Lake Champlain Sunset (Photo by Ben Avery)
I’m so excited to have one of my employees and friends take over the blog this week! I’m proud of my team for stepping up and sharing their words of wisdom and even more proud of them for living a life by design. I love hearing their different perspectives about how to create a life and career that they love. Take it away Ben!
An extraordinary life. What does that even mean? Is it about wealth? Is it about time? Is it about personal satisfaction? The answer is… YES! However, many people make the mistake of thinking it’s about one of these things and chase it exclusively (often times wealth), when in actuality, the magic is in the moderation and combination of all of them.
I am a very active social media user and enjoy recording and sharing my life with family and friends. Comments I get from others on a regular basis often surround being asked how do we do it? Specifically, how do we do it ALL? I am an executive at an Adam Hergenrother Companies subsidiary, my wife is the Vice President of a tech company and we have four kids (our entire existence is a “redline”), yet we always seem to be everywhere we want to be, all the time, and from a life experience standpoint, we leave nothing on the table!
Now don’t get me wrong, hard work and professional success is the foundation (in my opinion). Anyone who works for Adam can attest that leaning in at 120% is the standard and from that effort comes freedom – both financial freedom and freedom with our time. We’ve all hear the term “work hard play hard”, but many of us lose sight of the fact that the “play hard” part of that is supposed to be somewhat proportionate.
Let’s break down the three pillars of an extraordinary life:
Wealth —> This is often the one that I see people get wrong. Chasing a number is just that – most people who chase numbers never actually catch them. While blue sky thinking is critical to growth, it’s also just a fundamental reality that we can’t all be billionaires. Sure, we all sometimes put crazy stuff on our vision boards, but I would challenge you to rethink that goal or idea into one that you can strategize how to get (maybe instead of dreaming about the Gulfstream 650, you should prioritize your lessons and flight hours starting TODAY, while browsing the internet for the cost of a used Cessna 180). This thinking will help you actually get ON the path of your goal, while matching today’s budget. Oh yeah, and instead of talking about it, you will be DOING it (using the above example, any pilot will tell you, flying is flying).
Don’t get me wrong, you need to have financial goals and you need to make every effort required to meet them. I am just a proponent of matching those financial goals to realistic and executable dreams and ideas that can enrich your life today as well as tomorrow. Most financial advisers (and our CFO) would shoot me for even suggesting this, but if you look at spending 10% of your income on enriching your life TODAY (FYI you should be saving 10% or more for the future as well), you might find yourself doing the things you want to (scaled to income of course) and chipping away at your bucket list starting today, not 30 years from now. This can mean travel, athletics, boating, fishing, whatever! I do this and it has obviously grown over the years, but my wife and I consider it a cost of doing business, a baseline for extraordinary!
How do we cover that cost offset? Well, we make compromises in other parts of our life about what we really need and what is important. Probably the number one area to evaluate is shelter and transportation. Being “house poor” and or capping that decision with a brand-new Lexus can quickly eat up the ability to chase those extraordinary dreams. Unless of course your goals are to sit in that beautiful home while looking at the Lexus in the driveway, then you’re winning! For example, we have a beautiful home, that we have been in for 15 years and renovated (out of pocket) along the way. It’s not new, but the annual cost of it is less than 10% of our income. I still have the Mercedes, but did you know that when you buy one a few years old with 50,000 miles on it you get a roughly 70% discount? Moderation is the key… I could easily eat up my lifestyle budget with a bigger house and brand new car, neither of which I really need.
Time —> This one is critical! While many of us can create some kind of budget, few actually take the TIME to do the things they want to do. We spend a ton of professional time figuring our scheduling, allocation, prioritization and all of the things that go into effective time management. Then when we go home, what happens? Many people will procrastinate, make excuses, be lazy… if we did that at work we would be in trouble! Why are we willing to do it to ourselves? So many people I know will make up excuses of why they can’t do something on the weekend because of menial tasks (clean out the garage, a trip to Costco, etc…). If you become purposeful about those tasks, you can create the time to get out in the world and experience the things that you truly want to do! Power through Costco on a Tuesday after work, make the garage a purposeful family task at 7am on a rainy Saturday, don’t waste the warm sunny weekend when you could be at the lake! Another big family excuse is kid’s sports. I can’t tell you how many times people let a 1 hour soccer game eat their day. I’m not saying quit soccer, I am saying be purposeful about how you approach the day and you might find that you can actually do brunch with friends, catch the game and make it for sunset on the boat all in the same day (trust me, accomplish that and your friends who haven’t figured this out will look at you like a hero). If budget allows, create time by hiring a housekeeper and/or a lawn service. The 4-6 hours a week that is freed up can be spent taking a hike, or a bike ride, or enjoying lazy afternoon cocktails with friends – anything. Those are just a few examples, but basically speaking, there is a “business” and a “pleasure” side to our personal lives, get purposeful about the business part!
Ok… So now you’ve created the time and budget, now how to execute. PULL THE TRIGGER!!! The concept here is to DO things, not think about them (that’s what you used to do). My wife is terrible about this, which is why I am the planner and I execute. Enter Google alerts for low price airfare, choose easy locations, actually USE the airline miles and hotel points as opposed to hoarding them, where can you drive to in under 5 hours? So much of what we chase is right at our fingertips, yet we don’t grab it. If you are coming from a place like Vermont, a long weekend at the beach is very good for your Vitamin D and your marriage, or a weekend in New York or Montreal can be an exciting adventure!
The long weekend is a magical thing. I have numerous friends that blow $5,000-$10,000 on a big summer vacation (I find the big vacation stressful, but that’s another blog post). For that budget I can take a long weekend every other month all year long! These little nuggets accomplish the goal of recharging your batteries without really having to disconnect from the rest of your world. My thing is Florida in the Winter. I book a 4:00pm flight on Wednesday then plan to work remotely from say 6am-10am Thursday and Friday mornings to keep things moving along professionally. Now I have really only lost a day of work (maybe) and I’m home late Sunday and back at it Monday morning. I’m not going to Disney or staying at the Delano, but wow do I feel relaxed and recharged! Another secret is the “staycation”. We are huge advocates of this, in part because you don’t lose travel days and it’s easy to control costs. In the summer it is endless days on our boat with family and friends and in the winter its condo rentals at our home mountain (we are avid skiers). Since we already have passes and we can hit Costco before checking in, our winter “ski” vacations are VERY economical, we split with another family and often have a 5 day rental for less than $500 on our end. Be creative, think local and don’t get caught up in the big complicated trip! The memories you make by maximizing the time will enhance the experience, especially for the kids!
Our rule of thumb is called the 50/50, 50 days a year on the ski slopes and 50 nights a year on the boat. Sounds crazy, but we almost always exceed that and our lives are so much richer for it. Vacation for us isn’t yearly, or even monthly… its WEEKLY! That is the goal… We make the time, we execute on the plans and subsequently, we are always where WE want to be!
Personal Satisfaction —> What would you do? How could your life be extraordinary? The engine for this is the byproduct of time and budget. But your dreams are the driver for how to shape those goals. Many people spend a disproportionate percentage of their time doing things they feel that they need to do. While that does bring some satisfaction, it’s not really the same as breaking through and focusing on the things that you WANT to do! The trick is to make decisions to balance that out.
It truly is different stroke for different folks. I work with one woman who just loves being in the office and working on smaller projects over the weekend. She derives a ton of pleasure from that and it is fulfilling for her, so go for it! As many of you know, Adam is a health and exercise master and pushes it to the limit, most recently as a successful Ironman competitor. His training time is his focus and those accomplishments bring him tremendous personal satisfaction. For me it’s the boat and the mountain. We are all different and what you must do is look inside and identify what it is that drives you, what gives you a complete sense of satisfaction and makes you smile. What is going to release those endorphins and how do you get started on it TODAY!
As I am writing this another team member poked his head in my office to ask me about skiing for his family (where is best to go, etc…). I gave him the best advice I had for his family of 7 (yikes!) as he is very excited about the idea of creating family memories on the slopes in the winter and exploring that lifestyle. As I am sure he will read this, I can honestly say his energy in TALKING about it was outstanding, I challenge him to EXECUTE!
My dad passed away when he was 57 and left a long bucket list behind. I was only 32, but it changed me in a way that took a while to articulate. While I am not advocating irresponsibility (Dad would not have liked that), I am advocating attacking life and identifying the things you really want to do on a scale that is manageable and can grow with your professional success. If you can find a way to live the life you want today, and everyday, then you will be living your dreams as opposed to chasing them!
You will get all of the rest you need when you’re gone. Get out there and make it count. My family and I have an extraordinary life (we really do!). Go get yours!
ABOUT BEN AVERY
As Vice President of Development, at BlackRock Construction, a division of Adam Hergenrother Companies, Ben manages the development and permitting teams for both internal and client based projects. Ben’s mission is the evaluation and creation of projects and opportunities for BlackRock Construction and its clients. Overseeing development projects from the initial negotiation through the permitting process, to construction start, while creating win-win situations for all stakeholders is his overall goal. Ben’s focus on these values makes him an asset to any type of project and an excellent advocate for our clients.
A native of Rochester, NY, Ben has resided in Vermont for the better part of the last 20 years. He has a strong entrepreneurial background including 15 years in food service including multi-unit management and franchise/wholesale ownership. For the past five years he has been a consultant to small to mid-sized businesses in the greater Burlington, VT area in the fields of general strategy, restructuring, and development. As a function of many of these roles, Ben has worked with clients in the areas of commercial investment, residential development and management, as well as redevelopment of underutilized assets. He takes an objective and fair approach to transactions and is very adept at negotiations on high value properties, permitting coordination, and complex transactions.
Ben lives in Williston, VT with his wife, Michelle, and their four children. Contact Ben at email@example.com.