Getting Ahead In Life Isn’t “About Stuff”

Very interesting editorial from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on 7 August 2010.



Editorials & Opinions


Getting ahead in life isn’t about “stuff”

Posted Saturday, Aug. 07, 2010


By Mitch Anthony

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

A man I know seemed to have it all. He had an in-demand practice at a large clinic that paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. He had a huge house in his city’s most upscale neighborhood. He had a second home on the beach. He drove new, expensive luxury cars. He was a member of the most exclusive country club.

Wasn’t he a rich man? Don’t we wish we could “get ahead” like he did? No — he was very poor. His big houses, luxury cars and extravagant lifestyle ate through every dollar he made — and then some. He piled up more and more debt. He may look as if he had gotten ahead, but he was getting further and further behind.

I meet so many people who say they feel like they are on the never-ending treadmill of trying to “get ahead.” “Ahead of what?” is the first question I always ask. You need to clear your head about “getting ahead.” Especially if you are at midlife and looking toward retirement, you must understand three things about the pitfalls of “getting ahead.” First, debt just gets in the way of what you want. Second, you must be able to enjoy where you are in life and where you are going — not where you think you should be. And third, you need to be the author of your life’s script, not a helpless actor dancing to someone else’s expectation.

Let’s look at those.

Once you understand that unnecessary debt creates stress, you will want to unburden yourself. Do you remember when your money was yours — when you could do with it what you wished? That was the richest point of your life. Even if you were only making $1,000 a month, if $750 stayed with you, you were rich.

Like my friend, if you spend all your money and take on debt besides, you are poor no matter how much you make. You have no options. You must make more and more money, no matter how that traps you. But if you spend less than you make, then your life is yours. You make the decisions.

“But how can I do that?” you ask. “Won’t I look like a failure?” As Janis Joplin famously sang, “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz? / My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.” Forget what other people expect. Forget that you expected to live like a millionaire by age 40.

Life is about trade-offs. You don’t buy the luxury car so you can take the family on a great vacation. You don’t buy the bigger house with a ballooning mortgage so you don’t have to be stressed out at work.

It has been said that happiness is wanting what you have. So stop wishing you had what someone else has. Find contentment in what you have and enjoy it right now. If you are enjoying your life and doing meaningful work, you may find that the riches arrive on their own.

Finally, don’t act out others’ expectations — whether they tell you or you think that’s what they expect. Life is not a dress rehearsal, nor is it an audition. You are the actor in your own movie, and any expectations placed on you by others should be left on the cutting room floor.

So live well within your means. That ensures that your time belongs to you. If you can’t enjoy life now, chances are you won’t enjoy something better later. But if you live by your own script, odds are that the movie will have a happy ending.

And my friend? He sold his beach house, downsized to more modest vehicles that get him from point A to point B and joined another physician in opening a private clinic. He now works on the cases that he wants while pursuing his dream of doing two overseas mission trips a year in Third World countries. He goes to more baseball games. The worry lines are gone from his face, and he wears a big smile under his Twins hat.

That’s not “getting ahead” — that’s being ahead.

Mitch Anthony is founder and president of the Financial Life Planning Institute.


About delashmit

Dr. Walter H. Delashmit (MCHS 1962) retired from Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control on 1 January 2007 after 25 years at Lockheed and 39 years in the aerospace industry. He is presently doing consulting for the Neural Decision Lab (Arlington, Texas). In addition from August 2007 until June 2009, Walter was an Adjunct Faculty Member at the University of North Texas teaching Advanced Electrical Engineering Courses. In addition to graduating from MCHS, Walter has a BSEE from Christian Brothers University (1966) graduating cum laude, a MSEE from with a minor in mathematics from the University of Tennessee (1968) and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington (2003). Walter has worked at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control (1982-2007) developing "smart" missile systems, at the Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory (1976-1982) developing advanced torpedo systems, at Martin Marietta Aerospace (1972-1976) developing advanced cruise missile technology and at TRW Systems (1969-1972) working on the Apollo and Skylab Programs, including Apollo 13. Walter received a copy of the Presidential Medal of Freedom from NASA for his work on Apollo 13 and received the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Presidents Performance Award for his work on developing and implementing Improved Software Processes. He has also received many other awards. Walter is a Life Senior Member (LSM) of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a member of Eta Kappa Nu (Electrical Engineering Honor Society) and Tau Beta Pi (Engineering Honor Society). Walter has 40 peer reviewed technical publications in advanced Technical Journals and Conferences. He also regularly reviews articles for consideration for publication in advanced technical journals. Walter is an avid runner and completed the Boston Marathon in 1998. Walter and his wife Janice live in Justin, Texas. Walter has 2 sons, Mark Robert Delashmit and Rick Alan Delashmit, a grandson Christian Reeves Delashmit and a granddaughter Victoria Alexis Delashmit.
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