A twelve year old kid proclaimed that by the time he's twenty-five, he'll be a millionaire.
He was a hard-working kid who liked to do everything correctly. He studied because he knew it was right. He respected that doing well in school was going to set him up for life. He wasn't a straight A student, but he did get A's in the subjects he enjoyed. But he knew he had one huge benefit — belief that being a millionaire was possible.
It's 1994 and I'm that twelve year old kid. I knew that if I set the goal of being a millionaire, it just might come true.
Now at the age of thirty-six, three times my twelve year old self, I still have the giddy believe that if I really believe it can come true, I can make it happen. But if only I knew the secret that has taken me three and a half decades to understand.
When thinking about the future, there are three things to consider. There are the things you have absolutely no control over, there are the things you have some control over, and there are the things you have complete control over.
I have no control if I live or die
I open my eyes. I see my feet. They're dangling 900 feet above the streets below. Nothing between me and the ground. Not even glass. I look around, and I let go. I stretch out my arms and reach towards the ground and, — I relax.
Anyone who knows me, I a scared shitless of heights. But here, in this situation, I am calm and I enjoy it. My fear is temporarily removed. I have no control. My fate has been decided and I go along for the ride.
This is my experience on the Insanity ride at the top of the Stratosphere tower in Las Vegas.
I am very fortunate to have a natural ability to not fear the things I cannot control. With this, I spend very little time contemplating the past and having regret. I am thankful for this.
I have some control
At 718 feet we over look the majestic Grand Canyon. My friend is standing at the edge takes photographs looking only through the viewfinder. He points his camera up, then down; taking photos of the birds flying over the canyon. Never taking his eye away from the viewfinder.
This baffles me. Just two days later, the same friend dangling 900 feet above the streets of Las Vegas would tell me that he was terrified on that ride, but yet standing with no harness over the Grand Canyon, he is the one relaxed. I am the opposite.
My experience of the Grand Canyon can be summarised as no-fucking-way-am-i-going-anywhere-near-that-edge-i-am-scared-shitless.
My crocodile brain is yelling that I cannot be trusted to go near the edge. I have some control over my balance, but I do not have complete control. Compare this to being on the Insanity ride where I had no control. At the Grand Canyon, I simply do not trust myself, but on the Insanity ride, I trust a machine — a machine which has not statistically failed yet.
I have complete control
What my twelve year old self didn't realise is that simply having a goal of being a millionaire by the age of twenty-five was not within my complete control. It was a naive goal as it didn't dictate any of the actions which I needed to do in order to achieve it.
I focused on the outcome with no mechanism to make it happen. It wasn't a goal, it was a wish.
My three time wiser thirty-six year old self has learned that to set a realistic goal, I must set them where I have complete control. The things I have complete control over are what I do and what I think — not what doing it achieves.
Ironically, had I truly known this at age twelve, I would have focused on doing, and may very well have achieved being a millionaire by the age twenty-five.
My desires in life are to be happy and create a successful startup. While wealth is appreciated, it turns out it isn't the reward that I seek. I continue to look inwards and the more I do so, I find the clues on what makes me happy, satisfied and successful.
Here are some new goals where I have complete control:
- To work according to my ethics where I always do the right thing and have compassion for those around me
- To always do my best work and embrace failure
- To never tie a goal to an arbitrary external thing
- To always value each day with an opportunity to create and leave the day a little better than when it started
- To be humble and value the chance I have to be creative and build what I believe to be important
- To find ways to make the lives of others just a little bit better
- To love and be present with those who I care deeply about
For as long as I have control over my goals, I will find happiness.
What would I tell my 12 year old self?
Nothing. To look back and want to make a change is completely out of my control. But I will let that twelve year old self tell me a few things. He tells me that clarity and happiness is a journey and we should appreciate the opportunity to look for it. He also tells me that I have come so far, even if prior to this day I didn't think I had. Thank you twelve year old me.