By Dr. Jim Dahle, WCI Founder
This post borrows heavily from the ideas of Bill Perkins, the author of Die with Zero. I haven’t actually read the book; I just listened to him on a podcast, but I felt like he deserved some acknowledgment.
The 3 Resources in Your Life
There are three resources in your life that you can use to maximize the quality of your life, however you wish to define them. That might mean maximizing your own pleasure and happiness. It might mean helping as many other people as you can. Whatever. Doesn’t matter. These resources are:
To a limited extent, these resources are interchangeable. If you put time in at a job or building a business or creating a product or whatever, you are turning your time into wealth. If you exercise and spend time preparing healthy food, you are turning time into health. Good health can lead to more time on the planet. You can use your wealth to buy medications, tests, and treatments that improve your health. You can also use money to buy your time by paying someone else to do your chores, run your business, or otherwise make your time more efficient.
At a certain point, you can’t buy any more time, so that one is the ultimate in limited resources. How many of you would wish to change places with Warren Buffett? Probably not very many. But to a significant extent, the three resources are fungible (interchangeable), and you should spend them in a very intentional way to meet your life goals and purpose, however you define those.
There is another book out there called 4,000 Weeks. I haven’t read that one either. But the point of it is that you really only have 4,000 weeks on the planet. Four thousand weeks is actually 77 years, but maybe you don’t count the first five or the last five or something. I’m not sure how 80-year-olds feel about that idea, but the point is that you only get a limited number of weeks in your life. I’ve already burned through close to 2,500 weeks in my life. Maybe I only have 1,500 left. When you spend significant time thinking about your death and the very limited amount of life that you have left, maybe you make different decisions and live a little bit differently.
How many of us know someone who had a health scare—cancer maybe or a bad car accident or a cardiac arrest—and then upon recovering, they quit their job, mended relationships, quit drinking or smoking, and began living very differently? Maybe we all need to do that, even without a health scare.
More information here:
Hedonia vs. Eudaimonia
What We Can Learn About Work-Life Balance and Retirement from the French
The Seasons of Your Life
The truth is that you don’t even have 4,000 weeks for a lot of the stuff you want to do. I don’t even have 1,500. That’s because, as the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes:
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”
Basically, there are seasons in your life. And if you let a season go by without taking advantage of an experience or opportunity that is only available in that season, you can never reclaim it. Admittedly, there is some flexibility to some seasons, but for the most part, this holds true. Think about some of the experiences in life and match them to their season:
Backpacking Europe: This is when you go around Europe for a couple of months one summer, staying in hostels, riding the trains, making friends from all over the world, drinking and living it up and seeing tons of cool sites, spending everything you can get your hands on until you’re flat broke and in debt, using your last dollars to come home. What season does this belong to? Your 20s usually. Before then, your parents won’t let you go, or you don’t have the money or credit to get there. After that, you’re either too tied down to a job or family to break away for more than a couple of weeks. Besides, who wants to sleep in a hostel (or in the park in Pamplona) once you’re 40? No thanks. If you miss this one, there’s no going back.
Going to medical school and residency: This 7-11 year experience is one for your 20s and maybe 30s. Sure, you can find an occasional doc in residency in their 40s or even 50s, but it’s not the norm and that’s a pretty special person. If you don’t get into medical school before 40, this season has pretty much passed you by, and you will never have this experience.
Having children: How about this one, huh? Yes, we all know someone who had IVF at 48 and it worked, but the truth is that if a woman puts off having children past 35 or so, that season may very well be gone—especially if you want five kids. You just have to start earlier—even if a job or an education or a residency is in the way. You can still doctor at 55, but you can’t get pregnant.
Climbing a Big Wall: I was really feeling Father Time as I prepared to climb the face of Half Dome last summer in Yosemite. That had been a life-long goal of mine and one that I didn’t think I could put off much longer. I’ve been lucky to maintain health and stamina this long; how much longer will it last? My back already hurts every morning, and that shoulder never recovered from CrossFit. Big Wall Climbing is a game for those in their 20s, 30s, and maybe 40s. Yes, there are probably a few people who kept at it into their 50s, but this isn’t exactly a retirement community activity.
Golf: On the other hand, I know lots of people in their 80s playing golf. It could be argued that the season to really enjoy golf begins in your 50s or 60s as your career winds down and then lasts several decades. It’s just hard to find four open hours when cranking hard on a career or taking care of kids.
Reading books to your kids: Our 7-year-old loves for us to read her a book every night and thinks sleeping in mom and dad’s bed when one of them is out of town is the cat’s meow. Our 16-year-old does not. Wait too long and these sorts of experiences with your children go away, at least until the grandkids show up. I have had so many shared experiences with our youngest (I cut back to 3/4 time the year after she was born) that I never had with the older three.
Coaching your kids’ teams: Most of us can coach a 6-year-old soccer team with no problem. Few of us will coach the high school team. Then, they’re gone. I was so glad to have this experience with our third child and kind of jealous that Katie had it with all of our children. But I just couldn’t do it while working rotating shifts.
Taking the kids rafting: Rafting has a pretty long season in life. Taking your kids does not. Five years old is too little for whitewater. At 18, they go away and don’t have time for you. If you have three kids spread over five years, your season is really only 3-4 years long where all three of them can go with you. Don’t miss it.
Certain vacations: Are you really going to wait until your kids are 25 to take them to Disneyland? How about the National Parks? Did you want to do that stuff with your parents at 25? Probably not. Your kids won’t be any different. However, you could now take them on a multi-day hut trek around Mont Blanc. But the season is short. They have to be big enough to carry their pack and you have to be wealthy enough to spring for it, but you have to do it before they have kids of their own and before your health keeps you from doing it. That season isn’t that long, maybe 10 years.
Want to run a marathon? Then, 70 is probably too late for your first one.
College sports: I’m talking about playing them, not watching them. That’s a 20s activity. We celebrate professional athletes who are still going hard at 40, because few of them are. Yes, you can play beer league hockey into your 50s and even 60s, but you’re probably not out on the rugby pitch or football field. You only get so many seasons and so many games.
There are seasons to almost all of the activities you want to do and the life goals you wish to accomplish. Some are long. Some are short. But if you miss your season, that’s it. Your chance is gone.
More information here:
Young Investors Are Engaging in ‘Soft Life’ – Is It a Healthy Attitude or Could It End in Financial Disaster?
It’s a Lifestyle, Not a Vacation
Mixing Life Experiences with Financial Activity
When you think about the seasonality of your life and the experiences you wish to have in an intentionally lived life, you start treating the five money activities
- Spending, and
a little bit differently. Would you rather blow $30,000 now on a certain experience that can only be enjoyed in your 40s, or would you rather have $150,000 in your 60s? Would you rather take your kids to Disneyland now or leave them an extra $20,000 when you die so they can take their grandkids to Disneyland? Do you want to go to Europe in your 50s while you can still make an attempt on the Matterhorn, or would you rather go at 70 on a cruise with 15 family members that only sees a handful of ports for a few hours each? Get those student loans paid off in two years, or pay them off in four years and get into that dream house two years earlier to start creating memories with the kids? Buy the sports car now while you can still use it to cruise the strip and get bottle service, or drive a beater and retire five years earlier so you can play more golf in your life? Do you want to give less money away with “warm hands” (where you can see the good it does) or more money away later with “cold hands?”
The choice is yours.
I just think you should make the decisions more intentionally than you currently are. I bet when you think about it, you’ll agree. Don’t just go onto autopilot and do things because that’s what other people do or because that’s how you’ve always done them. You only get one life. Make the most of it.
What do you think? What seasonal activities were you glad you took advantage of and which ones do you regret missing out on? Which ones are you still looking forward to? Comment below!