Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Have you ever played the game of Life? Very early on, you reach a fork in the road. You have to decide whether you’re going to go to college or whether you’re going to go straight into a career.

Does this sound familiar? If it sounds a lot like “What Do You Want On Your Tombstone?” then congratulate yourself. You’re definitely paying attention.

Recall the story of the Sicilian fisherman. When the Harvard MBA tried to convince him to expand his business, the fisherman would have none of it. Why? Because he understood his goals and he knew what was needed to realize those goals.

Said another way, the fisherman grasped the concept of overkill. He knew the difference between living to work and working to live. He placed himself in the latter category.

And he’s not alone. There’s an entire cohort of people who abide by the principle of “FIRE.” The acronym “FIRE” comes from the 1992 book Your Money or Your Life, by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominquez. It stands for “Financial Independence, Retire Early” and it’s taken on a tremendous popularity of late. You might even say it’s gone viral.

Before you get taken in by FIRE, though, remember the true lesson of the fisherman: Don’t let others define your success. After all, those who play with fire can get burned. Don’t get burned. Know yourself. Know what’s important to you.

To wit, the fork in the road begins:

Without consulting an encyclopedia or an almanac, how quickly can you answer the following questions:

  1. Which team won the Superbowl in each of the last three seasons?
  2. Who was the batter with the highest hitting percentage during last year’s baseball season?
  3. Can you name the people who won the Oscar for best actor and best actress last year?
  4. Can you name three people who won the Pulitzer prize last year?
  5. Can you name five people who won a Nobel Prize – ever?

Think about the answers to the above questions. In each case, we’ve asked you to identify individuals who society universally acknowledges to have been leaders in their field – the best of the best. Yet, for all their achievements, most of us cannot even remember their names. Why? Because their accomplishments only remotely impact our lives. Rather than becoming ingrained within us, they have become mere trivia.

Before you can discover the essence of your life, you must first embrace the true definition of success. We’ll explore this in the next chapter.