Lights, Camera, Action!

I’ve arrived at this outermost edge of my life by my own actions. Where I am is thoroughly unacceptable. Therefore, I must stop doing what I’ve been doing.”
-Alice Koeller

I often think we are all in the process of creating a movie about our lives, a movie where hopefully we are the hero and if it is my movie I am hopefully  about two thirds the way from the end. When you think of your life as a movie, you get to view it from the outside. It will bring clarity, help you understand your feelings, and allow you to see what was happening in the world around you. Like those annoying people who sit near you talking at the theater, you can ask questions and make comments while watching. Why didn’t I look after my health? Why did “I” stay in my job for so long? A job that I wasn’t enjoying anymore, a job that was killing me! How dumb was that?

If you are feeling a little lost entering retirement, “watching” your movie will help you see how you got to this point in your life. What you went through, the happy times, the sad times, the achievements, and the mistakes you made alone the way. It will allow you to see the impact past actions and experiences had on your life even today. We can’t go back and edit the film but we can reflect, learn, and use the information to make a better future for ourselves.

As I watch my film I find myself saying, “Mike don’t eat those chips, Mike you need to start working out, Mike you need to stop working so hard,  spend more time with your family”. “Mike those pants are getting a little tight on you”… sorry someone else said that to me.

It is Never too Late to Become You

As I mentioned in a previous blog, every year at Christmas time I get a chance to see one of my favorite movies “A Christmas Carol.” As you probably know Scrooge learns lessons from Christmas past, present, and future which alters his life for the better. Scrooge learns that he alone can change his future and that he has the power to change his fate. A great lesson.

What Does Your Movie Look Like So Far?

After I graduated from school, life was easy,  I worked, went out to the disco with my friends on the weekends and had fun. My WHY was all about having fun, but things changed when I got married, had kids and bought a home with my first mortgage. Suddenly my WHY changed to providing financial security for my family. That’s the  WHY that got me out of bed all those mornings. My focus was giving my family the best life possible and that meant I focused on my career chasing promotions, money and security. Work controlled me instead of me controlling my life. My job owned me!

Why Did I Allow That To Happen?

Why did the hero in my movie allow this to happen? I was a little embarrassed watching my movie, knowing the leading man seemed to care more about his career than anything else. In trying to provide for his family, ultimately the things he cared most about, his family and his health both suffered. He was willing to bury his values and do whatever was required for his career. He was willing to make personal sacrifices, interrupt family time and work endless hours, including interrupting his vacation for his career. He gave the job everything  because that is how he was raised. I can’t believe “he” was me. My movie made me realize I had lived my life wrong, allowing myself to be defined by my job. The job became too big a part of my life and as a result it caused me grief and created a huge hole in me. I knew I needed to fill that hole before I could move on and be happy.

Watching my movie gave me a sense of guilt because I knew it was wrong to put my work first and that I had wanted a more balanced life. At the time I didn’t know how else to do it. Even today I still don’t see another alternative unless maybe winning the lottery but it’s hard to win when you don’t buy a ticket.

My employer tried to get me to buy in to their message, job security, good compensation, good benefits, awards, I was lucky, but it never felt right to me. I was never driven by wealth, it was not a value of mine but it was a driver for my managers and people around me. I began to disagree with how they were conducting business and treating people. It just didn’t feel right to me that employees should have to live in constant fear for there jobs. A recent example of this is what those poor souls over at Wells Fargo experienced. Every time I think about what they went through I just shudder.

I felt there was nothing I could do except hang on so I found ways to dull the pain by overeating, drinking and staring at the TV. As a result my health suffered, I was unhappy doing my job, it stressed me out, it was a job that I didn’t like anymore.

Things Improved After Achieving Financial Independence

Once I achieved financial independence (FI) my career that I spent so much time worrying about, became less important to me. The kids were grown up, the mortgage was gone, and I didn’t have to worry about losing my job anymore. You would think that because the pressure was off I would finally be happy but it didn’t work out that way for me. Something was still wrong, something was still nagging at me and I realized that it had to do with my job.

Because I had FI, I was no longer scared, I didn’t feel like competing anymore for the extrinsic rewards, which once meant so much to me. I was no longer living in survival mode I started to see things I never noticed before and realized that the “corporate me” was way out of touch with what was important to me. I was no longer willing to waste time that I could never get back doing something that I didn’t enjoy just so I could save more money for retirement. I knew I needed to make some changes before it was too late.

Now Is The Time To Start Working On The Your Movie Ending

Pretend for a moment that you are Scrooge you’ve already met the ghosts from the past and present and now your meeting the ghost from the future and being shown your own funeral.
What are people saying about you?
Do you like what you are hearing?
What would you like them to say about you?

For example:

“He was one of the happiest people I ever met.”
“He was an Ironman, the fittest 80-year-old I ever saw. He could do things that most people only dream about.”
“He was a miserable old coot and died from a heart attack at age 65 broke and lonely”

While we can’t go back and change our past we can choose how we intend to live out the rest of our lives. We all hold the power to change the outcome of our futures by changing our ways before it is too late, just like Scrooge. All we have to do is to make the right choices from this day forward.

Your job starting today is to create a happy ending for your movie before the credits roll!

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4 thoughts on “Lights, Camera, Action!

  1. Sam Reply

    While I’m not yet retired (but soon!), I’ve been in that same spot for a while where I wonder why I’m killing myself for my employer. Hopefully, most people don’t have to wait for retirement (or the last 1/3 of their movie) to figure out what’s really important in life. I think millennials have seen their parents give their life over to their jobs and have decided early on in their own lives that there’s more to life than climbing a career ladder – i.e. success isn’t measured only by your career. If this is the legacy we’ve left behind for our children and grandchildren, then that’s a good thing.
    On another note, I think the whole corporate world is due for a shake-up; people are tired of the ‘spoils’ only going to senior execs and shareholders – but with robotics and intelligent automation on the horizon, I fear yet even more people will be in a position where their only option is to work harder in an effort to keep the fewer available jobs.
    Thanks for your heartfelt posts!

    • Mike Drak Post authorReply

      I hope your right about the corporate shake up Sam as I don’t want my kids to experience what I went through. I just told someone this morning that If I had a chance to do it all again I wouldn’t and he agreed which is pretty sad when you think about it. Things need to change and we all need to help make that change happen.

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