A few months back, I had a moment where I needed to sit down and figure out what I wanted out of life. Despite having a lot to be thankful for - health, family, a fulfilling job, and nothing really worth complaining about - there was still a desire for something more. I’ve always lived my life with an aversion to settling, trying to find the next goal to crush, feeling like I needed to fill every waking minute with something productive. I convinced myself this was just ambition and me pushing myself to grow. In reality, I was just in a flat-out sprint in this little hamster wheel I had created for myself, stuck in a place where finding the next great conquest was overpowering my ability to enjoy my present situation.
Striving for more was becoming my driving factor and though this didn’t feel like a bad thing, it didn’t quite feel like the right thing either. It seemed like I was only looking at life from extreme perspectives. Busting your ass around the clock, striving for more and hustling meant you were contributing to society, whereas taking time for breaks, vacations or a mental deload equated to being a bum.
Today, writing those perspectives seems so obviously jacked up and wildly off base, but subconsciously that was where I found myself.
After some real and high quality self-reflection, I realized that while I thought I was on the righteous path of success and everything was good, it was all relative to how I was measuring success. At the day job, I was doing the right things; putting in the work, progressing, getting things done. Then I’d get home and be drained and just go through the motions. And while it was not the way I want my family to perceive me, I justified it by telling myself this was my way of providing for them.
The truth was my personal life was getting pushed to the side in favor of professional successes. I was an active participant and present on the surface, but that was just superficial. My goal was to rock the day job until I was 65, then I could start enjoying life. Retire and start reaping the benefits of the years of work and enjoy life with the perks of an AARP card.
I was banking on tomorrow, replaying the adage of “work hard today so you can enjoy tomorrow” to an unhealthy degree. And while I would never rail against that thought process, I discovered a different perspective which reminds us that tomorrow is not guaranteed, so enjoy life while we have it. With this in mind, I figured out I wanted to make sure I worked to live and enjoy life, but not teeter to the opposite end of the spectrum and become reckless. I reassessed my goals to work just as hard at enjoying life as I work towards my day job.
Finding the Balance...Beam
If I was so busy chasing my professional goals, when the hell did I have time to have an epiphany, you wonder? When I put my kids in gymnastics class and was about to set up a laptop to do some work, of course. Normally, I find myself with time to kill while they practiced for three hours and I always figured I’d get a few things done while I waited. So while they practiced their forward rolls, I’d fire up the laptop and get some work done.
One day, I decided to not do that and instead watch my kids do their thing and show some interest. After all, that’s what I’d want if I were in their shoes. I wanted to see them struggle at something, work at it, and then celebrate with them when they finally nailed it. It was then that I thought I needed to find a balance between my professional and personal lives.
A few books and TED talk videos later, I realized that my understanding of a balance was off. I was thinking the 50/50 split all day, every day was the definition of balance. Perhaps in some instances, but after adjusting my scope, I found the way I like to look at it now is like bandwidth or my mental WiFi plan. I can only go so hard for so many gigs before I start to slow down. Ultimately, I decided to prioritize what I needed to get done during the week along with the things I wanted to get done.
Up until that point, I had only a few constants I saw as priorities during my week: work, gym, and whatever the kids had scheduled. Other things would come and go on the list, but those three remained pretty much set in stone. Now I try to get to my other priorities, those that I was allowing to slip away, wherever they fit in. The guitar strumming, sunset bourbon sipping, date nights, kid adventures or whatever I’m feeling at the time.
All this on top of the things I want to learn how to do, things I want to get better at, and so many facets of life I want to explore. I’m not going to live forever but I want to make sure I’m at least living a life worth living. That’s my take on Die Living. I want to be a better dude than I was yesterday, do some good for people, do things that scare the hell out of me, and raise my kids to put some good out in the world.
Whatever Happened to Work Hard, Play Hard?
Throwback to when work hard, play hard was the motto. Or work hard, play harder most of the time. I like to this think this is still how I roll. My work hard looks the same except I swapped out Gucci guns and gear for Dell laptops and my messenger bag (it’s a satchel and yes, I keep Skittles in there). My play hard, on the other hand, went from long nights and cold liquor to lightsaber battles and trying to keep up with the energy levels of my small humans, all while trying to teach them how to conquer their world.
Don’t Quote Me, Boy, I Ain’t Said Sh…
I don’t want this to come off as me trying to sound like an authority on living life. Like the rest of us, I’m still just trying to figure it out. Rather, I wanted to put some thoughts out there and do some novice writing, which, ironically, is one of those things I want to do more of and get good at. I looked at this as a chance to do some self-evaluating while working on my writing. Hopefully, in addition to spending time doing something I want to do and bettering myself in a valuable way, my experiences can be of benefit some of you reading this. Prioritizing things in your life and making time to enjoy life are basic practices and nothing new, but sometimes those basic concepts are the ones we need to be reminded of the most.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to work that 9 to 5 until you retire so you can live life how you want. Live the life you want now. Have some gratitude for what you have, be driven to get the things you want and make the days in your life count.
But as the headline says, don’t quote me. So, I’ll close with this.
“Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.” - Pope Paul VI
GerDono Wade is a former Special Forces Weapons Sergeant, a devoted husband and father , and the Co-Founder of Initial Response, where he focuses on training people to develop the skills necessary to survive and save lives in a disaster.