Once you get to be 60, your perspective changes. If you look ahead, you know that you have, on average, another 12 years left to live (longer if you are a woman). And that’s an average. For everyone who lives longer than 72, there’s someone who doesn’t make it to 72. That puts things into perspective. Time is limited and it’s the one thing money cannot buy.
I decided it was time to simplify. Reduce distractions. Spend my time better than I have been. Since many of our readers – owners and top-level managers in AEC firms – are about the same age as me, I thought I would share some of the changes I’m making with you:
- I got off social media entirely. One of the best decisions I ever made. Watching my ex-wife sharing every detail of her life online when Facebook was just starting to get going, I had a feeling it was a waste of time. But eventually I, too, got sucked into Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I tried LinkedIn early on but decided I didn’t like it after getting all the requests to join my network from people I had never heard of. In any case, after years of wasting loads of my time posting and reacting to those who reacted to my posts and my reactions to their posts, I have been completely out of all social media for about four months. And I can tell you I feel like I lost a fourth job (I already have three jobs without social media). I’m more relaxed, my mental state is better, and I have more time.
- I am selling off most of my old cars and motorcycles. At times I have had as many as 20 of each (though never at the same time). It has been a huge time drain for me. There’s always an ongoing project. Parts need to be located. Something needs fixing. Just this weekend, for example, I blew the transmission in my ‘51 Buick straight-8 powered speedster. Something always needs to be redone. Something always needs to be bought or sold. It’s just too much. And it is nothing but a huge distraction and waste of time. I think when I really look at myself having all this stuff, it has been driven in large part by my personal ego gratification – going all the way back to when I was 12 years old and had more than one bicycle at a time. I don’t need the time drain and hassle of it all
- I am going to sell my big house on 3.8 acres with a pool and move to a condo. It’s crazy. About two thirds of every month I am there by myself wandering around a 5,000 square-foot house. It costs a small fortune in yard maintenance, pool maintenance, and utilities. Not to mention constant improvements, upkeep, and property taxes (when I pay for my youngest kids to go to private school anyway). I don’t need a 400-plus foot long driveway any more. A nice new condo close to everything will reduce my commute time and free up more of my time and mental capacity.
- Create some phone down time. This one is especially hard for me because being ultra-responsive has been such a big part of any success I have enjoyed over the years and something everyone – clients, employees, students, family members and friends – have come to expect from me. But it has to end. I have got to stop texting and driving before I hurt someone or myself. And I have got to be better about paying attention to people and listening to them and being in the moment versus constantly being distracted. I have absolutely ruined my own ability to concentrate on anything and completely justified the constant distraction that my phone provides. But I have to stop now to get back to more sanity and a better overall quality of life.
I realize many of these changes fly in the face of what I have advocated and how I have lived over the years. But only a fool doesn’t learn from their mistakes. I honestly feel that while these changes may hurt a little and annoy some of those around me, in the long run I will be a better person because of them. A better businessperson, mentor, seller, consultant, teacher, parent, friend, partner – all of those will be enhanced. Maybe I’ll even be able to once again get back to learning and developing myself versus accumulating stuff I don’t need and staying distracted with one unnecessary thing after another. Now THAT would be something!
Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.