“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost: that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
In just a few short months I’ll hit the big 5-0. Fifty can be an unhappy milestone. It’s no fun suddenly grasping that you are on the downhill side of life’s grand slide. At its most severe, this wrenching realization is called a midlife crisis.
The crisis occurs when a soon-to-be 50-year-old (it can occur at any age) suddenly realizes his dreams of success just aren’t going to happen. Why not? Because during the last 50 years he has squandered his three “Success Resources”: time, money and the health to enjoy them. Finding the right balance among these resources will let you achieve your dreams.
Define your goals. Sounds simple, but it’s not. We are all more comfortable in the “here and now” instead of beating ourselves up with the tough questions. I always ask my students, “What do you want to be when you ‘grow up’? Why? How much money do you want? Why? What milestones do you want to achieve along the way? Why? What sort of “legacy” do you want to leave behind? Why?” and, above all else, “When do you want to do attain these goals? Why?”
It has been said, “Time is the only resource you can’t buy more of.” Assuming our 50-year-old lives to the ripe old age of 80, he has exactly 19,957 days left to live, including leap years. Not nearly enough, especially if he has wasted his early life. Honestly, don’t you feel an increasing sense of desperation as the years fly by faster and faster?
Write this stuff down. Post the list so you see your goals every day.
Recognize the finite and valuable nature of your time left. This doesn’t mean living in morbid fear of your inevitable death. It does mean realizing that every hour or day you spend doing something you don’t like is truly wasted. Don’t enjoy painting your house? Hire it out (you can probably take this time and make much more money out cleaning carpets anyway!). Set your priorities by how you invest your time.
Make lots of it. The true cost of both running a business and funding a comfortable early retirement are much greater than almost anyone believes. Yet most carpet cleaners are trapped in the belief that “my customers won’t pay more.” Your customers will pay more, but they are not going to blurt this out to you. Please, raise your prices…today.
Quit blowing it. Sure, you have all the toys. The new car, RV, boat, etc. Great. But all this rapidly depreciating stuff is sucking your retirement fund dry. Pay yourself first by pulling a set percentage (5 percent is painless, 10 percent is even better) out of each and every bank deposit and putting it into a “sacred savings account.”
Invest it. How is up to you. But put your money, not just your aging body, to work for you. The stock market has had a rough couple of years. But over the long term (which is the only way anyone should try to invest) it has been an incredible investment. If you have the temperament, rental real estate can help both your net worth and your cash flow. Several rentals that I sort of accidentally invested in 20 years ago now provide my family with a comfortable retirement income.
Don’t depend on the sale of your business. Hopefully, your business will become a rapidly appreciating asset that will help fund a wonderful retirement. That’s what this column is all about.
Sure, money doesn’t bring happiness. But it does give you the freedom to live the time you have remaining exactly how you choose. This financial independence is something very few people ever achieve...and is a pretty good definition of success!
However, don’t hang your hat on it. The ugly truth is most carpet cleaning businesses aren’t sold for anywhere near their true potential value. They are liquidated for pennies on the dollar. Proper planning and business-building strategies can reduce this risk. But you should diversify your future with an aggressive personal investing program.
You can also diversify by developing a different, likely part-time, retirement business. Even if you successfully sell your company, it is likely that it will not fund your complete retirement. Your savings program may not be enough either, especially if you came late to the investing table.
Look at your hobbies for one that can be developed into a low stress, income-producing business. As the saying goes, “find a job you love and you will never work another day in your life.”
Quit smoking. This is the single best thing you can do to live longer, enjoy a much a better quality of life and save a lot of money along the way.
Eat healthier. Americans are by far the fattest people in the world. Who can blame us? It’s all so darn good! But by reducing your weight/cholesterol/etc., you will not only live longer but also feel better along the way.
Drink more water. Studies have shown most Americans are “chronically dehydrated.” Drinking more water helps lose weight and flush some of those delicious “fast food toxins” out of your bloodstream. You should drink at least one-half gallon of water daily. One gallon is even better. Coffee, tea, pop and alcohol don’t count. Hint: I buy 16-ounce bottles of water by the case and drink one in the car every time I leave the house.
Get a good physical. Modern medicine can successfully treat many health problems, such as colon and prostrate cancer, if they are caught early. Don’t put it off. Just do it.
Work smarter. Carpet cleaning is rife with work-related injuries. Learn to wand from both sides, lift carefully or use a ramp, warm up with stretching exercises. Two hints: First, investigate rotary extraction. You will work less and do a better job than with the old reliable scrub wand. Second, hire a helper to do the “grunt work.” The additional overhead will be more than offset by your increased production.
Be happy. Happier people live longer. It’s that simple. If there is a problem in your life, either solve it or accept it. It’s the middle ground between the two that causes stress. And stress creates all kind of health problems.
Now we’re talking quality of life. A healthy emotional and physical lifestyle obviously gives you a better chance of a longer life. But it’s not just the extra years. After all, who wants to be filthy rich at 100 if you’ve spent the last 50 years as a bedridden invalid? Consistently vibrant, radiant health may truly be the ultimate wealth.
No matter what age you are, balancing the three “Success Resources” will help you avoid your own midlife crisis. Here’s to your dreams…and to your success!