early in my life like my Grandpa Mathias. I remember mainly emotional experiences like funerals from way back then. These memories go back 25 years. Think back to memories that are 25 years old or more.
- Consider the time period that’s passed since those memories, which is 25 years (or more). According to Wikipedia, the life expectancy in the U.S. is 79 for males and 82 for females. First off, I don’t count my chickens before they hatch so I don’t assume I’ll live that long. For me, it just takes looking up the chain a bit (a grandpa who died in his early 60’s and a dad who died in his mid-forties) to get insight into this. Let’s say that I’ll outlive those two big time and live to be 75. Using that estimate for my life expectancy, here’s some quick facts:
- I’m 40% of the way through my life.
- The time that’s passed since my earliest memory (25 years) is one-third of my entire life and over one-half of the time I have left.
- For the first time in my life, I’m at a point where I can comprehend the length of a lifetime. The rest of my life can be calculated in my mind by taking the entire scope of my memory (the past 25 years) and multiplying it by 1.8. That’s some math that I can logically do in my head to get a feel for all this.
Do the math for your life to get a feel for this as well. The point of this exercise isn’t to cry about it, but instead it’s to wake up and realize “Holy crap, my life is actually passing me by and will be over soon”. It’s a wake up call we all need.
Once Awake, Take Action
Whether you’ve already woken up or if that exercise helped you get there, it’s time to start doing something. No longer is it okay to live someone else’s life. That means, it’s no longer acceptable to:
- Buy cars other people think you should by
- Live where other people think you should live
- Take a job other people think you should have
- Live how other people expect you to live
It’s time to start running your own life. Your time is running out. If you’re not starting on a project that matters to you, working towards accomplishing something great, caring about people who really matter to you or just being true to yourself, than you may never get to it. Tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us. You think you’ll live until 79? What if the actual number is 35? Then what? Seriously, what if you die when you’re 35? Will you be happy with how you spent your last 5-10 years? Will the world be impacted by you in a positive way? Or will it just be a tragedy where you were taken “too soon”. It must have been an accident, right? Yeah, right. I don’t believe there are any accidents.
It’s time to wake up.