How I Traded My Life for Future Security
One afternoon last week I hopped on my bicycle and went for a ride to one of my favorite vistas, a beautiful lake overlooking the subdivision I live in. Much of my writing is inspired in nature; composed of things that either “come” to me when I open myself up to ideas, or often as the result of meditating on a subject and then writing whatever begins to flow naturally.
While riding over towards the lake it began to dawn on me that in life our experiences are actually much more about the journeys themselves than about arriving at any particular destination.
Somewhere along the way, I realized that I was so focused on getting where I wanted to go, I was ignoring wherever it was I happened to be. You see, one of the blessings I get to experience is that I live in an area with lots of older, unique homes, mature trees, brick streets, and in a community where people walk, ride, and jog along the main thoroughfare.
Tables at outdoor cafes are common, and so when heading from point A to B there’s a lot to experience if you don’t get so focused on your destination that you block it all out.
Catching myself doing exactly that, I was reminded of the career paths that made up most of my existence. Too often I traded in the richness of the experience for benefits I believed would accrue when I arrived at my ultimate destination.
My focus on the future was killing my present
My arrival at the lake provided a moment for reflection. As I looked back upon my career path, I realized that the shift away from enjoying the experience began in college, where after two years I changed my major from music to finance because I had no stomach for playing the role of a starving artist. Once out of college, I ignored jobs with challenge and high paying potential, looking instead for those that provided security and stability.
But I found excruciating boredom and developed a distaste for mindless routine.
I worked in an office full of people who kept retirement calendars pinned to their cubicle walls, counting down the years, months, and days until they would arrive at their ultimate destination (retirement). It was then that I began to realize that the chase for security left much to be desired.
My focus was chained to the future, and it was killing my present day by day. Yet so strong was the future orientation that I persevered in spite of my distaste for the environment. Eventually, I grew to the point where I simply couldn’t stand it anymore.
My successes and failures as an entrepreneur
Six years later, after one more degree and the birth of my child, I made a radical shift, this time going into business for myself. I started a small restaurant business that I ran for seven years and was financially successful. Initially, the challenge of building something from the ground up motivated me.
Everything was my creation, from the logos to the advertising, hiring, firing, and networking with other local companies and attract customers.
I loved the creative portion, yet my outlook was still future based. And once the business became established I no longer enjoyed the day-to-day activities very much because to me the work lacked intrinsic value. I eventually sold the accounts and decided to take on an entirely new challenge.
My next business venture turned out to be my biggest failure, and yet also potentially my greatest blessing. I purchased an established retail operation and had ambitious plans of growing it even bigger. It too was void of intrinsic value, but the money looked good and I decided to go for it.
It was a business that catered to homeowners and was almost entirely dependent upon the real estate market. I bought it for what turned out to be the worst possible time. Instead of making it big, I ended up losing a lot of money and ultimately had to sell it at a loss. In short, I failed.
Yet I now had another chance, a choice to either do something that motivated me and was in line with my values, or to seek security in a steady income and put my focus on securing a successful retirement as my ultimate destination.
Embracing my journey to my life purpose
Fast forward to that scene at the lake. There I sit, perusing my ambitions as a writer. I’d always had the urge to write, and I’ve been passionate about personal growth for many years.
I’m a strong believer in being a lifelong learner, having taken a writing course simply because I loved learning and had a genuine interest in these things.
Does my new career choice satisfy my desire for intrinsic value?
To me, there’s a deep sense of gratification in helping people overcome challenges and live out their life’s ambitions. To see that I’ve made a difference in someone’s life provides me with a sense of satisfaction unequaled by anything I’ve done before.
I was right where I was supposed to be, doing right what I was supposed to be doing. All of the experiences of my life had come together to bring me to this point. They were all part of the journey. And quite often the experiences I labeled as “bad” proved to be the catalyst for change that ended up taking me where I really wanted to go.
I also learned that destinations in life are like checkpoints -once you reach them it’s time to move on to something else. It’s in the actual journey towards our destinations that we learn, grow, laugh, cry, rise, fall, and experience all the beauty and emotions of life itself. Lesson learned, I picked up my pen and pad and hopped back onto my bicycle. Riding home, I missed not a thing along the way.