What if you currently live a very comfortable lifestyle and you have a lot of assets? How can you justify running off to do what truly makes you happy if it might put all your current assets at risk?
Here’s my take on this… To abandon a comfortable lifestyle that isn’t deeply fulfilling is to abandon nothing. There’s nothing of real substance there to protect. An income, a car, a house, or a lifestyle are not worth protecting if the cost of such protection is your own fulfillment and happiness.
People who achieve some of the external trappings of success without internal fulfillment are only living an illusion when they tell themselves they have something of value to protect. In most cases, the feeling that there’s something to protect is just an excuse used to avoid facing the real fear — that maybe all this stuff isn’t really worth anything compared to what’s being lost… that maybe I should be living more boldly and not be so concerned about what happens to all my stuff.
I currently have some material stuff in my life. I have a business, computers, a car that’s fully paid for, and my wife and I are closing escrow on a new home we’ve bought. But that’s all just stuff. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have any real value. I’d gladly give it all up and live in a shack if that was the price I’d have to pay to live my mission. I want my life to have had more value than just acquiring stuff and living comfortably. I may die rich, or I may die broke… but I won’t die with my music still in me.
After all, why are we here? Is it to acquire stuff, live a comfortable lifestyle, make our families as comfortable as possible, and then die? Whether there’s an afterlife or not, one thing is clear: we can’t take any of that stuff with us. Our comfortable lifestyle has no power to endure.
And here’s the worst part. While you’re working so hard to acquire and protect all that stuff, you could die unexpectedly. You might die today. You might die tomorrow. Maybe you won’t die for another 70 years. Maybe your consciousness will be transferred into an android body a few decades from now, but you could still be destroyed in an accident, even if you make a backup of yourself. At least in the present, you’re still vulnerable.
Death happens to people every day. 150,000+ people died from the quake and tsunami in Southeast Asia. How many of them knew at the beginning of December 2004 that they only had a few weeks left to live? And look what happened to all the stuff those people acquired: destroyed.
Fisherman or tourist — it doesn’t matter. We all end up the same way.
So what is the point of a life dedicated to the acquisition and protection of stuff? All of your money and possessions can be taken away from you by forces outside your control. No matter how many asset protection techniques you apply, you can never guarantee full security of your stuff. It’s perpetually vulnerable. There can be no true security then in a life based on the acquisition and protection of stuff.
So what have you got to lose? What are you truly risking if you go after your dreams? If your current lifestyle is unfulfilling, then you’re starting broke, no matter how much money you have. It doesn’t matter if you start with $0 or $1 million. You have nothing to lose either way. Money and material assets are just resources to use while you’re here — you can’t take them with you. You’re only a temporary steward of the money and possessions that pass through your life.
So when you risk money, you don’t risk anything of any enduring value. Earn money, lose money, invest money. But don’t make material objects more important than your own fulfillment and happiness.
What are you protecting?
If you’re sitting behind a desk working at a job you hate in order to protect your current lifestyle, you are protecting nothing. Isn’t there a part of you, deep inside, that wants to just walk away from all of that junk and start really living? Can you feel how empty and hollow your days are, how devoid of meaning? Have you forgotten what it’s like to really live a day that fulfills you deeply as a human being?
Look around your home at all your stuff. Recognize that in the long run, it will all eventually end up as dust. None of it will endure. It’s all temporary. Your house will eventually crumble. Your car will wind up in a junkyard. You cannot permanently keep any of this stuff. Eventually you’re going to lose it all. Or it will lose you.
So what kind of life is that — one that’s dedicated to the guarding of dust? Is that what you want your life to be about? If you feel there’s any purpose to your existence as a human being, then is this it?
Life is just too precious to waste. If you are spending your days working at a job that isn’t deeply fulfilling to you, then you’re spending your days guarding dust. There’s no real value there. Stuff cannot fulfill you. Ultimately it will only distract you from living on purpose.
What does it mean to really live? Deep down, you already have a sense of the direction where this answer lies for you. Ultimately, it’s a choice. You’re totally free to live the kind of life you want. But you’ll know you’re really living when you would live pretty much the same way even if you knew you only had 18 months left. If you would make some big changes in your life upon learning that you only had 18 months to live, then why not make those changes now? Someone reading this blog entry probably has less than 18 months to live. Maybe it’s you.
Live for what is real to you. Live for what truly matters to you.
What I live for
What matters to me — what is real to me — is inspiring and helping people. Directly or indirectly, whenever I’m able to help someone solve a really tough problem or to motivate someone to finally push past a big obstacle, that is something I find tremendously fulfilling. And the fulfillment I get from doing this is so great that it trumps all the external stuff.
It doesn’t matter how much money I make. It doesn’t matter if people reject my ideas or poke fun at what I enjoy doing. This blog entry may be read by over 1000 people, but it may be such that the ideas within are only able to help one person in a very small way. The other 999 may conclude I’m nuts and stop reading. And that’s fine. It’s that one person I’m writing for.
But at the same time, starting from the point of spending each day doing something that fulfills me, I’m building this work into a business that can support and sustain me and my family. This will ultimately include paid speaking engagements, and information products like books and audio programs. So I’m starting with doing what I love and building it into a source of income. The more money the business generates, the more people I’m ultimately able to reach. So making money is aligned with my own personal fulfillment — they aren’t at odds with each other.
If you do what you love, then you can surely find a way to turn it into an income stream — then the more money you make, the more you expand your capacity to continue doing what you love in bigger and bigger ways.
Taking what you love to do and turning it into a source of income, either as an employee or an entrepreneur, seems hard to resist. If you’re going to spend so much time working to make money, why not make that money in the pursuit of your dreams instead of in the protection of dust?
What does your current to do list look like? Is it filled with tasks that aren’t even real to you? Are you typing stuff that doesn’t matter, going to soulless meetings, shuffling papers and filling out forms to appease computers, while sitting in a Dilbert-style cage all day? Why do you continue to choose that life each day? You’re always free to stop at any time. You make the rules.
What percentage of the tasks on your to do list will fulfill you deeply to do them? What kind of to do list would be real to you? What items might it contain? Compose a new piece of music. Write something inspiring and share it with others. Give your spouse a massage. Exercise. Play with your kids. Make a snowman in Las Vegas (my wife did this one yesterday). Clear out some clutter. Read a really great book. Audition for a local play. Start your own business. Tell your boss, “Talk to the hand. I don’t do soulless work anymore.”
Do something that leaves you feeling at the end of the day that you really contributed the best of yourself.