What Kind of Life You Can Have is Not as Important as What Kind of Life You Want to Have…
Life is about choice. When I was 10 years old in 1987 around the time of Black Monday, my father was the CEO of the American subsidiary for a British technology company. One day my father came home early and told us that his company was closing down. It did not seem that my parents were particularly worried at least initially. They had savings and my father was well respected in the technology community.
My father decided to start his own company so that he could better control his own destiny. His technology company was hardware focused and he started making progress with clients and his innovative concept. But as the months went on, I could feel the tension and stress during my parent’s conversations. I could hear the dread in my mom’s tone when she discussed the family finances. Even though my father’s company was starting to do well, it was not enough. We were nearly out of money and the initial contracts were not large enough to sustain a lifestyle for a family of 4 living in Silicon Valley.
I remember gleaning two things out of that six-month period. The first was that I wanted to become financially free as quickly as possible. The second was that I wanted to control my destiny, but realized that in order to do so, I would need to keep costs low and run anything I did very lean.
I have never really discussed that time period with anybody, but it was an impactful time period in my life. Without realizing it at the time, I was fearful…I didn’t like living in fear. And unbeknownst to me at the time, that time period set in motion the values that I hold dear and also set the tone for the type of lifestyle that I would live.
What do you value?
This is not a question that anyone else can answer for you. This is something that you have to really think about and decide for yourself. You’ve no doubt heard the old adage that you only have one life to live, so live it. But why do so few people actually live the life they want? Is it because of your parents, your siblings, your friends, your spouse, your ex, or someone else? The truth of the matter is that it is because of someone else – it is because of you. You made a choice in your life. Then you made another choice in your life. One choice leads to another until it is your life. Frankly, your life can also change with choices. But you have to figure out what you value and then build your life around the things that you value.
For me, I value family, freedom, travel, and education in that order. I did not achieve them in that order, though, so I will write about them in the order that I attained them.
I went to college straight after high school. That is definitely something I would not recommend to my 18-year old self in hindsight. The only thing that I knew I wanted to do at the time was continue my Japanese studies. Instead, I would have recommended a gap year for myself where I traveled the World or where I worked in a remote location in a service-related field for a year or two. I also no longer believe that everyone has to go through formal education. I went to college in California and I went to graduate school in both Hawaii and Japan. College was fun, but it was so general, that I do not think that it was a good use of my time. However, I needed my undergraduate degree to get my MBA, and I really feel like graduate school was valuable and highly focused. I would not trade my education, however, because I am still active with education on an annual basis. I am constantly taking courses and working on bettering myself whether it is a real estate course, a marketing course, a life coaching course, or a Spanish course. I value education and will continue my studies throughout my life to continually learn and grow.
After graduating from college, I traveled the World for 6 months. I started my travels in Japan and then went to South Korea. While in South Korea, I also went to the demilitarized zone (DMZ), so I technically have been to North Korea in a United Nations’ controlled building. After returning from Korea, I did a short US road trip prior to heading to Europe where I went to England, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Russia, Germany, and Denmark. From Europe, I did a short stint in Bahrain and Oman prior to heading onto India. Following India, I went to Nepal then Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. While this was not my first international trip, it was this trip that made me realize how much I value travel. Travel is one place where I am willing to splurge. It is educational, it is experiential, and it can be surprisingly inexpensive depending on which part of the World you visit.
When I returned home, I was a bit disoriented. I wanted to travel more, but I knew I needed money. I started writing a book about my travels while looking for a job. There were a number of jobs I interviewed for that I would have been well-suited for, but I wanted a job where I could travel and use my Japanese language skills. I found a Japanese company looking to hire a US-based business development person.
And almost in parallel with finding a job, I met my future wife through a good friend of mine from college. In the background, I was working on financial freedom through stock investing. I was doing very well through college and continued to do well after college, but then the Dot Com Bubble popped in 2000. I was 22 years old and I had grown $1,000 to over $100,000 over a 6-year period. But once the dust had settled and I had paid back my margins (borrowing to buy stock), I had approximately $15,000 left. In reality, I still had a good run from my initial $1,000, but it threw a monkey wrench in my plans. My goal had been to sell the stock and buy my first property. Losing that money delayed my real estate plans.
My future wife and I were engaged at the end of 2002 while on a trip to Belize and Mexico. I proposed to her at the top of Chichen Itza in Mexico. We were married in September 2003 and moved to Hawaii so that I could attend graduate school at the University of Hawaii. While in Hawaii, I also took an opportunity for us to move to Japan so that I could do an exchange program and complete the research needed for my Master’s thesis entitled “The Japanese Real Estate Decision-Making Process.” At the end of the exchange program, my wife and I had another decision to make. Stay in Tokyo and work for a real estate advisory firm, return to Hawaii for a management consulting job, or move back to San Francisco for a real estate investment banking job. We decided that we would move to San Francisco, which in hindsight, was the real start of building our family and of working towards building our financial freedom. Our son was born in San Francisco and our daughter was born in San Jose. We also started actively investing in Trust Deeds, real estate, and passive investments at that time, which set us up to become financially free within approximately 10 years.
What do you want out of life? What do you want to do and what do you want to have?
Living a certain lifestyle is your choice. Do you value family, education, money, possessions, fame, freedom, spirituality, charity, or are your values aligned elsewhere?
Jack Canfield has a great exercise found in his book, Success Principles. He recommends writing down an “I Want” list, which is really three separate lists. He recommends writing down 30 things that you want to do in life, 30 things that you want to have, and 30 things you want to do before you die.
There are seven focal areas that you will draw inspiration from in defining your values. The areas that you want to consider are (1) work and career, (2) finances, (3) fun and recreation, (4) health and fitness, (5) personal goals, (6) relationships, and (7) your contribution to the larger community.
Once you decide on your values, you need to take action. I highly recommend that you then start planning out your life. Look at your long-term, mid-term, and annual goals. Then, align your weekly activities to achieve your goals. Craig Ballantyne has a fantastic method based on his best-selling book called The Perfect Week Formula. I swear by The Perfect Week Formula and use the methodology religiously on a weekly basis. I have modified the strategy slightly to also align Brendon Burchard’s High Performance Habits. I try to use 60% of my work time on the things that generate Prolific Quality Output (the outputs that align with my life/work goals) and 40% of my work time on the things that need to be done to support those activities (e.g. administration, team management, social media, etc.).
The bottom line is that your life is yours. You need to determine your values, you need to determine what you want to do in life, what you want to have in life, and what you want to do before you die. You then need to take action. Life takes actions and you could be waiting a long time, if not forever, to obtain what you want if you are passive about your life. If you decide to take action, plan out your life. Figure out what you want in 5 years, what you want to achieve over the next 1 to 5 years, and what you want to achieve over the next year. Once you know your goals for the next year, get to work and plan what you need to do each week to achieve those goals.
You can do this! I believe in you. You can create the lifestyle that you want, but it won’t happen without you creating your vision of what you want your world to look like.
Until next time, let’s continue growing our passive cash flow and net worth together!