A few years ago I went camping in southeastern Utah with a group of friends.
“I love this place,” I said, gazing at the towering sandstone canyons. Then, ever so casually, I commented, “Hmm. Maybe I’ll come live here for a summer. Just two or three months. Could be fun.”
One of my friends glanced at me.
“You’re lucky,” she said, “that your line of work allows you to live like that. My field won’t let me do that.”
Lucky? What? It’s not luck. It’s the result — I’m sorry to tell you — of sacrifice, work and careful consideration. (And “your field” doesn’t stop you from doing anything. You stop yourself.)
Lose 20 Pounds? Gee, You’re So Lucky!
Some people will characterize any success you experience as luck. If you lose twenty pounds, they’ll tell you you’re “lucky” to have a svelte figure. If you master a skill, they’ll tell you you’re “lucky” to be so talented. If you’re a top performer and compensated accordingly, they’ll say you’re “lucky” to be well-paid.
They have a point: We’re lucky to live in a developed, civilized world. We wouldn’t have these opportunities if electricity, indoor plumbing, aviation, germ theory, smallpox eradication and the Internet hadn’t predated us. (Thanks, whoever invented that stuff. You rock.)
Beyond that baseline, our success isn’t the result of luck. It’s the result of sharp decision-making.
Let’s take my friend’s example. She says I’m “lucky” to work in a field that allows me to be location independent (a phrase that means I can work from anyone on earth with an Internet connection).
But that was a lifestyle choice. I could have picked among a fascinating array of careers: Literary agent. Television reporter. Exotic wildlife trainer.
I would’ve enjoyed these. But I wouldn’t be as free.
So instead, I write and edit online personal finance articles. What?! How random. How obscure. Where did that come from? How the heck did I land a career path like that?
Answer: I decided that freedom and independence trump all else, including stability and glamour. Then I rejected any opportunity that didn’t fit those qualities. That’s not the result of luck. That’s the result of careful cultivation.
(That doesn’t imply that those are the “best” qualities. Those are just the traits I prioritize most. You, my awesome Afford Anything reader, must choose your own adventure.)
Lifestyle Design is a 24/7 Exercise
“Lifestyle design” has become a trendy phrase in the past few years, but I’m not sure how many people contemplate the meaning of those words. “Designing” your life entails ruthlessly curating, the way a boutique owner picks the items that sit on her shelves or a gallery owner selects the art that hangs on his walls.
This demands two tasks. The first task is forgoing fun and glamorous experiences that clash with your dreams. In 2008, I almost accepted a job as an editor at a wine magazine. It would have entailed company-paid trips to Italian vineyards, which would’ve rocked. But I’d be on a short leash. I didn’t want that.
The second task is accepting the drawbacks of the jobs that suit your lifestyle. My location-independent work brims with shortcomings. I’m alone all day, which doesn’t suit my outgoing personality. I’m glued to a computer all day, despite being hopelessly un-tech-savvy. Waah, waah, sucks to be me.
No option is perfect. That’s why prioritizing comes into play. Pick the most important attributes. Find work that matches it. Toss yourself into that field, regardless of whether or not you’re qualified (yet). And never look back.
P.S.: To clarify, I do believe that — to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson — “the harder I work, the luckier I get.”
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