A life is a collection of events, happenstances, genetics, luck, and environment. It can be altered in a second by an accident or medical emergency. These factors are usually out of your control. But, a life is also the sum total of decisions that you make along the way. Regardless of age or present situation certain choices you make affect what happens to you from that point forward. Here are some of the decisions that have shaped my journey. Do any sound familiar to you?
People tell me I was rather odd in one regard: I knew what I wanted to do at age 12 and stayed with that choice for 40 years. A more normal occurrence is to struggle with the choice of one’s life work through the teen years, into college, and maybe beyond. But, the first time I stepped foot into a radio station in Cambridge, Ohio at that tender age I was hooked. By fifteen I was a DJ after school and on weekends at a tiny station in suburban Boston. Another dozen years of playing rock and roll records in various cities lead to a being a consultant and researcher.
I remained completely satisfied with my career choice until I stopped work at age 52. That I was able to discover my life’s passion for a career so young saved me a lot of struggles and uncertainty. The fact that I loved the radio business meant I was not going to a job everyday to earn money. I went to work everyday because I was passionate about all of it.
Marriage must be very high on any list of important decisions. Your life changes forever. It is no longer just your life, but a shared life. You are at least partially responsible for every major decision that now affects at least one other person. Your ability to compromise, to become less self-centered, and to share will have a direct effect on the marriage’s chances for success. I have been happily married for 34 years. It hasn’t always been easy; it isn’t supposed to be. But, the commitment we made to each other was forever and neither of us can imagine a life that doesn’t include the other.
From that marriage came two daughters. If you tell yourself that getting married means big changes, hold onto your hat. Having kids makes the changes of marriage look minor by comparison. The primary reason for living, the center of your world, and the force behind almost every choice you make from that point forward are different when you have children. Parents know the absolute love and complete terror that comes with children. At least for me (and my wife), there is nothing I have done that comes close to equaling the importance of the birth and development of our kids.
Not long after the birth of our second daughter I faced a critical decision that would have a huge impact on my family. We moved to Tucson, AZ for a new job I had accepted. Just a few months later I was fired. At that point I had two kids under the age of 3 and no way to support them or my wife and me. After rejecting the option of moving back to the city where I had left a previous job, I faced a very uncertain future. Then my wife and I made a key decision: I would try to start my own radio consulting and research business. It was a risky move that offered no promise of success. We’d have to spend some of our savings to launch the business. If it didn’t work we had no fall back plan.
It did work. From a very shaky beginning, the company became successful in radio consulting. It gave the family the financial freedom to not have to worry again. It allowed me to retire much earlier than I had planned. That decision to trust in myself and take that leap into the unknown paid off in every way imaginable.
Another key decision happened very early in our marriage. My wife and I agreed to live by three simple financial rules. We would always live beneath our means, we would not follow common wisdom as it applied to our investments, and we would value experiences over things. I have written a few posts about this direction for our financial life together. Rather than repeat all of that, here is a link to one of the posts that presents our approach in a bit more detail.
While I could probably ramble on for several hundred more words about decisions that proved important in shaping my life, I’ll conclude with this last one: spirituality. This isn’t the blog to get into a religious debate or attempt to convince someone else that my way is the way. What I do is attempt to live my life in a manner that allows others to see what choices I make and things I value. If that prompts questions about my beliefs and my faith, then I am happy to oblige. But, without equivocation, I can say that the decisions I have made to follow my faith and believe what I believe are at the core of who I have become.
The decisions I made were right for me at that time. If my circumstances had been different some of those choices may have been different. But, that is the amazing thing about life. Every one of us is different. At least to a degree we have the chance to shape and re-shape our life constantly. That makes waking up every morning exciting. What will the day hold and how can I shape it? What will happen that makes this a satisfying retirement?
Please consider signing up for a free update whenever I post something new. By doing so you help me gauge readership. Plus, you don't have to check for new posts. The information arrives automatically. If interested, "Click for Updates" is on the upper left side of the blog. Thanks.