Vanity of a 28 Year Old (A Delicate Balance)

To be fair, I was 17 years old.

I promised my best friend that I would be retired by the age of 28.

I made him a guarantee: By age 28, I would be flying past him on the California interstate in an Acura NSX that said “TKSUX” on the back of the license plate. I wanted a solid gold NSX with black rims and tinted windows. I wanted the license plate to sparkle as I left him my tire dust.

“TK” is my friend’s nickname. We have been best friends since high school. We have countless predictions on each of our respective futures and numerous wagers on who will become more successful or will retire first.  We have made too many bets to remember.

As I near the age of 28, I have never been more aware about how vain I was in my youth.

My definition of success used to be having lots of money in the bank. Riches, material wealth, and retirement called my name at a young age.

Now, I know better. My definition of success is different. It’s not what I get back or how much I obtain; it’s what I give back, especially to those who have given so much to me.

Albert Einstein said, “A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.”

The success of others is my own. I want to help people change their lives. I want people to understand the joy that life can bring. I want to open their eyes to this amazing gift of life we have all been given.

When I was 17, I wanted a $200,000 supercar. I didn’t care about environmental effects, international oil disputes, or wasting good investment money in a depreciating liability. Now, I want to reduce my automobile dependency. I do not own a car anymore. The next step is to improve my bicycling skills.

Cycling has a number of positives attached to it:

  • It’s a great cardio workout
  • Strengthens the legs, back, and core
  • Saves money on gasoline
  • No insurance
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Cycling allows me to be more mindful during my transport
  • Cycling is a great way to become more self-sustainable
  • It is preparing me for my future triathlons and Ironman
  • On a personal note: I like to bike in the rain. I feel more in tune with the world. Too often, our little “boxes” of convenience keep us out of touch with the magic of nature.

When I 17, I imagined that I would be speeding down the interstate flying past everyone.

Now, I choose to slow down and take life an easier pace. I want to enjoy each moment, recognize it, and appreciate it for what it is. The best things in life are done slowly. Our heart beats slower when we are sleeping, meditating, and relaxing. The fast pace of life is stressing us out of the most important years of our life- all of them.

When I was 17, I wanted to be fully-retired by the age of 28.

Now, I ask, “But, then what? What will I do next?”

I have sat around and down nothing. I have taken extended vacations. I have been bed-ridden for weeks unable to exercise or work because of sickness and injury. It wasn’t fun or great like the forethought of earlier retirement. It has taught me a valuable lesson: Doing nothing sucks.

I do not believe in retiring. It is not a one of my long-term goals.

Work is intertwined with life. We spend so much of our time on the planet working our lives away Work should complement our life. Now that I am older, I ask better questions: “What type of work takes years to master?” Now that I am more mature, I challenge myself. I do not want to peak at an earlier age. I shoot for longevity. Plateaus are meant to be climbed over.  Mountains are meant to be climbed slowly. I want to work on something difficult that combines what I love with the needs of others. It is a delicate balance.

The truth is at 17, I was vain. I was young and immature. Luckily, we change; it is a beautiful catalyst for transformation.  We don’t have to be stuck in our ways. With a little effort and courage, we can modify our behaviors. We can change who we think we are or who we think we will become. Being vain can help us if we recognize it.

Here is what I have learned over the past years about vanity:

Vanity is foolishness, not wise. It’s about taking, not giving. It’s about depleting resources, instead of adding value. Vanity is idle, not active. Vanity is empty, not full. Vanity has no real value. Don’t be otiose! Be useful to the world.

Grow up, change, be different, be uncomplacent.

Choose a life that money can’t buy- one worth working for.

**Update: For any bikers, I thought this article was interesting.