I spent so many years wondering what it would be like to not have to ask for a day off or put in for vacation time. I dreamed about being my own boss and not having to answer to anyone. It’s something that tugged at me for my entire working life and now I find myself laying in my foldout bed in my 17ft Jayco Camper Trailer named ‘Trigger,’ on a Tuesday evening after spending the last few days camping at the beach.
In the morning, I plan on waking up at whatever time I feel like it, making myself a cup of coffee (whole bean, then ground, and brewed in a french press, of course), checking out the surf, and then doing a little bit of work on my computer. I’m living my dream, but yet, there are times when I fail to recognize this.
The rat race is real, my friends! When we find some type of success, we then wonder what it will take to sustain this lifestyle and we start stressing about where the next client will come from, what it will take to continue to deliver good results for clients, and we rack our brains trying to figure out what it will take to get to ‘the next level. It’s a vicious cycle that’s easy to fall into, and it’s something that I have been thinking lots about.
I have been blessed to get my company to a level where I can pay all of my bills, travel when I want, and have a lot of free time to do the things that I enjoy doing. However, this idea that I’ve always chased to have ‘ultimate freedom’ is something that still feels like a fable or imaginary concept. It’s not until you take a step back and analyze the way you have been living that you then realize that you have gotten closer to living the ‘5 Hour Workweek’ that Tim Ferris wrote about.
It’s at that point that you begin to question the definition of success.
What’s the definition of success anyway?
Have you ever noticed how ‘successful’ people or those that we perceive to have ‘made it’ seem to face the same struggles and stresses that many of us do? The person that makes $50,000 per year seems to have the same problems as those that make $250,000 per year. Why is that? Why is it that we, as a society are always craving more ‘stuff’?
We get a raise and we buy a new car, house, or weekend-warrior toys like jet skis, a boat, or a camper? I guess the truth and the reality of this is that it’s different for everyone. There are some people that gauge the success of their life with the number of assets that they possess. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can tell you how my life changes when I have a few extra dollars in my pocket.
suc·cess1. the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.
2. the good or bad outcome of an undertaking.
I have always lived a fairly simple life, but I wouldn’t call myself ‘cheap’ or ‘frugal.’ There are just certain things that I value more than others. For example, I spend a lot of money to live in a small, one-bedroom apartment just a block from the beach in San Diego, and I travel often to foreign countries for vacation.
I have no problem spending money on those things, but for over a decade I did not have a car payment, have had zero credit card debt, and have never overspent on what I would call ‘material’ items. However, now that I have made some more money, I did purchase a small travel trailer, I bought a new truck, a new recliner, and some other things that I have always wanted. I saved up for years to buy stuff like this, so now I feel comfortable in making these purchases.
Even though I treated myself to these things, I continue to live quite modestly, and I think I’m a happier person because of that. If I was to go out and buy I bigger truck, a fancier RV, and an expensive recliner, I’d start to feel the pressures to pay for this new ‘lifestyle.’ It’s a way of living that fits me and I’m good with that.
Let’s get back to the topic at hand. What happens when you wake up one day and you realize that you don’t have a boss, you don’t have to go sit in a cubicle all day, a Tuesday is not much different than a Sunday, and you are listening to waves crashing into the shoreline that sits just below your campground? Is it at that point that you say, ‘holy crap, I’m living the life that I used to dream about?’ You would think that this would be the first thought that always entered my head, but it takes work to be grateful and to appreciate that the hard work and sacrifices that you have put in have led to your current situation.
The grind, the struggle, and the roller coaster of setting out on your own and trying to sustain this can oftentimes get in the way of your ability to recognize your accomplishments. This is something that I’m working on and something that I’m glad that I recognize. Perhaps the whole point of this post is this: being grateful, appreciative, and thankful is not something that comes easily or naturally. Sometimes we need to teach ourselves how to possess these types of qualities. Without them, we will continue to chase the unicorn and no matter what level of success we attain, the race will never be over.