Last week I turned 28 years old and like many people, my birthday was met with a lot of reflection and evaluation about life.
I was talking with my cousin who called to wish me a happy birthday and during our conversation, he helped me put things into perspective.
Out of the blue he says, “well, it doesn’t look like you’re going to reach your goal anytime soon does it?”
I had no idea what he was talking about. He continued… “Wasn’t it always your goal to become a millionaire by 30?”
I was amazed that he remembered. I sat speechless; thinking about what he said as old emotions came flooding back. Somewhat embarrassed and thrown off, I laughed and said “You’re right, that was the goal and no, it doesn’t look like it at this point…”
Since I was a sophomore in college I’ve had one primary goal in life: To become a millionaire by the age of 30. I know it sounds like an outlandish aim, but honestly it’s all I wanted.
I thought that money was the ticket to happiness.
Once this goal was set, I had given up playing collegiate basketball, surrounded myself with pro-active students and changed my major from Liberal Arts to a double major in Finance and Economics.
By my senior year, I started a new organization on campus called the Entrepreneur’s Club, I was trading stocks and stock options on a weekly basis, bartending three nights a week, co-running the off-campus bookstore and writing a 250-page senior thesis on the strategic management of the casino industry. It kicked my ass but I convinced myself I was “training for success.”
As I became more and more infatuated with my goal, I discounted my friends, neglected a girlfriend and sacrificed my social life . I believed these were necessary steps to become successful and in turn, to become happy.
I thought I could make it up to those I neglected once the money came.
After graduation the goal seemed more like an in-due-time reality than a far-fetched dream. I took the position of marketing director with the textbook start-up I’d been working with since my sophomore year and the potential seemed unlimited. There were Seven of us with an “us vs. the world” attitude and we worked tirelessly to build the business.
Over the next 3 years we established 11 bookstore locations across Upstate New York, Utah and California and our online presence grew to become the third largest textbook marketplace (behind Amazon and Half). Everything was moving fast and the goal continued to drive me.
In the process, I was traveling across the States, visiting new cities, meeting new people and living a life few 24 year olds have the opportunity to experience. The only problem was, I was a prisoner of the pursuit. I didn’t have the ability to step back and appreciate my surroundings. My life had no balance.
I thought I could only enjoy life after I reached a certain level of success.
As we grew and the pie got bigger, I began to notice how the relationship between money and happiness wasn’t as co-dependent as I thought. I could see how having more on the table influenced both the team and myself. We were so consumed by our own equity that happiness became impossible. Not the sun, sand or surf surrounding our new offices in San Diego could change my frame of mind.
We all gathered for a meeting one night on the beach to discuss the future of the company. It was written across everyone’s face that we were drained and uninspired. In that moment, I realized that I could only go so far with money as my only motivation. It finally hit me, I had lost touch with what was important to me and it was time to move on.
Fast-forward two and a half years later to the birthday conversation with my cousin.
“Is that still your goal?” He asked, pressing the issue.
I collected all these thoughts and emotions and with a reaffirmed sense of direction, I responded confidently,
If the opportunity presents itself, there’s no doubt I’ll go for it. However, that goal has a lot more stipulations now.
I want to be a part of something I believe in. I want to be a part of something that truly makes me happy.
I was wrong about needing great wealth to enjoy life. I’ve learned how money and happiness aren’t directly correlated.
I understand now that happiness comes from within and that friends and family are the ones who make you successful. This isn’t to say that I’m slowing down by any means. I trust that my ambition will never allow me to be content with anything I do. However, I now have a mindset that allows me to be happy while I’m doing it.
At this moment, I’m experiencing all of the things I thought I could only do once I reached my goal. I’m exploring foreign places, meeting interesting people and devouring new adventures. I am able do all this without lacking a thing, financially or otherwise. My life is in balance and I’m in the pursuit of happiness.
I haven’t stopped chasing my dreams, but now I’m enjoying every minute along the way.
My cousin paused for a minute and responded, “That’s cool, so how are the women down there?”