Realize Your Dreams

December 15, 2010 ago I went to hear Will Gadd speak at the Mountaineers Club here in Seattle. Will is an extreme multi-sport athlete, but mostly he’s an ice climber. He’s now the first person in the world to climb Niagra Falls. (while it was frozen)  Anyway, I heard his presentations were fun and inspiring. The hall was packed with about 400 people. The first thing Will said was: “I am going to tell you how to quit your job, and realize all of your dreams of adventure.” Then he started in with his awesome presentation and never got back to his initial statement. So I emailed him the next day and within a few hours Will wrote me an email that changed my life. I want to share that correspondence with you. So if you are wondering how to take five months off for travel or adventure this is how you position your life to do it. Big thanks to Will Gadd! I followed his advice and two years later started my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike.

On 15-Dec-10, at 12:28 AM, Marc Fendel wrote:Dear Will, I really enjoyed your talk at the Mountaineers. You eluded to a subject that you never came back to that is: How to quit your job with a mortgage etc… I have a fun day gig that doesn’t pay enough. I run a private music school. Aside from music I spend almost every weekend backpackpacking skiing, mountaineering, etc… I often say there has to be a balance, however I increasingly want more of the music of the outdoors in my life. Maybe you have some thoughts on this?

Again thanks for such an inspiring evening, Marc

WG: Hi Marc, it all depends on what you really want. For me, I wanted to climb a lot more, and was prepared to basically do anything to do that. Wait tables (did a lot of that back in the day), whatever it took, and that’s what I did. The writing started to work, as did the competition/sponsorship stuff, but that honestly took a few years, I put my time in painting houses etc. The other thing I did was radically reduce my expenses. I didn’t need to be driving a brand-new Saab, I didn’t need a $2000/month mortgage, I didn’t need to eat out a lot. I did  a spreadsheet on all of this back in the day, I basically needed to be clearing about 6K/month before I reduced my expenses. Post regular job I only needed to bring in about $1500/month to live a decent lifestyle. I think I was spending so much money on useless junk because I wasn’t happy; the weird thing was that with an income of about $2500/month after a few years I started, for the first time in my life, to really save money… It’s all about perspective.
If you have slightly more money than you think you need then you’re rich. Have slightly less and you’re poor. Some of my lawyer friends feel poor and make more money in a month than I regularly make in a year; they just spend a lot! I feel rich because I’m living the life I want to (more or less!) and because my bank balance is growing. The input and output numbers are less important than their relation to each other, and the life you’re getting with those two numbers.

I think having a strong business background (running a publishing company) really helped me. I did a big spreadsheet, and set my life and financial goals needed to support that. I stopped doing some of the things that I liked but which took a tremendous amount of time for very little money  (kayak instruction) to focus on the things that I still liked but made a lot more money in less time (consulting work). Perhaps in your music business you have portions that you like that pay very well, and portions that you like that don’t pay well. Set a goal of doubling the time/fun/money effective stuff and reducing the other stuff to half. Same money, less time, more time to spend outside!!!!

So that’s a long answer to a short question. I really believe almost all of us are, broadly, doingwhat we want, or we wouldn’t keep doing it (at least here in North America, a refugee in Chad doesn’t have 1/10,000 the options we do here). You could spend 365 days a year in the woods and live on food stamps. But you like whatever else you’re doing more than that lifestyle. I have also found I need to do things that feel like “work” to me in order to enjoy “play.” I need to do slideshows, write, consult, etc. so that when I go out the door I’m just super psyched to be there. If I’m recreating all the time then it loses the joy of play for me. Work is not a bad thing at all, it’s necessary, especially for men I think, and it sounds like you have something  you like doing. But can you do that better and spend more time outside? Move to place where getting outside doesn’t take as much time?

So, what do you want, and how are you going to get there? It’s a real question, and I am absolutely sure you can come up with a good answer. If you put one day into thinking about what you want your life to actually be then  you willhave done far more to plan your life than most people ever do….