Chapter 7 of my First book: My First Half of My LIFE: Searching for Success!
CHAPTER 7: My First Half of My LIFE: Searching for Success!
Of all of my pictures of my youth,
I find that this one, of me on vacation in Myrtle Beach, sums it up best.
A care-free, cozy and comfortable life growing up.
That is me on the diving board.
That was well before I hit 265 lbs on the scale. ☹
“Wealth consists not in having great possessions but in having few wants”
– Greek Philosopher Epictetus
The “Formative” Years. January 22, 1965 to May 1984
The early years. What some people refer to as our “formative years”. For me, this was a Happy time. For me, this was a healthy time. When I look at my picture books from those days, I am amazed at how fit and happy I looked growing up. When I look back on my early years, I remember a loving and caring family, family trips, friends in the neighborhood and at school, my best friend and next-door neighbor, playing lots of sports like soccer, swimming, water-polo, soccer etc. I don’t remember being much of a scholar (especially math) but, I got by. I basically grew up in a very comfortable place. A very comfortable zone. Abuse. Bullying. Divorce. Poverty. Unemployment. Mental illness. Alcoholism. Drugs. None of these existed in MY zone, or at least I was not aware of them. You played with friends in the summer, made a bit of money from a summer job, went to school, graduated from school, got a job, got married, bought a house, pursued your career, saved for retirement and then retired. Retired early, ideally, so that you and your spouse, could live happily ever after, touring the world and living a life of bliss as the sun slowly sets on what was, for all intents and purposes, a successful life. That was my lens growing up. That was my world as I grew up. As I grew up and started to shape my definition of what success meant. The career, the kids, the love of my life, the house, the car, the white picket fence, etc. Ah! the sweet smell of success. And as I was packing up to head off to University, it was all in my sights and in my dreams. Well, dream life, here I come!
The “Trying to Find Myself” Years. Alone. August 1984- May 1994
They say that most people don’t know what they want to do when they head off to University. Well, I was among them. But, off to University I went. That was, after all, the next step on the journey to success. Heaven forbid that I don’t go off to University like all the others. But what do I study? Forget anything to do with science, or arts or engineering. Let’s see now? How about business? A business degree sounds interesting? I will get one of those. So off to University I went. It was my first time away from home, so although I quickly found out that business school was not all that it was cracked up to be, for me anyway, I was having enough fun on the extra curricular front, to tough it out on the academic front for at least a couple of years. But there was only so much partying that my summer job savings could fund, so I ended my first experience on the University front a bit prematurely, after 2 years to be more precise. I would eventually go back to school and finish my undergraduate degree in business on a part-time basis. A very part-time basis. The other part of that time was spent trying to figure out what I wanted to do in this great big world of business that I was preparing myself for. Well, long story short, over the following eight years I changed jobs and careers more often than my underwear and I was not making a whole lot of cash while doing it.
At first, I thought that I was going to have a career in the hospitality business, then in the retail business, then in banking, then in accounting, then in financial analysis, then in investment management etc. Meanwhile, all of my friends were starting to execute on the roadmap to the journey of success. They had jobs, they were getting married, they were having kids, they were saving money, they were buying houses, they were buying cottages etc. And here I was, trying to finish my degree on a part time basis, moving from job to job, no savings to speak of, and during almost that whole period of time, living alone, spending a lot of time alone, and with no girlfriend. Yes, I was single for pretty much the first 30+ years of my life. I was fast approaching the big 3-0, and the longest relationship that I had had with a woman up until then had lasted less than 2 months.
Good thing that I got along well with myself in those days, because, I was who I was spending most of my time with in those days. So much for the love of my life. I have to spend time with women for that to happen. So much for the dream house. Houses cost money and, as I approached my 30th birthday, I had none. I had recently been fired from my job, so no job, and to top it all off, very little money in the bank, and no assets. Well, no assets, except for my university degree which I had finally managed to complete after about 6 years. Oh, and there was one other asset that I had at the time. I did not realize it then, but it was worth a lot. A whole lot! And it was going to be worth even more in the future. That asset was, ME. If, you don’t believe me, take a look at my blog on “MY personal balance sheet”. Although I ended up taking a lot of accounting courses over the years, I don’t remember any of them putting a whole lot of emphasis on, what I personally consider to be, the most valuable asset of them all, ourselves. That means ME! That means YOU!
So, although I had thought that I had accomplished very little during that period of my life. So, although I did not feel that I amounted to a whole lot during that period of my life, especially when I compared myself to others, I had ME and my family and my friends and, as you will read later in my story, that was plenty. More than plenty. 😊
September 1994 – April 1996. Back to School. For real, this time
Long story short. In the spring of 1994, the money to fund my “trying to find Myself” phase of my life had pretty much dried up and I ended up sleeping on the floor of a friend’s house, on an inflatable bed, that kept deflating. Not the most uplifting of environments. I don’t remember that type of a phase being in any of the journey to success books. It was a depressing time. It was a scary time. I felt so down and destitute. I can still remember phoning my Mom and telling her how discouraged I felt. I am so grateful to have had someone in my life at that time that I could reach out to and connect with. I was lonely and frightened. It was time to regroup. It was time to move back home. Back home with my parents. Back home to live in my parent’s house. When I mentioned the house milestone on the journey of my success, I meant buying and living in my own home, not moving back to live in my parents’ home.
Oh, and good luck finding the love of your life now. I was almost 30 years old and living in my old bedroom in my parents’ house with no job and no savings. Yikes. I am not sure that is going to attract a whole lot of single women. What now? My self-esteem was so low back then that I was not even able to think of looking for another job. I had zero energy and even less self-confidence. Why bother sending out resumes? No one is going to give me the time of day, far less spend the time to interview me. I was sleeping on someone’s floor not that long ago, for Pete’s sake. So, let’s see now. What do I do? How about going back to school? If at first you don’t succeed, then perhaps another degree will do the trick. MBA here I come! And, just to be on the safe side, I will also obtain my accounting designation at the same time. If three times is the charm, then 3 degrees/designations should also make me more charming.
May 1996. My Career has come a calling. Time to join the real world. Time to join the corporate world. Please fasten your seat belt!
Well, I guess I enjoyed my second stint on the university front a lot more the second time around. I graduated from my MBA on the Dean’s Honours list and I was among the top 10 graduates from my Province on the accounting designation front. It is incredible what you can do when you put your mind to something. Your mind, and your time. I had lots of time because I spent the whole 2 years as a bachelor (i.e. no relationships with women) But at least I was enjoying the learning this time around. And guess what? Upon completing my studies, I had a job offer. Actually, a couple. And those offers led to a job, which in turn led to a promotion, which in turn led to me meeting my future wife, which in turn lead to me marrying my wife, which in turn lead to buying a house, etc. etc. etc. Yes, I had finally embarked on my journey to success. As the managing partner at the firm that hired me told me at the time, that at age 32, I was a little late to the game, but as I like to say, better late, then never.
And once I had arrived, I caught up fast. Both me and my wife had well paying jobs on the career front and, as the years went by, so did the promotions and raises, and the accumulation of assets. The home was purchased and paid for within 7 years, 2 debt free cars were parked in the driveway within 4 years, and the retirement nest egg was starting to grow and grow. Before you knew it, we were in the top tier of the wealthiest people in the country. Not bad, if I do say so myself, and all that, in less time then it took me to finish my undergraduate degree. Mind you, I was travelling all the time, but that still left weekends to catch up with my wife. I was starting to make real progress on the career front. I was becoming a veteran. I was becoming a specialist. For the first time in my life, I was really starting to find my way around and become good at something. Something that I enjoyed. Something that I felt could last.
Before you knew it, I was starting to become part of the fabric at work. I was starting to feel pretty comfortable. I was starting to feel pretty successful. I was starting to feel pretty safe. I did not know it at the time, but I was starting to live in MY COMFORT ZONE, not to mention, starting to do some serious planning for MY RETIREMENT COMFORT ZONE. How comforting is that? My discovering myself days were now a thing of the past. I am not going back there again, not when my present is so successful and, not to mention, comfortable.
April 28, 2004. It’s a boy. Welcome to Parent-Hood Mr. Walker!
Career? Check! Wife? Check! House? Check! 2 Cars? Check! Savings? Check! Dog? No, but we have a cat, so Check! Kids? Check! TWO beautiful ones. One of each. One arrived on April 28, 2004 and the other, shortly thereafter, on June 24, 2006. Kids, the latest addition, but certainly not the least, on the checklist of life success. Not only another check mark on the checklist of my successful life checklist but also another ball to juggle in the balancing act between my life of work, rest and play.
Oh! Oh! That means that it is probably time to cut back on the travel now. I can’t possibly travel that much and spend time with my kids at the same time. My weekends are also going to need a little reengineering as well. Weekends with my wife would soon become, weekend nights with my wife, starting at 8 pm when the kids were in bed, and we were both exhausted from the day. How romantic is that? Oh well, hang in there, Freedom 55 is not that far away, and then we will have all the time in the world to spend together. In the meantime, we can always schedule a date night or two.
Oh, and on the travel less front. I might have to explore some new work options at work in order to make that one work (pardon all the puns). And by exploring new work options, I mean exploring making some changes. It has been a while now since I last made some changes on the workplace front. Things are pretty comfy these days. It has taken me a while to get to where I am these days. To have finally become successful. I am not sure I want to rock the boat at this point. That does not sound like something that will make me feel all that comfortable. What if I just sit tight? Freedom 55 is not all that far off. I only have 16 more years to go.
So, What did I learn?
How did I make change EASYer on myself 😊 (or not ☹)
Have you heard the expression that self-awareness is the precursor to change? I was so caught up in a bunch of expectations and preconceived notions of what success was all about, that I had pretty much stopped asking myself if I was really enjoying what I was doing? and where I was going? “Keeping up with the Joneses” was pretty much my strategy to success during that first half of my life. An approach, very much in line with what Bob Buford was describing in his “Halftime” book as the “success” focused first half of one’s life. The “significance” focused second half would have to wait.
“Just keep moving forward”, I would tell myself. “Keep building that comfort zone and comfort home and retirement plan”. “Don’t rock the boat”. I thought that I was making things EASYer on myself by keeping my head down and just plowing forward and ignoring and avoiding anything and everything that did not feel comfortable, but now that I am more self-aware, and all the wiser, I now realize that I was not. ☹.
That was all about me. What about YOU?What are you doing to make your journey of change EASYer on YOU? 😊 (or not ☹)
What were your dreams growing up?
What is your definition of success?
LOOKING FOR SUPPORT FOR YOUR JOURNEY?