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I Worked Hard to Achieve … What?

by Hugh DeBurgh

[NOTE: This is an article that I recently wrote as a guest post for Life As I Know It. In case you didn’t see it there, I thought I’d post it here, too. Enjoy! :-) ]

Why Am I Doing This?

Why Am I Doing This?

“You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.” ~ Margaret Young

Dear Friend,

Many years ago, when I was a “kid” in college, I knew what I had to do to achieve happiness.

I was determined to be a success.

And in the go-go eighties, that meant earning big bucks.

But I was never foolish enough to think that I would get rich quick.  And neither did I buy into the eighties culture of flashy bling and drugs that destroyed so many fortunes as fast as they formed.

I knew that to be a success, I had to find a plausible path to good money, live frugally, save and invest conservatively but intelligently, and work hard.

I was focused.  I worked long hours.  Longer than the average person did.  I “knew” that successful people lived this way.

We put off pleasure.  And we ignored our immediate happiness and personal growth in exchange for progress, and for the hope that these benefits would come to us in greater quantities in the future.

I was proud of the fact that I would be well off and comfortable in my later years, while most of those fun-loving lazy types around me would see little progress in their lives.  I would be at ease while the partiers would still be grinding away.

Those thoughts kept me working while others had fun.

I did save some money.  I built a nice house – no small thing for a single guy under 30.  And I poured every last dime I could into paying off my mortgage.

And I got married.  Had four kids.  And built a nice business for myself.

Only one problem, though.

I had absolutely no interest in what I did for a living.  None.

I did it to advance my financial position.  My choices were based on anticipated financial gain.

My lifestyle was the result of a mathematical formula.  And it was as cold as one, too.

You see, I never understood the Margaret Young quote at the beginning of this piece.  I never recall ever reading it.  And if I did, perhaps I just ignored it.  Because it did not fit into my world view.  Happiness and personal growth were just ideas for “retirement.”

My lifestyle is different now.

I live on the road.  My family of six travels the world in search of new adventures and experiences.  Money is a means to an end, not an end in itself.  My lifestyle today is focused directly on my own happiness and personal growth.

I learned the hard way that saving money is no guarantee that you can keep money.  The recent series of stock market crashes proved that.

And the price we all pay for focusing primarily on the accumulation of wealth (which never does seem to accumulate) is to sacrifice the best years of our lives.

So, what’s the answer?

There are 3 Rules that you must know and follow if you are to get the most out of everyday.  These rules are simple and direct.  It is never too late to follow these rules, but the sooner you do, the better your quality of life will be.

These 3 Rules are:

  1. Know who you are.  Know what really matters to you.
  2. Know how you really want to spend the rest of your days.
  3. Then, focus your attention on how you will accomplish that task.

That is life in a nutshell.

But so few approach it in this way.

Most follow the model that I followed.  And, as a result, spend countless years on the wrong path.

Time is life.

Time is the one resource that we cannot recover.  Therefore, it should be your most jealously guarded asset.  Your next best asset is knowledge.  The ability to leverage what is available to you to make the best use of your time.  And the best use of your time is to live the lifestyle you love.

That means spending the vast majority of your life actually living, instead of preparing to live.

Young people often take time for granted.  They imagine that they have a limitless supply.  So it is no wonder that I thought I was following a wise road back then.

I was the hard working ant, storing away food while the lazy grasshopper just hung around.  I knew that the grasshopper would be begging at my door in the cold wintertime, but that I would be safe and warm.

But our lives aren’t as simple as a child’s fairy tale. Neither are they a series of regular, predictable summers and winters.

Life is unpredictable.  You may only live another week.  Or you may live 200 years.  You simply do not know.

And until science can tell us exactly how long we have left on this Earth, we cannot afford to take any of it for granted.

So, don’t make the same mistake I did.  And if you already have, it’s not too late to change.  I have.

You can change your life’s direction.  You can start today.

Wherever you are today, I wish you the best possible future, doing what you love most.

And simply being you.

All the best,

Hugh

  • http://thenormalguy.net Eric Phillips

    Good post. I've been heading down the wrong path for a long time. Now that I'm ready to go in a different direction, I feel hindered by my debt. Slowly digging out and refocusing our lives.

  • http://thepassionatewarrior.com/ Hugh DeBurgh

    Hey Eric -

    Thanks for your thoughts. :-)

    We all carry the burden of our previous life decisions.

    We are today wherever we find ourselves once we have woken up and chosen to pursue a better path. We can't change this fact. So we just have to hunker down and start our journey from this place that we find ourselves.

    You certainly aren't the only one who finds himself burdened by debt in this economy. It sounds like you have already made erasing your debt your primary focus. That's good. You can also focus on changing your relationship with debt (how you use debt instead of how it uses you).

    Everyone's situation is different. My family got caught by the real estate crash, and too much money went to servicing debt instead of furthering our life goals.

    So we focused on paying off that debt. And we also thought up creative ways to follow some of our dreams at the same time.

    Right now we are on the road, and it is actually much cheaper to live this way. We have rented out our house while it is on the market to sell.

    We focus on trying to cover the costs of debt (with rent) while we cut our living expenses (by living on the road) and work to eliminate the debt (by doing all we can to sell our house).

    And we do all of this while living an exciting and unusual lifestyle on the road and getting closer to our kids (two more of our key goals).

    In other words, I suggest that you get really creative. It is surprising what you can do if you just let crazy ideas float around for awhile instead of just rejecting them out of hand because they sound unrealistic or impossible.

    Try brainstorming all of the stuff that you and your family want to accomplish. From crazy dreams to practical necessities. Throw it all out on the table like a box of puzzle pieces. It looks like a crazy mess at first. But somewhere in that mess is your new life. So dream up a lifestyle that can achieve all of what you want (or at least most of it).

    Suspend your inner critic at this point. And forget about how everybody around you lives. Remember that the new lifestyle that you come up with may be quite conventional, or it may sound crazy. Don't worry about that.

    All that matters is that it works for you and your family.

    Give it a try. This approach has worked for us. :-)

    I wish you the best!

    Hugh

  • Brad

    “Only one problem, though. I had absolutely no interest in what I did for a living. None. I did it to advance my financial position. My choices were based on anticipated financial gain. My lifestyle was the result of a mathematical formula. And it was as cold as one, too.”

    When I read that, it was like you had just jumped out of my head. I chose my career because I was good at the skills needed for my job and a college advisor convinced me of the high starting salaries in the field. I have advanced my career and work for a great company but its not making me any happier.

    I feel like I'm just going through the motions.

    I started reading “Wild At Heart” last week and more of this is coming out from that as well. I need to shake things up and change my direction.

    How did you decide to take your family on the road? Did you just want to travel? How did you find what you really wanted?

  • http://twitter.com/jefferyjohn Jeff Sutherland

    Yes! Thanks for the reminder.

  • http://thepassionatewarrior.com/ Hugh DeBurgh

    Hey Brad!

    Thanks for writing!

    You know, it wasn't like I had always wanted to go on the road.

    I just knew two things for sure.

    1) I didn't like the place I was at in life, and
    2) Whatever I ended up doing, I wanted my family there with me.

    I remembered that when I was a kid, I had taken a fantastic trip with my dad overseas, and the desire I had while I was there to return and spend some time. I had never taken that thought seriously, but I remembered the feeling it had brought up in me – a longing for something.

    It was the memory of that feeling that I remembered first when I started searching my heart for a new direction.

    So my first act in my new effort to turn my life around was to take a multi-week trip overseas – and I took my oldest son with me. Now we have a “tradition” – at a certain age (7 or 8), I take each child to an exotic locale of their choice. Just dad and them. They love it.

    The motorhome grew out of a desire to do some traveling while trying to keep expenses down. Airfare and hotels get very expensive.

    We started with a modest trailer pulled by our van. We wanted to make sure that this was for us. My wife and I found that we enjoyed shopping for the trailer. We did some long-distance traveling in that and shopped another four years before deciding to buy the motorhome.

    I guess the answer to your question is we didn't decide from the beginning to be a mobile family. Instead, we just made a series of decisions, all based on what we really wanted to do, and this is where we ended up.

    It's a matter of changing your decision priorities. I used to base all my decisions on what was the best apparent financial move. Now I base these same decisions on what will further my new goals with my family. The details of our lives take care of themselves.

    Hope this gives you some idea of how to get started.

    Follow your heart. Sit quietly and try to remember those moments in your life that made your heart leap. Your answers lie there.

    Best of luck to you!

    Hugh

  • http://thepassionatewarrior.com/ Hugh DeBurgh

    :-)

  • http://www.gamelive.com Steve Marino

    I came here after seeing your post at kikolani.com – I'm interested into what line of work you moved into and whether or not you were successful at the first attempt.

  • http://thepassionatewarrior.com/ Hugh DeBurgh

    Hey Steve – Welcome! :-)

    It is rarely as simple in the early stages as just jumping into a new line of work that perfectly fits your new lifestyle goals.

    Though that is the ultimate goal, at first you just have to take what you’ve got and make the most of it, or do a bunch of little things that creatively finance your lifestyle while you transition to something new and better suited to you.

    In our case, I had a business. We rented a big building, had lots of employees, and even more responsibilities.

    Our industry was in decline so every year was a struggle, but we did OK.

    Once we decided to transform our lifestyle, it was obvious that the business was a major impediment to our goal. But we couldn’t live without the income. So we did two big things – 1) we decided to creatively whittle down the business to one simple specialty that we could run on the road (but with a lot less income) and 2) we completed a creative family lifestyle audit, dumped tons of stuff that we weren’t using or enjoying anyway, and focused on what really mattered.

    Today we see no decline in our material quality of life or financial security. Plus, with lower overhead in our business, I sleep a lot better, too.

    We weren’t rich. We just made our spending count. And we only grew the business in ways that would not tie us down.

    I write, and continue to build that as a source of income. Our goal is to ultimately leave the business behind altogether. But until then, it does not hamper our lifestyle enjoyment. On the contrary, it makes that lifestyle possible.

    Steve, you take whatever you’ve got and you make it work for you. You get very creative. That’s the secret to making Creative Family Lifestyle Design work.

    There was no “first attempt” for us. Every day we tweak our lifestyle to make it better for us.

    I hope that I answered your question! And I hope I have inspired you to adopt this new strategy for transforming your life, too.

    All the best,

    Hugh

  • http://thepassionatewarrior.com/ Hugh DeBurgh

    Hey Steve – Welcome! :-)

    It is rarely as simple in the early stages as just jumping into a new line of work that perfectly fits your new lifestyle goals.

    Though that is the ultimate goal, at first you just have to take what you’ve got and make the most of it, or do a bunch of little things that creatively finance your lifestyle while you transition to something new and better suited to you.

    In our case, I had a business. We rented a big building, had lots of employees, and even more responsibilities.

    Our industry was in decline so every year was a struggle, but we did OK.

    Once we decided to transform our lifestyle, it was obvious that the business was a major impediment to our goal. But we couldn’t live without the income. So we did two big things – 1) we decided to creatively whittle down the business to one simple specialty that we could run on the road (but with a lot less income) and 2) we completed a creative family lifestyle audit, dumped tons of stuff that we weren’t using or enjoying anyway, and focused on what really mattered.

    Today we see no decline in our material quality of life or financial security. Plus, with lower overhead in our business, I sleep a lot better, too.

    We weren’t rich. We just made our spending count. And we only grew the business in ways that would not tie us down.

    I write, and continue to build that as a source of income. Our goal is to ultimately leave the business behind altogether. But until then, it does not hamper our lifestyle enjoyment. On the contrary, it makes that lifestyle possible.

    Steve, you take whatever you’ve got and you make it work for you. You get very creative. That’s the secret to making Creative Family Lifestyle Design work.

    There was no “first attempt” for us. Every day we tweak our lifestyle to make it better for us.

    I hope that I answered your question! And I hope I have inspired you to adopt this new strategy for transforming your life, too.

    All the best,

    Hugh

  • http://thepassionatewarrior.com/ Hugh DeBurgh

    Hey Steve – Welcome! :-)

    It is rarely as simple in the early stages as just jumping into a new line of work that perfectly fits your new lifestyle goals.

    Though that is the ultimate goal, at first you just have to take what you've got and make the most of it, or do a bunch of little things that creatively finance your lifestyle while you transition to something new and better suited to you.

    In our case, I had a business. We rented a big building, had lots of employees, and even more responsibilities.

    Our industry was in decline so every year was a struggle, but we did OK.

    Once we decided to transform our lifestyle, it was obvious that the business was a major impediment to our goal. But we couldn't live without the income. So we did two big things – 1) we decided to creatively whittle down the business to one simple specialty that we could run on the road (but with a lot less income) and 2) we completed a creative family lifestyle audit, dumped tons of stuff that we weren't using or enjoying anyway, and focused on what really mattered.

    Today we see no decline in our material quality of life or financial security. Plus, with lower overhead in our business, I sleep a lot better, too.

    We weren't rich. We just made our spending count. And we only grew the business in ways that would not tie us down.

    I write, and continue to build that as a source of income. Our goal is to ultimately leave the business behind altogether. But until then, it does not hamper our lifestyle enjoyment. On the contrary, it makes that lifestyle possible.

    Steve, you take whatever you've got and you make it work for you. You get very creative. That's the secret to making Creative Family Lifestyle Design work.

    There was no “first attempt” for us. Every day we tweak our lifestyle to make it better for us.

    I hope that I answered your question! And I hope I have inspired you to adopt this new strategy for transforming your life, too.

    All the best,

    Hugh

  • http://thepassionatewarrior.com/ Hugh DeBurgh

    Hey Steve – Welcome! :-)

    It is rarely as simple in the early stages as just jumping into a new line of work that perfectly fits your new lifestyle goals.

    Though that is the ultimate goal, at first you just have to take what you've got and make the most of it, or do a bunch of little things that creatively finance your lifestyle while you transition to something new and better suited to you.

    In our case, I had a business. We rented a big building, had lots of employees, and even more responsibilities.

    Our industry was in decline so every year was a struggle, but we did OK.

    Once we decided to transform our lifestyle, it was obvious that the business was a major impediment to our goal. But we couldn't live without the income. So we did two big things – 1) we decided to creatively whittle down the business to one simple specialty that we could run on the road (but with a lot less income) and 2) we completed a creative family lifestyle audit, dumped tons of stuff that we weren't using or enjoying anyway, and focused on what really mattered.

    Today we see no decline in our material quality of life or financial security. Plus, with lower overhead in our business, I sleep a lot better, too.

    We weren't rich. We just made our spending count. And we only grew the business in ways that would not tie us down.

    I write, and continue to build that as a source of income. Our goal is to ultimately leave the business behind altogether. But until then, it does not hamper our lifestyle enjoyment. On the contrary, it makes that lifestyle possible.

    Steve, you take whatever you've got and you make it work for you. You get very creative. That's the secret to making Creative Family Lifestyle Design work.

    There was no “first attempt” for us. Every day we tweak our lifestyle to make it better for us.

    I hope that I answered your question! And I hope I have inspired you to adopt this new strategy for transforming your life, too.

    All the best,

    Hugh

  • http://thepassionatewarrior.com/ Hugh DeBurgh

    Hey Steve – Welcome! :-)

    It is rarely as simple in the early stages as just jumping into a new line of work that perfectly fits your new lifestyle goals.

    Though that is the ultimate goal, at first you just have to take what you've got and make the most of it, or do a bunch of little things that creatively finance your lifestyle while you transition to something new and better suited to you.

    In our case, I had a business. We rented a big building, had lots of employees, and even more responsibilities.

    Our industry was in decline so every year was a struggle, but we did OK.

    Once we decided to transform our lifestyle, it was obvious that the business was a major impediment to our goal. But we couldn't live without the income. So we did two big things – 1) we decided to creatively whittle down the business to one simple specialty that we could run on the road (but with a lot less income) and 2) we completed a creative family lifestyle audit, dumped tons of stuff that we weren't using or enjoying anyway, and focused on what really mattered.

    Today we see no decline in our material quality of life or financial security. Plus, with lower overhead in our business, I sleep a lot better, too.

    We weren't rich. We just made our spending count. And we only grew the business in ways that would not tie us down.

    I write, and continue to build that as a source of income. Our goal is to ultimately leave the business behind altogether. But until then, it does not hamper our lifestyle enjoyment. On the contrary, it makes that lifestyle possible.

    Steve, you take whatever you've got and you make it work for you. You get very creative. That's the secret to making Creative Family Lifestyle Design work.

    There was no “first attempt” for us. Every day we tweak our lifestyle to make it better for us.

    I hope that I answered your question! And I hope I have inspired you to adopt this new strategy for transforming your life, too.

    All the best,

    Hugh

  • http://www.gamelive.com Steve Marino

    Thanks for the reply!

    And you probably did it the best way you can do it, by having an established business but then minimizing your overheads while maximizing your revenue. Good job!

  • http://www.DeniseMichaels.com Denise Michaels

    Hi Hugh – I want to thank you for your thoughtful articles and for sharing your personal growth path and adventures. I got out of college in 1980 when it WAS all about the bling but I knew I’d be most happy if I was writing. The seven years in my 20s and early 30s when I wasn’t doing that – were by far most unhappy.

    I’m one of those fun people (but certainly not lazy) whose made choices the last 20 years to stay on track with my passion and do the things that have meaning and fill me up. It means I’ve had to paddle fast to keep a reasonable roof over my head. It means I’ve turned down a lot of lucrative opportunities because when I thought about what I’d have to actually DO to make that money – it didn’t sound like I’d be very happy – or that I’d be able to sustain it for long.

    Thanks again for sharing your acquired wisdom. Wouldn’t it be great if more people got these lessons at 25 rather than at 45?

    (Would appreciate a link to my site http://www.DeniseMichaels.com I’ve put a link to your page.)

  • http://twitter.com/jkingblogger James King

    This is my first time at this blog and I couldn't agree more. Life is so unpredictable in a way thats what makes it fun.

    I got laid off from my job, so I have an opportunity to think about my life. When you work for someone, you just carry on, because we don't know any better.

    I enjoyed this post.

  • http://brite2briter.com/britetalk brite2briter

    Hi! I love your three points. I know exactly how you feel. I recently started recreating my life and living my dream after 12 years at the same job. There is no better time than now. Loving blessings.

  • http://thepassionatewarrior.com/ Hugh DeBurgh

    Hey James!

    Thanks for joining us! :-)

    It is usually when we face a big challenge in life that we start to reconsider our fundamental direction.

    I suspect that you will use this moment to put your life on the path you'd really rather be on anyway. :-)

    All the best,

    Hugh

  • http://thepassionatewarrior.com/ Hugh DeBurgh

    Wow!

    Your smile makes me feel briter! :-)

    Yes, there are so many of us setting off on this new path. Thank God! :-)

    The future's looking better all the time!

    Thanks for writing!

    Hugh :-)

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  • http://thepassionatewarrior.com/ Hugh DeBurgh

    Hey Denise!

    Oh boy, wouldn’t it be great! I wish someone had talked to me about these things when I was in college (or earlier).

    Thanks so much for your link. I’ll get one up to your site ASAP.

    All the best,

    Hugh

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