Ideas in the Wild: How Todd Miller Aims To Help Everyone Live an Enriched Life
Todd Miller had a thriving career leading multimillion dollar entertainment companies. By all metrics, he was successful…yet he was miserable. He always had to be “on” — on the ball, on his toes, on call 24/7, and on the money. Miller wanted more than just a prestigious career.
He wanted Control. Financial Independence. Time. Fulfillment.
In other words, he wanted an enriched life.
While scaling the corporate ladder, Miller skillfully structured two sabbaticals, intentionally created a family through adoption, cycled coast to coast across two continents in support of children’s charities, and explored more than 100 countries on all seven continents.
He built time wealth and passive income while working full time, and at age 53, retired on the Andaman Sea in Thailand, where he devotes his time to enriching connections with people and projects. In ENRICH, Miller teaches life skills to create Optionality, even in the most uncertain situations, and shares a series of case studies and interviews with high achievers.
I recently caught up with Miller to learn what inspired him to write the book, the biggest lesson he’s learned on his journey, and how he’s applied that lesson to his life moving forward.
What happened that made you decide to write the book? What was the exact moment when you realized these ideas needed to get out there?
Early in my career with a Hollywood studio, I began to question what makes life delicious. My career was going great, but even in my 20s, I became obsessed with big questions:
- Work vs. life?
- How much is enough?
- What is “success” exactly?
For the past 25 years, I have researched best practices to answer these and other questions. The deeper I dug into this research, the more I realized friends and industry colleagues wrestled with the same dilemmas. Over time, friends increasingly turned to me for financial, career, and life advice, and through diverse conversations, I recognized there’s a wide yearning among professionals for a formula to thread career, life, and money. ENRICH distills and synthesizes this research into an actionable, replicable, framework that is relevant to professionals.
The exact moment when I realized the world needs ENRICH is the situation I describe in the introduction: on the same day that I retired to tropical Thailand, a close friend lost his job. He faced imminent financial pressure and the pandemic had already erupted in Asia. There was an urgency to the situation, so he flew to Phuket and I read to him the first manuscript draft.
He absorbed it all, and repeatedly told me he wished I’d written this book ten years ago! Following ENRICH principles, during the worst job market since the Depression, my friend bounced back from a job loss in just four months; but he also transformed his family relationships and personal finances in the process. When professionals everywhere are rethinking their lives, careers, and what’s most important, the message to enrich resonates.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned going through the journey you share in the book?
The urgency of financial security and creating optionality. Everyone wants financial security; few have it. Most people do not start to create financial security until they hit their 50s, and then that may be too late. I’m surprised, sometimes even shocked, by the number of successful professionals who equate job security and financial security, and how dependent people are, even high earners, upon tenuous paychecks. That is so dangerous, especially in the current economic climate. The economic contagion this year highlights the defensive rationale for accelerating financial security. But there’s an empowering offensive reason to accelerate financial security, and that’s the ability to live and work on your terms. When work becomes an option and not an obligation, that changes everything, including the mindset toward work itself.
There’s a related corollary lesson in how to create financial security. So much of conventional financial practice can lead people to suboptimal outcomes. Most people emphasize capital gains (buying low and selling high) to build wealth, and don’t begin to activate independent passive income while they’re working. But a cash flow focus gives you a second benefit of an asset (other than its current valuation). This cash flow enables you to more easily ride through market dislocations, such as what occurred in the spring, and this cash flow creates optionality.
People ask me: does ENRICH work in a recession? My response: is not an elective; it’s mandatory in a climate where the only economic certainty is uncertainty.
How will you apply this lesson in your life moving forward?
Market dislocations are a good opportunity to build wealth if you’re secure, and also a good time to destroy wealth if you’re not financially fit. I’ve been a net buyer of assets this year, and I’ve considered quite a few investments in the past few months. I was close to committing to an opportunistic real estate fund. However, after evaluating the investment through the ENRICH lens for passive cash flow, I passed on that particular investment because it prioritized capital gains over cash flows. So yes, I practice what I preach.
A second way I apply ENRICH concepts into daily life is the demarcation between work and life. For many people, work came home this year. And now it’s staying, perhaps for a long time. When work and home converge that creates a whole host of challenges to keep career from spilling into life. A major theme of ENRICH is the importance of living intentionally toward what’s most important. If you don’t set your own priorities someone else will.
So I’m quite deliberate every day to ensure that I practice what I call the five Disciplines (including demarcation, downtime and detox) to protect my core priorities. Especially in a pandemic, when our routines and mobility have been altered, it’s critical to be intentional about the choices we make and the actions we take every day.