Today the Olympics open in Sochi.
The games have changed for me over the years. When I was young, these next fourteen days were packed with athletes that I emulated. I wanted to become a downhill skier, or maybe a speed skater.
What did I do to reach those goals? Nothing. They weren’t real goals. Like most kids, I was a big, fat dreamer.
I realized in middle school that my trip to the Olympics wouldn’t be in the winter, but in the summer games. I was a fast runner, and only improved in high school. Though never one of the elite, I had my share of “glory days” stories and a pair of hot looking legs.
Nevermind that I’m not the fastest, I thought. I’m still growing and learning. I’ll catch up.
Olympics here we come!
That dream fueled a college scholarship in track and field to The Citadel. College running was hard, thankless work. I’d sweat through military drills, try to focus in class, and then head for the track for quarter mile repeats after I was already exhausted.
…and at our 2nd tier college I wasn’t CLOSE to being the top runner, let alone an Olympic hopeful.
Ultimately (and unsurprisingly) I came to the “realization” that track and field wasn’t for me. I quit running after two years and set my sights on “the real world.” I gave up my scholarship and transferred to Michigan State.
What a shame.
I realize now that what I thought was maturity was actually pure stupidity. I could have had my education paid for instead of taking on student loans. I could have graduated in four years instead of dragging out my BA for seven because I was working three jobs and taking the minimum number of classes so I could afford school.
If I’d kept running, I could have used my awesome legs to at least grab a free education.
What would I have had to have done? Work my ass off.
What I’ve learned over the years is that the harder (and smarter) I work, doors open that I’d never expected. I showed up in a financial planning office and wanted to prove that this English major could compete. Suddenly I was winning an award for being one of the top new planners in the firm. I landed a big client who introduced me to three friends. They became clients and my practice took off.
I took a dare to become a public speaker even though I’d only been a planner for a year. They hired me, and before I knew it I was on television.
Whenever I put myself out there it created more “wins.”
Funny. It still does.
At age 41 I realized that my “Olympics” were a two part event. I’d made good money, but it was time to go ski. It was time to speed skate.
It was time to become a dreamer again.
I knew that my career wasn’t the Olympics because financial planning, for me, felt like a constant treadmill of more money, more assets, higher fees. Early on in my career I’d been fed a line of bullshit about “Work hard now and then you can relax later.”
Ten years into the game a vice president told me, “This is a customer service job. You and I both know there is no “later.” You serve your customer every day. You either learn to love it or you don’t. You’ll always be in the grind.”
I didn’t love it. I wanted to be back at five years old again, watching the Olympics and thinking about being more.
So, to retell a story I’ve told before, I sold the business and moved on to look for my “event.” I’ll talk about building financial resources in other posts, but today I’ll only say this: I feel lucky that I was able to accumulate the resources to fund my “training.”
I realized today that at age 45 I’m excited about “customer service” in my current “job,” and can’t imagine doing anything else. Thanks to everyone reading this, or to everyone who listens to our podcast, I’m able to now share the wisdom I should have learned back then:
This IS our Olympics.
Matt @ momanddadmoney
“Whenever I put myself out there it created more “wins.””
Love that line. This is something I’m definitely learning as I go along. I’ve always tended to be introverted and had trouble putting myself out there. But it’s true. The more you’re willing to put yourself in front of people, the more opportunities are presented to you.
It’s tough, isn’t it? Reminding myself that I’m going nowhere if I don’t take that next step is so much harder than sitting at home and hoping life will come to me…..
I agree that this profession can be tough. The sales orientation part of it never appealed to me. Sometimes you have to step out there and create the career you always wanted.
I liked it, but didn’t love it. Mostly I loved my clients and helping them meet their goals. I hated the down markets when people didn’t care to understand what was happening…they just wanted someone to kick.
Stu @ Poor Student
This is a neat post. I am not good enough at my favorite sports to be in the olympics or even dream about it but I think it’s good to always work hard (and smarter).
Agreed, Stu. We all have our own “Olympics” that we’re battling.
Thanks for sharing this. I think it’s as important (at least) as all the content about money, because what’s the point of all the money anyway? To live some life. It’s always a good “time to go ski…”
Nice to hear how others make choices and how it works out. I’m glad to hear it’s going well for you.
Done by Forty
Great story, Joe. I personally think the quarter mile is a special kind of torture. I only ran it by default: too slow to run the 100 or 200, too lazy to run a mile.
I am typically pretty lazy, trying to “work smart”…but that’s kind of a cop out. I would like to be a hard worker.
Ha! We only did quarters on speed days. I was a miler in high school (I ran a 4:16 five times…..) and moved up to 5k in college track.
I’m lucky here that I had good mentorship in this single area: my dad has always been a “work hard” kind of guy, so I’m normally 100 mph at a brick wall. I didn’t learn “work smart” until much later, which resonates with me HUGELY and it probably the reason why I hadn’t ever gone faster.
Thank you for this, Joe. I feel like we’re training for the impossible dream every day with our dream of being debt free, taking early retirement and working for ourselves. Sometimes it feels completely pointless, like we’ll never achieve that dream. Your post made me realize that the other alternative is just not an option for us. We don’t want to be stuck in a “there is no later” situation and be stuck forever at this endless “job” of making minimum payments and dealing with debt. Thanks for giving us the drive to keep at it, no matter how big the mountain.
Amen, Laurie, amen!