Advice From My Peers

I’ve been conducting interviews with my friends to get their best advice on what they’ve learned so far.

The discussion has been centered on advice for people taking a sabbatical but, I’ve discovered, most people rarely pause to consider how to direct their lives. So we talk about the key transitions that have shaped them. Having an inner circle that runs from elite athletes to CEOs, I have been able to chat with folks that share values while living in different socio-economic segments.

Most of what I learned in my first 40 years is summed up in PMarcA’s series on career planning (Intro, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). The best tip from PMarcA, be open to “drop everything” opportunities (see Part 1 for specifics). Somewhere, I learned to spot these and I find them irresistible. I’m in the process of transforming my life to take advantage of one that’s popped up.

If you follow PMarcA’s career advice (and apply the financial tips that I share here) then you will have a choice for significant personal freedom in your 30s or 40s. The exact timing of this freedom will depends on when, and if, you choose to have kids (more on that soon).

Life, and opportunity, have a shelf life. There are windows to follow our dreams; become elite athletes; start a new business; spend time with grandparents; and watch our kids grow. If we don’t grasp those opportunities then the window closes. New windows will open later, but they will be different.

One of the key things that I failed to appreciate in my early-30s was the shelf life of my physical power. I’m extremely grateful that I gave myself a chance to go for it as the lessons of my 30s are no longer available for me. At 43, I look at my young family and will be making changes to apply the same lesson in a different phase of my life.

Looking to my 50s, factoring in a further waning of physical power and remembering how, as a a teenager, I felt about adults 40+ years my senior – I suspect that the tug I feel towards my first career will get stronger. While living in the present, I keep an eye on the future.

My successful friends advise me to put yourself in the middle of people that are what you want to become. Is it any wonder that my dream of winning Ironman Canada brought me to Boulder, Colorado?

This is also good relationship advice, and the true gift from Boulder (my wife is far superior to any race victory) I turned myself into the person I wanted to meet and went to where a lot of those people were living. We have a much better shot at meeting a high-quality athletic spouse at 2pm at the pool, than 2am at a bar. Surprised that it took me so long to figure that one out, but grateful that I lucked into it.

When I look at my friends that have an enviable lifestyle, regardless of wealth, they follow their own advice to simplify as much as possible – I wrote about downsizing last week but this runs deeper. Specific quotes are:

  • get rid of anything that sends you a bill
  • you don’t realize the energy that something takes until you get rid of it
  • new experiences, not more stuff
  • give yourself the space to focus on doing one thing really, really well
  • say no, a lot

It’s important to remember that a simple life isn’t financial management. While it will save you money, the largest payoff is not financial.

With kids in my life, creating simplicity runs completely counter to what society tells me I ought to do – juggle marriage, fatherhood, career and athletics, while seeking to provide the best home life I can afford.

However, I’ve been spending the last three weeks sharing a bedroom with my daughter, my infant son is sleeping in a walk-in closet and a family friend is staying in our loft.  We’ve gone from 1,550 sq. feet per person (Boulder) to 340 sq. feet per person (Hawaii). I’m surrounded by natural beauty, living out of half a suitcase and couldn’t be happier.

Keep it simple, do it now, be true to yourself.