44: Invest in Yourself
January 30, 2019
I’m writing from our brand new couch, in our brand new living room, in our brand new house — “new home” as you call it. The fireplace is flickering and it’s cold as hell outside, but here, in our home, we’re comfortable.
You’re asleep in your new bed (Lightning McQueen), in your new room for the very first time in your life. I’m so amazed you have transitioned so easily. I’m so proud of you.
Today is my 44th birthday. As is my new custom, I spent some time reflecting back on the year — a year filled with expectations, experiences, and a great number of exchanges. I had a hard time picking one thing to summarize this year, but that’s part of the challenge.
Lesson 44: Invest in Yourself
It is easy to neglect yourself. It is easy to forget what matters. It is easy to have your life pass you by before you know it; before you’ve even had a chance to relish it. The Zen Buddhists have an expression, one of my favorites:
Nirvana is Samsara
Now, there are far more scholarly ways to interpret this, but I have always collapsed it to the simple idea that nirvana (heaven, perfection) is samsara (time, now, everyday life) — it is not a far off pursuit, it is now.
This year has shown me important the investment I have made in myself over my lifetime has come back to enrich my life today. But don’t confuse what I’m saying with something vain, it’s obviously more.
Invest in Your Health (Rule #3)
I wish I could say I’ve always done the best for my body, but I wouldn’t be truthful. I have always invested in fitness, but not embraced it as my lifestyle, per se. I’ll try to eat well, but not well enough.
With age, I’ve come to face the limits of my own well being. The things that were easy are a little bit harder. Growth is harder and harder to come by, recovery takes a little bit longer and longer. Accidents are more and more common.
My health is no longer purely a personal function. You need a healthy, vibrant dad to be there with you as you grow and develop. Your mom needs a healthy husband, able to act on his own and help when needed. Most importantly, I need my freedom and vitality to feel like I can be.
Poor choices will only lead to poor health later. Trust me.
Invest in Your Mind (Rule #9 — Never Stop Learning)
I’m fortunate that I was blessed with a great deal of curiosity and ambition. Those two, when combined, have caused me to pursue a very broad range of pursuits and interests. I don’t know who I would be without it.
The knowledge you acquire, no matter where from, is your unique lens on the world. When you’re conscious of it, curate it, and expand it, you open yourself to unlimited opportunities. Eventually, you should look back on every experience to capture that knowledge and make it wisdom.
Your mind works on 2 levels, at all times, I’ve found. There is the experimental mind, which operates as new information and situations are thrown your way. Then there is the experiential mind, working behind the scenes and invisibly guiding your experimental mind. It is this constant interplay that separates one person from the next.
Prepare both minds, practice to make them better.
Invest in Others
In truth, this is the point I was trying to make this whole time, but I had to prepare you first. You see, your health and mind are not yours. They’re tools destined to be used in service of others.
This year, I have benefitted not from my actions, but from the actions of others. In my life, I have tried to invest as much as I can, as often as I can, in the betterment of everyone those close and dear to me. I’m not perfect, by any stretch, but I try.
This year, if you were to look from the outside, you might think I was the luckiest person in the world. We bought a home. We are gainfully employed. We have a wonderful family. And, you would be wrong to assume it was luck.
In every instance, someone important in our life helped to make each and every one of these things possible. From the wonderful gift your grandparents gave in joining us here in Denver, to the personal network that created the jobs we needed, through to the found family that filled us with the love and joy we need to be the parents we are.
Your investment in others is a down payment on yourself.
I look back on this year with my heart brimming. I’m grateful for all the wonderful things that have transpired. I’m moved by the outpouring of love and happiness we’ve seen even as we slipped away from the place we called home. I’m excited about everything to come, even though I have no idea what’s in store.
And yep, I’m lucky. I’m lucky I’ve had a chance to meet so many amazing people. I’m lucky I’ve had a chance to be of value to them in some way, shape, or form — even if just for a laugh. I’m lucky I’m still filled with energy, empathy, and excitement to it bigger and better.
Most of all, I’m lucky to have been your dad for one more year. To put everything I have and then some, into your infinite heart and mind.
You’re the real return on everything I invested in myself, son.