We’ve been busier than usual the last few weeks due to the annual surfing trip (where I was woefully unproductive outside surfing and eating fish tacos) and preparing for – and running over the past weekend – the marathon. It’s hard to believe we trained for 4 months, and close to 700 km of running, to prepare for that one, single 42.2 km run. With a few days of rest, I’m back to walking like a normal person again. Reflecting on completing this milestone had me thinking about living life intentionally. A lot of times, I seem to observe people living life unintentionally – they just seem to let life happen to them rather than discovering what they actually want, setting a plan to get what they want, and executing the plan. If you live unintentionally, you’ll wake up one day to realize the tragedy of your circumstances. When you have a dream, create a realistic plan to achieve that dream, collect data along the way, and start executing, it’s amazing what you can accomplish. Here’s some musing on 3 recent examples from my life where intentional living has produced outstanding results.
For the sake of clarity, I’ll define what I mean by intentional living. To provide some precision in the definition, when I say intentional living, I am talking about the following formula:
- Identifying what you truly want to accomplish in life and establishing goals.
- Creating a realistic plan towards achieving said goals.
- Executing the long, arduous process of attaining said goals.
- Collecting data along the way to see where you are at and where you are heading.
These 4 steps of intentional living have helped me accomplish some major goals in life. With the definition of intentional living out of the way, let’s dive into the 3 case studies.
I once wrote about the half marathon. I never thought before we ran that I could run 21.1 km.
2 years after running that half marathon, we ran a full marathon. I never thought before this past weekend that I could run 42.2 km. Looking at that grueling training schedule at the onset of training, I just could not imagine being able to do it 4 months ago (both the training and the actual marathon).
But we identified that this was a major life goal. We wanted to run a marathon. It was on the bucket list. So it was an important goal in our lives.
With the goal identified, we created a very realistic plan to achieve it (that horrifying training schedule). For someone who had never run more than 21.1 km in his life, seeing training runs that peaked around 32.2 km was kind of terrifying. Nevermind that you had to run 42.2 km on race day.
Big goals are tough. I remember reading somewhere recently that the reason people don’t aspire for big goals in life is not because life is in the way and they have little time: rather, it’s because everyone knows deep inside how truly difficult big goals are and they shy away by using excuses like having little time in an effort to avoid them.
Alas, we trained and ran for 4 months. In the rain, in the shine, in the mornings, in the nights, between parties with friends, in different countries, and during our travels. It became an integral part of our lives for those 4 months. The summer of 2015 will forever be the summer of endless running.
We executed all the arduous training and collected data all along the way. With the data, we were fairly positive we knew the range in which we could run the marathon. And it turned out the data was almost precisely correct in projecting our time. Here’re some of the data:
When it was all ran and done, we finished on the upper end of the range of possible finish times we had projected for ourselves based on the data we had collected.
What I found interesting throughout the marathon was that the first 20 km was the easiest, the middle between 20-30 km was the toughest, and the last 10 km was surprisingly easy again, relatively speaking.
Maybe this extrapolates to other areas of life? Anyways, it was interesting to experience over a +4 hour stretch of running.
I won’t go into much detail about the student loans because I have covered it extensively in the past.
I had $54,000 in student loan debt upon completing academia. It was kind of a shock to see that figure because it didn’t really seem real while inside the confines of academia.
But once I was done and in the real world, it became all too real. It became a major goal – if not one of my most important goals – of mine to get out of student loan debt as quick as possible.
I identified my goal, created a plan, and executed like crazy all the while collecting data to gauge my progress. This is what the data looked like:
Very similar to the marathon training. Suffice to say, I never want to owe money to anyone ever again.
I haven’t talked about our net worth in over a year. I thought I was cool with sharing numbers but I got a little spooked. Call me old fashioned, but it made me feel uncomfortable sharing the figures even though I remain fairly anonymous on this blog. I’m a fiercely private person so it doesn’t surprise me. All I will say one year on is that net worth has grown at a nice clip.
Something I realized very recently is that the total assets held in common stock has reached an amount equal to what I once owed in total student loans. It’s a cool threshold to be at. Looking at the spectrum of time since 2012 to now, it’s all very surreal.
I couldn’t have imagined in 2012 not having student loans, let alone holding equity shares equal to the total amount of student loan debt outstanding.
The blueprint and habits from paying off the student loans carried over to building wealth. All we did was turn the money hose from paying off debt to filling out tax sheltered accounts. Eventually, the hose will move again from the tax sheltered accounts to regular accounts once the tax sheltered ones are tapped out.
But again, this has only been possible because we identified that building wealth was a very, very important goal in life for us. That led to drawing up a plan, executing day in, day out, and collecting data all along the way to ensure we are progressing along towards our objective.
I often joke to my wife that we could be buying brand new iPhones for ourselves and going on week-long, all inclusive Mexican vacations each and every single month if we wanted to. I suppose if we were living unintentionally, we would be doing something along those lines.
Living intentionally doesn’t just end at these 3 examples. I’m continuously working on building up my accounting and business knowledge. I sure as hell wouldn’t be reading textbooks on GAAP accounting or reading through annual reports if I wasn’t intentional about it. Even after a few years of learning these concepts, I’m still a bit terrified of how much more knowledge there is to gain. It’s even more intimidating than the 20 mile training run I saw on the training schedule at the beginning of marathon training.
But I think it’s the only way to live a full, rich life. Nothing I mentioned would be possible if I just let myself drift unintentionally in the sea of life. I’d have never made it past 10 km of running. I’d still be paying the minimum amounts on my student loans. I’d have no where near the assets we own now. And I sure as hell wouldn’t be learning about finance.
Your dreams matter. But they are damn hard to achieve. So make a plan, put your head down, collect data, and just start doing. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at where it leads you.
Always ask yourself, “If not now, when? If not me, then who?”