I drove north on 55 toward McCall. The windy, hilly, & unpredictable road was awakening (& so was the 20oz of green tea I gulped before the drive). The deer that jumped in front my car also kept me alert! The biggest challenge was holding myself back from stopping every minute to take a picture of the beautiful scenery. Seriously, Idaho is the most beautiful state I have yet visited. The drive reminded me of the landscape in Patagonia, Chile….untouched…serene…beautiful landscapes. And so much history. There were several historical landmarks & geological stops.
On the drive I thought about many different topics…one focal point was around life, work, & goals. Driving through Idaho is beautiful and being here is eye opening to the various lifestyles people live. I met little store owners that are perfectly satisfied with owning a little store & living in an amazing place. I see two distinct sides to the whole life, work path:
- Working to Live. Working to support a lifestyle that you want to lead. Working just enough, so you can financially support yourself (& family if you have one). There is appeal to the idea of living a full life, working to live, not necessarily living to work. Some of the most happy people I know live this way. They seem so fulfilled, down to earth, & loving life.
- Living to Work. Work is the focal point of life. Eat, drink, sleep work. Work super duper hard for several years, live to work, become financially successful. I don’t think this is sustainable over an entire lifetime (or if it is, it will be a short lifetime). I see people that live this way, who after becoming financially successful, take some serious “time off” from the work to live lifestyle, go escape to a place like Idaho to lead a relaxing, sustaining life, fishing, camping, & working to live, as an end, or a break between “living to work” sprints.
What is the right path in life? This is one question that I think doesn’t have an answer. Or perhaps the answer can just be that there is no right way. Just different ways. Different ways to live & pursue life challenges & goals.
In one of my classes at the Ross Business School at the University of Michigan we heard the story of the Mexican Fisherman. The story goes a bit like this…
An investment banker visits a little town in Mexico & meets a fisherman there. He asks the fisherman questions about why he is fishing, how much fish he catches, & what he does with the fish. The fisherman tells him that he fishes to feed his family & extra fish he gives to other folks in the community. The banker asks him about whether or not he considers selling his fish…to which the fisherman answers that he just needs enough to live. The banker continues to paint a grandiose (in his mind) image about what the Mexican fisherman could become…he could catch more fish, sell his fish, hire people to help him fish, sell more fish, move to NYC to build his company office & run his company from there, sell more fish, grow more, sell more fish, & so forth. The fisherman continually asks “then what?” as the banker continues to pile on the vision. ”Well then you could sell the company”, says the banker. ”Then what?” replies the fisherman. The banker responds, “Then you can retire, move with your family to a small town in Mexico, where you can spend your days fishing in a boat & time with your family”.
I love this story because it so clearly paints a pictures of the “Working to Live” vs. “Living to Work” paths in life. The Mexican fisherman is working to live. The banker tells him a path that requires Living to Work until he can Work to Live or work no more. To the Mexican fisherman, doing anything but what he is doing doesn’t quite make sense. Why take a roundabout way to get to point B, when you can just take a straight path?
With anything, I’m a big believer that it’s about the process & not the destination. If you don’t enjoy the process, the journey to get somewhere, you’re almost destined to be disappointed. To the Mexican farmer, the process of building this huge company to get to the end destination (a place he already is) is not appealing. In fact, too much focus on the end goal versus the process is a factor that can lead many entrepreneurs to doomsday.
That still doesn’t answer the question, What is the right path to life? I still believe the answer is that there is no right answer. The choice will influence the path, the process, the journey. Consider those paths. Which is right for you?!
mel, the venture gal