Clarity is Essential to Make The Most of Your Time
How to Avoid Mistakes and Regrets in Life
“A majority of life's errors are caused by forgetting what one is really trying to do.”
– Charlie Munger
Note: On Thursday, I’m co-hosting a live webclass with my friends Jared Duckett, CPA and Bill Ladd, CPA on the financial missteps we see so many high-income practitioners make, and what you can do to achieve freedom faster. You can learn more and save your spot here.
Munger’s words resonate in my own life, and in what I see through working with many hardworking professionals and high-income earners.
Many years ago when I was driven to work all hours of the day, trying to create a financial security moat of protection for my family, I had a sudden realization that changed the trajectory of my life.
Whether both spouses earn income or one spouse works hard to take care of things at home (divide and conquer), we all have that desire to provide for our families. We want to protect them as best we know how. I was no different.
I was working hard on my dental practice while also building my real estate portfolio. Curiosity got me started in real estate at an early age and I worked on the two in tandem. Then we had Jenna. A new life, and the beginning of the family. It was great.
Two and a half years later, Jenna was diagnosed with high-risk leukemia. She goes through horrific treatments very young (almost a toddler) until she’s five years old.
It is a tough time in any family's life. And you are not prepared for it. You don't know how to deal with it. You just do the best you can. But sometimes, the best we can does not get you to where you want to go.
What I'm getting at is that being driven, having goals, trying to be fruitful – these are not bad characteristics. But where it goes wrong is, what you are driving toward? What are your goals? What are you trying to be fruitful in?
The Mystical “Some Day” Trap
Most people have goals to create a life of abundance. They want freedom. Yet a lot of us will tend to procrastinate. We put it off until we think we get to a certain destination.
A destination that we'll get to “some day” in an uncertain number of years that will allow us to have the freedom to fully enjoy life, take some stress off, and be with the people we want to be with.
We act like it is a mystical thing because we don't know what that destination is or how many years it will take. There is not an actual, physical mountain you're going to climb and as soon as you arrive at the peak you’ll know you made it. It does not work that way.
Yet we think there is going to be a magical moment where we just know it. I'm here to tell you: That is NOT true.
This does not mean you shouldn’t be goal oriented or that you shouldn’t work hard. The essence of what I’m saying is: If you don't have clarity about what you are looking for, as Munger stated, you will make mistakes.
Not just financial mistakes. Other more lasting mistakes. Mistakes that you’ll regret at the end of your life. Memories not made, moments missed out on. Mistakes many of us have made.
If not for Jenna's early health problems when she was young in life, I might not have learned a very important lesson in my life.
The Value of Time
I didn't learn the value of MY time, and what I could do with it if I put my mind to it, the first time we learned Jenna had leukemia. My marriage to her mother didn't survive. It was only seven years later when Jenna had end-stage liver failure, that I finally decided to prioritize my time and attention on what truly matters (Hint: It was not more money).
Once again, it hit me right in the face “What am I doing? Why am I still doing all this? Is there some way I can buy back some of my time?”
I worked hard for many years. Could I not buy back my time? Did I still have to be on that treadmill to some mystical destination? In the meantime, I would miss my life. Miss my time with Jenna. She may not survive the next incident. She has been an unusual outlier for a young child to go through leukemia, epileptic seizures, and now a liver transplant by age 12.
Those are not normal circumstances and yet I still take for granted the time I have left. “I will still have more time with her. I'll wait till someday.”
No. I did not have clarity in my life. I had no clarity about what was important then. So, I’m telling you today, you can not be irresponsible with your time.
A Different Path to Freedom
I had accumulated equity in real estate by paying down my debt. I also had my practice equity and I decided at a relatively younger age than normal to cash in the chips. I transferred that equity from the sale of my practice to passive real estate.
That real estate was then producing income without me having to be physically present. In contrast, if I was still working that same equity in my practice, I would be required to be present to produce income.
But I no longer wanted to devote most of my time to actively producing income. My practice was restraining my freedom and luxury to be able to take time off like I can today. Transferring equity from the sale of my practice into real estate is what changed everything.
When I did that I thought I might return to dentistry. Maybe take a year or 18 months off to focus on my daughter through her health situation.
But the permission I gave myself to take that time off and the margin I created with it, gave me a different outlook on life.
And I don’t look back with regret on the education I had, the formal training, dentistry, or helping people. But I now had a new opportunity to change the evolution of my life.
I serve people in a different realm now. I used my experience in life and the real estate arena to provide value.
Clarity is a Powerful Motivator
Clarity about what you want in life, if you are truly honest with yourself, can change the dynamics of the life you're living.
Maybe you’re content with the money you’re making, the life you have, and how you’re providing for your family. But if you’re not happy with where you are now, it’s time to change your plan, your way of doing things.
“But how can I do that if I don't go to work? Do I have to sell my practice or my business?”
No. It starts with a reality check. But you have to do it with your family – a spouse, or significant other. Once you start having those conversations, you can begin making demonstrable changes in your life.
You don't have to keep heading down this road to nowhere – Climbing a mountain with no peak in sight, looking back at a life full of regrets because you never had clarity of the primary objective. But with clarity comes a powerful motivation. Now, you know what is at stake. Now you know what you’re aiming for.
Clarity and honesty. What is it you want? More money? A bigger practice? What for?
Once you define what you actually want, you can start making progress in the right direction.
The Value of Mentors
Surrounding yourself with coaches and mentors is key to designing the life you want. If you don’t know how to get there, others who have been where you want to be can help you fold time. They can show you different ways of doing things that you couldn’t figure out yourself without spending years figuring it out.
You are not ignorant or incapable. But what you’re looking for is not a “do it yourself” path, wasting time on trials and errors. No, your priority is to save time – and we never have as much as we think. Seeking guidance from others who have done what you’re looking to do is the answer.
Mentors can also help us overcome self-limiting beliefs. We often grow up indoctrinated into certain beliefs that restrain our thinking, telling us there’s only one way to do something. There is not.
Even the way I did it (income-producing real estate) is not the only way to provide the freedom you want. We all need help breaking through the indoctrination of our youth, and having the right people around you is the fastest way to do so.
My last piece of advice: Don't procrastinate. Don't put it off. Take the opportunity to challenge yourself. Challenge the beliefs you have regarding your time, what you want from it, and how to get it. Make the changes necessary to advance toward what you truly want.
To your freedom!
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