Thursday, April 7, 2011

Happy or Fulfilled?

When you die, which would you rather say: that you lived a happy life or that you lived a fulfilling life?
And who's to say what happiness and fulfillment is? Is it fame? Fortune? Power?

I got this widely proliferated story from Tim Ferriss's Four Hour Work Week:

"An American businessman took a vacation to a small coastal Mexican village on doctor’s orders. Unable to sleep after an urgent phone call from the office the first morning, he walked out to the pier to clear his head. A small boat with just one fisherman had docked, and inside the boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

“How long did it take you to catch them?” the American asked.

“Only a little while,” the Mexican replied in surprisingly good English.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” the American then asked.

“I have enough to support my family and give a few to friends,” the Mexican said as he unloaded them into a basket.

“But… What do you do with the rest of your time?”

The mexican looked up and smiled. “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Julia, and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, señor.”
The American laughed and stood tall. “Sir, I’m a Harvard M.B.A. and can help you. You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. In no time, you could buy several boats with the increased hall. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”

He continued, “Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village, of course, and move to Mexico City, then to Los Angeles, and eventually to New York City, where you could run your expanding enterprise with proper management.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, señor, how long will all this take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years. 25 tops.”

“But what then, señor?”

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.”

“Millions, señor? Then what?”

“Then you would retire and move to a small coastal fishing village, where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…”

Ferriss talks about a number of interesting concepts in his book, most chiefly the thought of taking a 'mini-retirement'. It's about taking life as it comes, making the most of it and enjoying it day by day. It's never too early to make that one-month trip to trek across the Sahara on camels or sail across the Pacific. You aren't getting any younger.

Three things make traveling around the world and enjoying the trek possible and convenient: youth, money, and time. If you're young with money, you're probably working like a demon to earn it. If you're retired with money, you're probably old enough to have passed the adventure years. If you're young without money, it's probably a summer break.

But I refuse to accept the status quo. Military TDY can give me a little bit of time into my schedule. Taking a couple weeks off between assignments gives me some more time. Saving up some money and spending some time in research can give me some great deals. And staying limber through the years and constantly active with a youthful mindset can keep me chipper through my middle years and into my elderly days.

Oh, gee. I can talk some serious smack about this though. Yes, words are cheap. I just have to follow through on it. I'll keep posting on my adventures, and more than just the philosophical ramblings. But I'll keep posting on my adventures and experiments.

Fame matters little to me. Fortune can come and go. And power is fleeting and tied to assuming a role. When I leave this world, all I'll have left is a series of memories, my skills, and my identity. I seek to make them the best possible. And there isn't a soul in the world capable of depriving me of these..

But back to the initial topic of the post. I don't enjoy stagnating where I am. I always like to keep moving forward and having some purpose at any given time. I enjoy making progress and living a fulfilling life. Right now I'm working to be the best ABM and officer I can be, am progressing rapidly through the ranks in my second dojo, meditating and mastering my body, learning how to do a handstand, scuba diving whenever possible, and taking action to be the best I can. In life. Only time will tell how far I progress in these.

This is only possible because I've weaned myself off of video games and TV for the most part, impressive considering I used to go into a video game coma for a day and log about 10 hours a day on weekends sometime. Living life without 'filler' is definitely rewarding.

When I grow old and reflect on these years, I am going to be able to confidently say that I left nothing behind and am completely content with what went on. I'll make mistakes. I'll be lazy. I'll get a little ahead of myself and get burned. I'll love. I'll lose. I'll wish for an opportunity to relive these years because they were so good. But I hope, and I'll make sure that I'll be just as happy with my future life.

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