Fred owns a corporate marketing company in Tucson, Arizona. He travels two or three days a week visiting companies in the Southwest and California, and he earns a six-figure income doing so. His regional approach to business is one of the reasons behind his financial success.
A company in Los Angeles offered Fred a large contract to do some work. While flying to Los Angeles to meet with the firm, Fred had an opportunity to reflect on his successful career—and the hectic and stressful lifestyle that it demanded. He related this story.
“I sat staring out the window of that 737 at 25,000 feet, seeing the surface of the world move slowly past my field of vision. I began to ponder the fact that as every cloud and mountaintop passed by, I was being carried farther from home. As it was, I had hardly seen my kids for the last week, and now this trip would keep me away from them for another three days. And for what? More money?
“I realized that in stepping on that plane, I had made more than a commitment to a business deal and to a career. I had also committed myself to miss out on the opportunity to spend those days, at least part of those days, with my family—and those were days that I would never be able to recover. When the flight attendant went by, I felt like asking her to tell the pilot to turn the airplane around.”
After relating this story he said, “You know, I’m not ready to quit my work. But I am really questioning what is truly important in my life. My daughter is going to graduate from high school next year—and then she’s gone. This is the last year she will be at home. Is this the year I want to be traveling three or four days a week? My son is a thriving fifth grader. Fifth grade boys need their dad around. And my wife? I adore her. I love being with her. And I really miss her when I’m gone.”
A moment over the mountains in a 737 changed Fred’s life. He asked, “Is it really the money that makes me happy? Is that what’s most important in my life?” And the answer led him to a decision.
When Fred returned from his business trip, he announced to his family that he was going to shift his marketing focus to serve only companies located in the Tucson and Phoenix area. It would probably result in less money for awhile, but it would allow him to be where he wanted to be—close to them.
We know that money can’t buy everything—yet many of us spend most of our precious time and energy in pursuit of it, often at the expense of our health, well-being, and family.
What we all want is happiness. But happiness isn’t necessarily earned by working hard or making more money. For many of us, it comes as a result of simply allowing ourselves to be more satisfied with our lives as they are—not someday, but now.
When Fred got that lucrative job offer from his client in Los Angeles, he accepted immediately. He was programmed to do so. He rationalized, “That’s more money in the bank. We’ll be able to do more. We’ll be able to buy more. We’ll have a higher standard of living. Great. Of course I accept.”
He’d been on automatic pilot. In accepting the offer, he wasn’t accounting for the cost to his family, or for his own deeper personal needs. The monetary reward was there, but it wasn’t leading him to more satisfaction with his life; it was it taking him away from what he valued most. Fortunately for him and his family, a moment of mid-flight clarity gave him a new direction, and he made a change as soon as he could.
Few people are able to find total satisfaction and contentment in work alone. We also need relationships with others in our lives— and the time needed to invest in those relationships. We often find ourselves too busy to spend time with those we love, and the rewards of our long hours of dedication and toil are rarely sufficient to fill the resulting void.