Why The Harvard MBA Should Be FIREd

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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:

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

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.

The Only Real Definition of “Success”

You can explore this right now, without the aid of an internet search engine. You need only look inside yourself.

Consider how quickly you can answer these questions:

  1. As a child, who could you always count on to be there when you needed help?
  2. What teacher had the greatest impact on your life?
  3. When you were growing up, which of your friends’ parents represented the ideal role model?
  4. What coach or boss taught you lessons you’d most like to teach others?
  5. Which one of your friends would you most want your children to behave like?

Chances are, you could quickly answer these questions. (In fact, if you couldn’t answer them quickly, it’s probably because you had to decide between more than one excellent choice.) Each of these people has had a direct impact on your life. While society might consider their accomplishments trivial, your life would be totally different without them.

What does this say about society’s values? What does this say about your values?

In addition to having many fathers, “success” has many definitions. Your challenge: You must choose the definition most appropriate to your Lifetime Dream. For example, a football player should not measure his success by the number of home runs he hits in a season. (Home runs have nothing to do with football.) Likewise, failing to win a Nobel Prize may have little relevance to successfully raising a family. (The Nobel Prize has nothing to do with raising a family.)

In the end, we are left with this singular definition of success:

“There is only one success—to be able to spend your life in your own way.”

— Christopher Morley, Founder and editor (1924-1941) of Saturday Review

You are now ready to begin your journey to discovering the unique purpose of your life. Before you can unlock your own inner secrets, it will help you to first better understand how some familiar history can help make things simpler. In the future, we’ll reveal this to you in three parts.

…to be continued…

…but not next week…

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