Three out of three
In my late teens or early 20s, I came up with three goals, as I looked ahead to my life post-university. Maybe it was because goals and such were trendy at the time, but after some reflection it came to me that my three goals were
- Become a millionaire (a.k.a. be independently wealthy)
- Own my own radio station
- Be the world's best-known transportation engineer
Disparate yes, but reflecting my state in the late 1970s. At the time, I aimed to become a transportation engineer, and so was working my way through engineering at the University of British Columbia. Also at the time, I was obsessed with music and radio stations.
Did I attain them? Each in its own way, yes:
- Being a millionaire today is trivial compared to 45 years ago. After all, anyone who owns a house in a Canadian city is de facto a millionaire.
- I own my own technical publishing company, upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd.
- And I am, all modesty aside, one of the best known CAD writers in the world.
I think the more interesting question is, "Did these goals impact me?" After all, anyone hearing my disconnected goals might scoff at them. Looking back, I see that the goals affected the many minor and few major decisions I made along the way. Here are some of these major decisions:
Spend and borrow money, or save and invest funds? If I aimed to have a net worth of a million, I'd need to save like the dickens and optimize my investments. Fortunately, I suffer from being a cheap prick, and so for me saving is pleasurable.
Be employed, or self-employed? If I aimed to own my own company, then I could not work for others, so I had to decide to quit my job. I am fortunate to have a streak of independence, and so working for myself is wonderful.
Just show up for work, or figure out how to do things better? I was keen as a transpiration engineer and developed new ways of analyzing traffic data. But I came to realize that engineering is very conservative (for good reason) and so I would make no headway there. My fascination with computers, combined with my love of writing and my engineering background, detoured me to a field where I could have an impact, one that was begging for newer and better ways to do things -- computer-aided design.
I can write all this easily, given that I attained the three goals. A harder question is, "Were there drawbacks to the three goals?" Yes, which I can see by looking back over the 45 years:
Being obsessed with saving was an obsession I needed to overcome. For me, the turning point came on a driving vacation one summer when we stopped at the glass house (made of embalming fluid bottles). The kids were excited to tour it, but I declined going in to save the price of one admission. As I waited outside, I realized I had gone too far in being cheap.
Quitting a regular paychque and depending on the good will of others was scary, especially when I was responsible for a family of five. I sometime shudder to think if things had not gone well and my family suffered as a result of my need to be independent. That, fortunately, never happened.
Demanding high quality of work can mean disdain for others who don't live up to my expectations. In personal lives, I understand that everyone operates at a different level (even I am lazy about some things), but professionally I continue to have high requirements.
Goals are easier to achieve with the assistance of a life partner who shares them in one way or another -- rather than being in conflict. My wife is also a saver. She was nervous for about the first decade of my self-employment, but nevertheless supported me, because she saw the advantages. And she also is keen to do a good job in all areas of life.
In the end, it was not so much the specificity of the goals that mattered as having goals to guide me through my working life: to become independently wealthy, to be independent, and to have an impact on the world.
PS: I did work as a d.j. for a few months at the UBC campus radio station, the late Friday night shift. I loved it.