by ERIK ORTON
Yesterday I turned 44. Birthdays make me philosophical. So I’d like to speak briefly about time, my perfect day and taxes.
Taxes are not part of my perfect day. That’s what I did the day before my birthday. It put me in a funk. Maybe it doesn’t have the same effect on you, but it did a number on me. However, my birthday pulled me out of it, and I’ll tell you why. My birthday reminded of one of my personal mantras: the longer I live, the faster time moves.
I know my life is only accelerating. My next 44 years will feel like a fraction of my first 44 years. If there are things I want to do, I don’t have time to waste. I gotta get on it. No time to sulk over taxes. And I’m pleased to report that my birthday was a perfect day. The nice thing was that I didn’t do anything different than what I would do on a normal day, and I liked that. Here’s the rundown:
Got up with the sun
Went for a walk with Emily in the park (the same walk we do every day)
Worked out, got ready for the day (the same routine I do everyday)
Breakfast: bran flakes and raisins with whole milk (my usual. I love it.)
Sat at my desk and mapped out my work time:
Worked on book project #1
Worked on book project #2
Lunch (leftovers, my favorite)
Sent texts, emails and responded to messages as needed.
Worked on the online financial class we're creating: Video chat with some dear friends who are beta testing it. They sang happy birthday to me in Polish (not usual). They live in Warsaw right now.
It was climbing day, so I drove up to the climbing gym with my buddy Rob and my daughter, SJ (as usual) I climbed okay, but nothing special. I was pushing myself, but just a little bit. Jane had some breakthroughs. I was really proud of her.
Drove home (as usual)
Visited with someone I’m going to serve with at church. Invited him to stay for dinner.
Had dinner, birthday cake, ice cream. No gifts, no decorations. Just the way I like it.
We played my favorite board game: Cashflow. I’m a nerd.
Did our regular bedtime routine with the kids.
In bed by midnight.
I loved this day. I recognize that it may not be your perfect. And that’s okay. That’s actually kind of the point. I learned something yesterday: it’s important to know what you want, which may be different from what you think you’re supposed to want.
Often times we’re tricked into thinking what other people want is what we should want. If everyone wants to own a home, I should too. If everyone wants to ski over winter break, I should too. If everyone wants to sail the world, I should too. Not so.
As we video chatted with our friends about this class, I said, “We don’t have to accept other people’s Instagram dream as our own.” They said, “You should say that. Write a blog post about that!” So here we are. Everyone needs to know what they like and what they want.
I’m so inspired by Warren Buffet, because I think he’s a classic example of this. He’s one of the richest men on the planet, but he knows what he likes. He likes his simple home in Omaha that he bought in 1958, so he still lives there. In a shareholder meeting, he said, "My life couldn't be happier. In fact, it'd be worse if I had six or eight houses. I have everything I need to have, and I don't need any more." I once read his favorite meal was a Chuck-a-Rama steak and a Cherry Coke. His current favorites now include rootbeer floats, McDonalds breakfast food, and more steak. The point is, he knows what he likes.
I like to sit quietly at my desk, looking out the window at the park, figuring out my thoughts and writing them out. I also like road trips. We’re hitting the road again on Monday. We’ll be gone a couple months. In fact, if all goes to plan, this year will be a string of trips where we go far but we go slow. I don’t like fast travel. The slower and simpler, the better.
I know that if I’d never figured out what I wanted, I never would have gotten it. If I didn’t discern what I actually enjoyed and liked, I very easily could have run the risk of pursuing what someone else liked or wanted. And if I got it, I wouldn’t have been happy, because I would have achieved someone else’s dream. Lame.
Some people think we do cool stuff, and that’s okay. They say nice things and it makes us feel good. I’m glad that sometimes we can inspire and encourage people. But what I don't hope is that people read what we share and say, “I want to do that too.” Rather, I hope they think, “If the Orton’s figured out how to do what they want, I’ll bet I can figure out how to do what I want.” It may be the same thing as us--and that'd be cool--but it may not be the same thing. I don’t want to open a yoga studio, but our friends did. I’m so happy for them. I don’t want to be an organic farmer, but my friend does. I hope she makes it happen. My dad loves to work with wood. I do too, but it’s not my top priority.
As I sit here looking out the window, watching the latest blizzard and the kids sledding on the hill across the street, I’m grateful. I’m grateful I’ve found my own version of the basic steak and Cherry Coke life.
We’re going to some places I’m excited about, and we’re going to do some things I’m eager to learn. But mostly importantly, I hope I can be honest with myself and make sure I’m clear about whether I like it, or whether I hope other people like it. Because only one matters.
What is your perfect day? Is it truly your own or borrowed from others? If we can figure out what we really value and live our lives that way, each day will be a perfect day. And a whole bunch of days like that can add up to a pretty amazing life. And each life can be completely unique. Whatever it is, try to describe it to yourself before you look at Instagram.