In a break from tradition, today’s post has nothing to do with money, investing or financial independence.
Instead, it is about life, and dealing with the curveballs that it will inevitably throw your way.
Imagine for a moment that you are young, healthy, have a loving family, and have scaled the pinnacle of business success. As you enter the next chapter in your life, you are looking forward to everything that comes with the territory.
Except, the next chapter is one that you didn’t expect. One horrible day, you wake up to a battle you are going to lose.
The horrible, dreaded C-word.
This is exactly the situation Peter Barton found himself in.
A proverbial self-made man, he had just retired from a stellar career at Liberty Global, where he had helped John Malone stitch up one of the most formidable cable empires in the world. (UK readers of this blog may recognize Liberty Global as the former owners of Virgin Media.)
At the age of 46, having banked millions in just over a decade, Peter left his job behind. He was looking to spend more time with his family as he geared up for the next challenge.
Cancer was not the challenge he had in mind. Unfortunately for Peter, while cancer certainly didn’t define him, it did defeat him.
But as he battled the disease, he found the strength and inspiration to write a book about his experience. When it comes to a manual to design a life well-lived, this is as good a read as it gets.
No, I don’t mean to say that Peter had an exemplary life. I certainly would have made a few different decisions along the way.
But it is his reflections on those decisions that can help us map out our own path forward, one that builds on his good choices – and avoids some of the pitfalls he has experienced.
A few months before he passed away, with his body breaking down, and a backpack with his IV and oxygen equipment on his back, Peter took his daughter on a jet ski ride in the Caribbean.
This is how he describes the experience:
We zipped and bounced along. Kate held on to my back; her cheek was against my shoulder. It was like she was a little girl again, and I was a young and healthy and protecting father.
We explored a bunch of little coves around the resort. The water was a hundred shades of blue and green; sunlight glinted off it so brightly that it almost hurt. Everything amazed us; we just pointed at things and giggled.
I choke up when I recall this story. But not because I’m sad. Because there’s more joy in the recollection that I can hold. There was a lifetime worth of pleasure in that single day.
By definition, a big part of the financial independence journey is about looking forward and delaying gratification.
But what happens when there’s nothing else to look forward to? When delaying gratification just doesn’t make sense?
How will we look back at our lives when that moment comes?
It’s fair to say that facing up to a challenge that Peter faced is the most powerful way to examine one’s life. To reset some of the priorities that may have fallen by the wayside over the years.
And while I hope that none of us will ever experience what Peter and his family had to go through, reading his book is a great way to reflect on, and recalibrate the balance that may have gone MIA on us.
Which is exactly what I plan to do over the next few weeks.
This is the last post on the blog before August. As usual, our family is going to try and peel away on holiday, notwithstanding the restrictions the government has been re-imposing on parts of Europe.
At some point, the prospect of getting a much-needed mental break outweighed the risk of falling ill (clearly, we will follow all guidelines and possible precautions).
I would encourage everyone to do the same, regardless of whether that means going away or simply changing your routine to allow for some R&R. Nothing like facing down September with renewed focus, determination – and clarity.
I will continue posting throughout August, though in a break with tradition I will do so once a week instead of my usual Tuesday / Thursday cadence.
Happy August everyone! And if you are looking for a thought-provoking summer read, Peter’s story may be a good choice.
My Favourite Quotes From “Not Fade Away”
“A problem that can be fixed by money … is not a problem.”
“Wealth is a great deal more enjoyable if you’ve already taught yourself that you can have a good time without it.”
“If you’ve got your health, you can always make some money. But all the dough in the world can’t buy back your health.”
“Everyone says that health is really important but if you look at how people actually live, they seem to believe the opposite.”
“Isn’t it clear that the person who compromises his health in the name of making money is cutting himself a really lousy deal?”
“Illness has always been a temporary setback… Nothing prepares us for that one illness that doesn’t go away.”
“Staying on a track can kill, one easy day at a time.”
“Nothing looks exactly the same once you truly understand that you are not exempt from death.”
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