Disciplined Ambition: Are You a Success In Your Business But a Failure in Your Personal Life?

Lifeonaire: An Uncommon Approach to Wealth, Success and Prosperity, by Steve Cook & Shaun McCloskey

Today, I want to take a slight turn from writing about maximizing our businesses and investment portfolios and focus for a bit on, well, life.

I don’t ordinarily enjoy books like the one we will discuss today. Books where life lessons are taught through conversational writing with relatively predictable dialogue. But this book did make me think. 

Are you someone who works to gather material things but, ironically, because you have to work so hard and so many hours to afford those things you never or rarely actually get to enjoy them?  Have you found yourself with rising debts and expenses and a corresponding increase in the time you must work while sacrificing other life experiences to be able to afford that rising debt and expense load? Today´s book challenges us to, at a minimum, question this path that many of us may be on and instead ponder a move towards living a simpler life. Today´s book is about learning to live with “less” so that we can actually live more.  Does that sound like a change that you want to make?

Today´s book, Lifeonaire, based on the premise that too many of us focus on monetary and material abundance versus abundance of life and experience, tells the story of the transition of an overworked, overstressed and absent father rich in possessions (and debts) who, through mentorship, makes his way back to a simpler, more meaningful life. Simply stated, the main character in the book got caught up in the “American Dream”: work hard, save some capital, start a business or get a good job, find success, use the money that is the product of that business success to acquire a big home in the best neighborhood and the big mortgage payment that comes with, a couple cars with their expensive leases and the kinds of toys that all sound fun at first but whose monthly payments long outlast the joy they give us. 

That pattern of events will likely sound familiar to many of you. For some, this “American Dream” may be the life that you want. Nothing wrong with that, of course. But, as entrepreneurs, creators and innovators, it is our nature to challenge the status quo and we should here as well, just to make sure. Therefore, let’s use our book today as a springboard to consider a potentially alternative life path. 

The Frailty of the American Dream

The American Dream in a nutshell:

Step 1:  Get a job or build a business

Step 2:  Work 

Step 3:  Find some financial success (enough to justify incurring large monthly debt payments)

Step 4:  Start a family

Step 5:  Buy (or more accurately lease) a few cars

Step 6:  Buy (or more precisely take out a loan to acquire) a house 

Step 7:  Work more and more to be able to afford the cars, the house and all the other things that we bring into our lives along the way.  

Does this progression of events, when viewed critically, really make much sense or sound irresistibly desirable? Is this really a dream life? In the scenario above, we become locked into the hamster wheel of exchanging more time for more money to fund a more expensive lifestyle; a lifestyle that we cannot enjoy fully because the demands on our time continue to elevate. 

The Prosperity Equation – The Three Buckets of People

Let’s define, as the book does, prosperity to mean a life abundant in experience and contribution.  I think we can all agree that if we define prosperity that way then it is something we all would like to achieve? Let’s now take three hypothetical people, all with the same 24 hours in any given day, and see which combination of money, expenses and time would actually be more consistent with the life you want to live. 

More money, Higher expenses, Less time

This is your typical American Dream scenario.  Work more, buy more and incur more debt, enjoy everything less because these new obligations demand more of your time, be dedicated to work to finance those obligations. Sounds pretty miserable. I´ve lived it, and it is not good.

Less money, Less expenses, More time

This could sound appealing to those who like living with less. But, as much as some may hate to admit it, money is often a necessary resource for experiencing all that life has to offer with respect to experience and contribution.  We also need to be responsible and build ourselves a security blanket of savings.  Sloth is never a good option.  Sure, we can eat street food in Paris and find deals along the way, but for many people, an abundant life includes enjoying the finer things and having the capacity to give from time to time.  Falling into this category can strain those objectives.

More money, Less expenses, Less time

This, in my opinion, is the ideal confluence of our money, expense and time paradigm. There are a lot of ways to make money. Many of you are likely achieving that now through your entrepreneurial endeavors or through your investment portfolios. The hard part becomes managing that inflow of money so that you do not then use it to simply create more responsibilities in your life.  

Everyone has heard the quote that “the best two days as a boat owner are the day you buy it and the day you sell it?” That quote applies to more than just boats. How many of the things we acquire, including the big house that was outside our budget when we bought it and the luxury cars that we thought we needed, after a short time, are more accurately described as a responsibility than a joy? 

To land in this category, we need to position ourselves to make more money, which does not actually require an increase in income, just a reduction in how much of it we send out the door every month, and then work on efficiencies in our work lives to reduce the time commitment needed to reach that income level that we desire.  In other words, you have to get out of the “trading time for money” merry-go-round.  

Does this category sound like the most appealing to you?  Would you trade the big house and the toys for a little bit more life?  Anyone can do it. Today´s book will pave your way.  I’ll throw in some of my own how-tos as well.  

Finding a Balanced Life

If you have read other articles I have written, I harp on the idea, only because it is so inarguably correct, that our lives are shaped by the decisions we make. These  decisions include those that we make proactively and also how we decide to reactively respond to circumstances that come into our life. 

Shaping the life that you want is, as a simple matter, an exercise in deciding. If you take the time to carve out a vision for what your life will look like and work backwards to define the steps you will need to take and the things that will need to occur for you to get where you want to go, you have boiled your path to success in this arena down to executable steps that ambitious people like us are, almost without question, bound to execute upon.  It’s like business.  What is the three-year revenue target for your business? Well, what is the three-year target for your life and what pieces need to come together to hit that target?

Don’t beat yourself up for wherever you may be right now.  Self-compassion is invaluable. And everyone, or at least almost everyone, has fallen into this same cycle of events.  I know I have.  I bought the house, the expensive car, the motorcycle and even the boat! I´ve rebounded though. Why? The power of clarity about priorities and living an abundant, prosperous life.  

The Four Stages of Prosperity

The book is going to walk you through the four stages of prosperity.  I do not want to ruin the surprise. So get your copy

But my encouragement for everyone, and I will end this article like this, without downplaying the incredible importance in our lives of ambition and drive, is to live an intentional life consistent with your values that is not decided for you by the standards or notions of what “success” looks like through the eyes of others. Always dig deep to the roots of what it is that you really want.

Question with boldness even the existence of God . . .” – Thomas Jefferson

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This book challenges us to question this path that many of us may be on and instead ponder a move towards living a simpler life.

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