Here are a few things that you come to understand as you reach this particular age of reason:
* You focus on what you want, not on what others want from you. You learn to say no to those wagging tongues that make so many demands on you, and you eliminate things that deplete your energy. Instead you do the things that increase it.
* Life becomes a matter of what you get to do, not what you’ve got to do. Your activities are yours to choose, as are the people with whom you do them. Why not spend your time with those you really want to be with? What matters most are family and friends.
* By the time you reach your mid-century mark, it’s high time to stop masquerading as someone you are not. If you try to keep up with the Joneses, you will face unintended consequences. Along with the toys will come troubles.
* One gains a perspective by mid-life about what merits one’s attention. A lot of idiocy swirls around us, and I’ve reached the point where I no longer care about it.
Life comes with victories and adversities, and I wish to think first of what has gone right in my life – although sometimes, much later, we come to see that even the troubles strengthened us. Yes, it’s true that at age 26, four years ahead of my goal, I had my 1st meaningful liquidity event. More important than money, however, have been the unimagined opportunities that have opened for my family and me.
My involvement in the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and the Young Presidents’ Organization has enriched me in a way that cannot be measured in dollars. I cannot imagine life without the friends I have met – people who will not judge me as I share my deepest fears, challenges and insecurities.
I have learned the importance of balancing career aspirations with being a great role model for my kids, a terrific partner for my wife and a good friend. Choosing the right spouse makes a massive difference in one’s happiness. For years, my wife and I have gone on quarterly trips together. Our time alone helps to bond us in love as a couple, outside our roles as parents.
Each of our kids gets one-on-one trips with dad, too. I deeply value that time. A parent’s years as a role model pass so quickly. In our family, at the dawn of every new year, we each post on the refrigerator our goals for the year ahead, and we each explain how we did on the previous year’s goals. I want my children to learn those traits of vision and accountability.
I know today that I am what I am because of the influence of my own parents. You learn to appreciate your parents after you become one. I was only 17 when my father went bankrupt. I didn’t understand then how hard that was on him – not only financially, but on his marriage and on his sense of self-worth. I was too self-centered to get it. And as for my mom, I just thought she was difficult. I know now that she was tough, driven, and highly disciplined.
My parents faced their share of troubles. My family and I have had our portion, too. But when you face adversity, you gain perspective. It is humbling. Our son Mason’s brain tumor and the struggles we faced together have given us a tremendous outlook. We have learned that it is crucial to believe in yourself. Our time here is short, and life can be fragile, and we must make the most of it.
The passing of the years has certainly motivated me to look after myself. At the turn of the millennium, when I was 36, my body fat was 23 percent. That means I was bordering on obese. Now as I turn 50, my body fat is 9.9 percent. I have been in the athletic range for years. Through diet and exercise, I feel good. I feel healthy. That inspires me and makes me happy.
I have learned that wealth comes in many textures besides the crispness of a dollar bill. Money comes and goes. Time only goes.