Andy note: "Best of Eddie" - while Eddie is on vacation we're throwing up some of his classic posts from the past. This one is originally from Nov. 2010 . If there's an old post from Eddie you'd like to see up again shoot me a message.
Yesterday's post about Back-Door Mark struck a chord with a lot of you, and you brought up some interesting things in the comments. Several of you didn't find Mark's life choices appealing, and that's not surprising on a forum designed for achievement-oriented bankers. It made me look back and wonder if the 21-year old Eddie would consider the 41-year old Eddie a success. Based on my definition of success and all the things I wanted to accomplish back then, I had to admit that he probably wouldn't. But you know what? Fuck him.
I saved a drowning woman 15 years ago. It wasn't a big, heroic thing. It was more of a right place, right time kinda deal. But I think most people would rank that sort of thing pretty high on their list of accomplishments. I adopted a couple kids from a Siberian orphanage. Again, not a big deal; it was the right thing to do and the right time in my life to do it. I was the tactician aboard the 76-foot yacht that won the 2001 America's Schooner Cup. I even had a pornographic magazine write a cover story about me recently, and I have you guys to thank for that. Still, am I the billionaire hedge fund manager my 21-year old self expected me to be at this point? Not by a long shot.
Just because I'm not a billionaire hedge fund manager doesn't mean that you won't be at my age, if that's what you really want in life. I would just submit to you that what you really want in life is going to change quite a bit as the years fly by. With that in mind, I'd like to propose an exercise.
Your Homework Assignment for the Day
This is something I did back in 1996, and I've mentioned it a couple times on the site. At some point today when you have a few free moments (yeah, right!), take out a notebook and write out a life plan. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate or detailed. Break it down into categories of one year from now, three years from now, five years from now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, and lifetime expectations.
I'm not really interested in the short term stuff for the purposes of this exercise, but it's good to have it because it keeps you focused. What I'm really interested in is the 5, 10, 20-year and lifetime expectations. Trust me, you'll be glad you took the time to do this. When you're my age it's great to have a record of where your head was at this age.
What do you absolutely have to accomplish in life to consider yourself a success by the time you hit middle age? Do you want to have a family? Lots of people consider that an accomplishment. Do you want to own a company, or be a BSD on the Street? Be sure to quantify exactly what that means to you. Where will you live? What will you own? What's your annual income and overall net worth at each different stage? It doesn't hurt to dream big here, as long as it's something you really want.
Believe me when I tell you that Back-Door Mark was living his dream. It might not work for a lot of you, but he was exactly where he wanted to be. And I've seen people do far worse.
Finally, econ asked me the following in the comments yesterday:
Hey Eddie, how do you feel about it looking back over all these years? Are you happy with how things played out, or do you sorta wish you would have went "Back-Door" Mark style instead?
To this I can only answer...yes.
I live a charmed life, and I'd never claim otherwise. Luck has been a huge asset to me over the years, but remember, luck favors a prepared mind. Today I live a mostly stress-free life in one of the world's great cities, I have a great family, close friends, and thanks to WSO, I have a connection to some of the brightest and funniest young minds that guys my age don't normally have an opportunity to interact with.
Of course, whenever I pass a rowdy bar at happy hour on my way home to a quiet evening with the family (or maybe not so quiet if the kids decide to be a pain in the ass), I can't help but think about guys like Back-Door Mark who don't have anywhere they have to be or anyone depending on them. You can't help but see the appeal in that lifestyle sometimes. I think that's only natural.
But now I'm interested in what you guys think. I'm dead serious about this too, because it will make a difference to you later in life.
What are the things you have to accomplish for you to consider yourself a success at, say, age 40? What are the things you want to accomplish by then, but don't necessarily have to? What are you doing to make those dreams a reality? Finally, how will you deal with it if you don't accomplish those things?