My cousin and I have a standing call once a week on Monday mornings. He is usually driving to his dental practice office that is about 30 minutes away and I’m usually at Starbucks or Panera having coffee and planning out my week.
Technically, we’re both entrepreneurs. From a very early age, he knew that dentistry was where he was headed. In fact, he was accepted into dental school his freshman year of undergrad (almost unheard of). He worked in a small town in Iowa with a couple of dentists before deciding that that is where he would build his practice. He even ended up buying out one of the dentists in the practice and became an owner.
Our weekly conversations usually involve him asking me where I’m headed this week, what cool ideas I’ve been exposed to, and when we can find time to hang out. I ask him how things are going with his partners, what they’re doing to grow the business, and what great books he’s been reading.
I think you could say that both of us are relatively successful, but in entirely different ways. At times, he is jealous of the freedom and flexibility of what I do. At times, I’m jealous of the fact that he’s building a very tangible, income generating asset that can be sold down the road.
Both of us would probably change places with the other — for about a week. And then, we’d be craving what we had before the change.
One of the things I found just after graduating from college was the vast differences in people and what they ultimately wanted from their career, their life, and their relationships. Some of my friends really just wanted a job they could feel secure in, some wanted to travel extensively before ever settling down, some said they wanted kids immediately and as many as possible, others wanted no kids but someone that would build a business with them.
The life paths we all take are as varied as we are. And while some people will attempt to tell you which path you should be on, my response to them would be: if that path is so great, how come you’re not on it?
There are four levels of fulfillment or satisfaction that most people are searching for: Security, Success, Significance, and Serenity.
The first level of security is about doing something that pays the bills. Having a “gig” that you enjoy enough to go to everyday and feel secure that your life is being taken care of.
The second level is that of success. I’ve found that no matter what you do, the 3 year rule applies. The 3 year rule states that you’ll probably find the level of success you think you’re supposed to have in year 1, in year 3. For most people, they constantly struggle to reach success because they spend a year or two getting their feet on the ground and then go right back to the square one in a new venture. If success is what you desire, plan on putting 3 years of your life into whatever you are truly passionate about. By the end of year 2, you’ll know that you’re almost there.
Significance comes when what you’re doing with your life matters to others. It’s when you feel like you’re making a difference or helping improve someone’s life.
And Serenity is the ultimate level to achieve. It’s where you are peace all the time with the decisions you make, the people you associate with, the business dealings you do, and the way your future looks. It’s a great place to be and something to strive for — oh yes, and, it’s fleeting. Some people hit serenity only to get drawn back to lower levels when they change their life plans.
I don’t know if my cousin will always be a dentist. I don’t know if I’ll always do what I do. But I do know that change is the only thing that remains constant, that we are all walking out the path we’re supposed to, and that at some point, ALL answers will be revealed to us, but only when we’re ready for them.