On the way up north to our camping destination, we stopped at Jimmy Johns. They had some of those random life lesson-type story murals on the walls. One of which caught my eye. It was the story of the American investment banker and the Mexican fisherman. Have you heard it? I won’t list out the entire story, but the lesson is pretty simple: Live a full life, but don’t let greed run your life. Focus on what’s really important to you.
It’s a lesson I think more often than not falls on deaf ears in today’s world. We’re so focused on winning more business. Making more money. Buying a bigger house. Taking that next step. That we fail to sit back and really think about what’s important to us.
Think about it for a minute.
What really makes you happy?
For me, it’s pretty simple. I love spending time with my wife and family. I love writing. And, I love meeting and helping people. A year ago, when I made the difficult decision to quit my “day job” and go into business for myself, I asked myself, “why am I doing this?” The answers were familiar: To spend a little more time with my family; To have more “creative control”; and to work with people I admire, respect and truly enjoy spending time with.
A year in, I’d say I’m doing OK on those fronts. I have the flexibility to spend time with my family–on a timetable that makes sense for me. I do the kind of work I want to do (by and large). And I work with an incredible list of clients and partners–people a few years ago I would never have dreamt I’d be working for and with. Truly.
So, what more do I want?
That’s the million dollar question, right?
If I scaled my business, I might be able to make a bit more money. I could attempt to build and grow an agency of my own. But, where would that get me? Just like the fisherman, I’d have money to retire on, but I’d be right back in the same situation I was in a few years ago, right?
So, as you think about that next job or career move, I might suggest thinking (and I mean *really* thinking) about the following questions:
* How much money do you really need to get by? Think about your family. Think about retirement. Think about the day-to-day needs you need to meet. How much do you really need?
* How important is balance in your life? For some this isn’t an issue. For me, it is. I need a decent amount of balance. I need to see and hang out with my kids for more than 30 minutes a day. That makes me a better person. And, it makes me a better counselor to my clients, too.
* What do you really want to do with your life? The age-old grade school question–but, it’s still an important one. For most people, the answer to this is rarely that I want to be the owner of a large agency of the senior vice president of a Fortune 500 company. Think about it–and adjust your plan accordingly.
* What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind? An important question to ask because it should get you closer to the “what you really want to do” question. Focusing on the bigger picture has a way of bringing the day-to-day details into focus a bit more.
* How much time do you spend on your “other” interests? Think about your hobbies. How much time do you devote to them? Hobbies are typically the areas that we have the most passion around. For me, it’s golf, writing and music. I’ve poured an awful lot into writing the last few years–and not nearly enough into golf and music. I’d like to see that change this coming year, just a bit.
The bottom line is this: Take stock of how you spend your time each day. Each week. Each month. If you don’t like what you see, work to change it. Focus on what matters to you–and you only. That’s the only way you’ll find your professional nirvana.
Note: Photo courtesy of mananetwork via FlickR Creative Commons.