Friday, March 13, 2015

Triggers to Live Life on Your Own Terms

Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and
look around once in a while, you could miss it.
Last night I went to an event where Gary Ware chatted about following your life's dreams. What would you do if you didn't have to work on a daily basis? Nearly everything he mentioned I was already doing.

I left corporate America in 2007. Since then I've written code, prose, and poems. I've been a journalist, blogger, and author; on my own terms. I learned how to fly and bought an airplane. After reflecting on this I wondered if Gary was living his dream? Perhaps he is, I only met him last night. But that thought, in turn, led me to a more important realization. Why or how did I end up doing nothing? That's when I realized the jump from corporate rat race to peaceful bliss, where everyday is a Saturday, requires a trigger. In my case several triggers.

Ready, Aim...

My first trigger was about 15 years ago when I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Realizing there was a real possibility my life could end before it started made me focus on doing things I enjoyed. (Miraculously, after six months of chemo, I was 100% cured, to the point that it's like I was never sick.) They key is to do the things you enjoy without being selfish. This means not doing something that lessens someone else's quality of life or satisfaction. A great way to avoid this is to find the good in people and cheer them on. But it has to be genuine.

The second trigger was ten years ago when I was doing humanitarian missions in East Africa where I saw people living simply. Yes, they were poor, living on less than $3/day, but there was a beauty in their lives. In the traditional corporate career you work hard. Nowadays, we work harder than ever before. Luckily our society makes the rest of our life easier since we don't have to milk the cows or harvest the fields. But we replaced that free time with more work. So, we feel we have to keep moving up the corporate ladder to make more money. But... and here's the key question... why do we need to make more money? On the surface, we think it's so we can have more financial freedom. But what happens is we end up buying more stuff that adds more complexity to our lives. A bigger house, a new car with more technology, etc. It actually makes our lives more complicated. The more complex our life becomes, the more brittle and fragile it ends up being. If you lose a high paying job you'll have to find another high paying job to be satisfied with your lifestyle.

Hiking Torrey Pines is a fine way to begin each week.
My third and final trigger was two fold. It was working at Apple when my father unexpectedly passed away. Since then, I focus on turning a crisis into an opportunity. Working at Apple was key because they went from near bankruptcy, the year before I joined them, to the biggest company in the world. Also, Apple was my trigger for understanding simplicity. More than anything else, Steve Jobs cared about making great products and he did that by simplifying them. Instead of engineer-ugly products with every possible feature, I learned the supreme elegance of simple design.

Simplification is the ultimate sophistication

But, to be truly appreciated, all this has to be earned, not given. So, today, I enjoy life. I really enjoy it and have been for as long as I can remember. I wake up early or sleep in. I read, write, and snap photos or attend events. I enjoy sunsets, food, friends, and family. It's a good life with simple pleasures. It doesn't mean I'll never go back to working a job where I've had scores of people reporting up to me, but it's nice to have life options rather than career obligations.

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