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Of Trains and Trees

Of Trains and Trees

November 23, 2015

Time seems to be going faster all the time. The older I get, the quicker the days, weeks, and months pass. It's like Einstein said: time is relative, and from my position in the universe, it seems to be accelerating.

When you're young it seems like time takes forever to pass, especially when you're waiting for your mom to finish shopping in a department store. In your teen years, it seems like it takes forever to become a high-school senior. But then it happens-bam! You're in college.

College was the first period in my life in which I recall a desire to have the world slow down. Every day opened new possibilities; there were no dead ends in the road of life, only different routes to take. When making decisions about classes, majors, activities, and job interviews, the whole thing looked like a huge cornucopia of opportunities that just kept flowing.

However, the decisions begin and, soon enough, we have to make choices about which way to go. Take a job? Well, that means there were other jobs you didn't take…whole careers you will no longer explore. Choose a city…now there are hundreds of cities you'll never move to. Pick a relationship or even a spouse…there are lots of others you are going to pass up…

Then there are kids, mortgages, promotions, bills, more bills; suddenly, rather than a life full of choices, we begin to feel like we're on a train track headed toward a known destination. Sure, the train sometimes either stops or goes faster, but we keep on rolling along the tracks, seemingly unable to stop the march toward end.

Stay on the train tracks, or jump the rails? Both have daunting consequences. Which is the right way?

I've only lived this one life--and only 49 1/2 years of it so far-- but I can give you the perspective of hundreds of others that I've encountered on their own journeys. Here are some random thoughts about the choices we make:


1) Stick with the choices you've made (careers, locations, relationships) even after you get sick of them, but be honest with yourself. Is the problem you, or the things happening to you? If it's not you, then…

2) Don't stick with choices you've made after you realize you can't make them better. Cut the cord and don't look back. Don't waste more time, even if it costs you in the short term.

3) Do Not, I repeat, do NOT stay with something bad because the money is good.

4) Money is not good or bad. Money is not happiness or sadness. Money just gives you options.

5) You can't save your way to happiness. You can earn your way, but only if you are happy earning it.

6) If you can't stand your job, you must change it. If you don't, you'll probably be fired anyway.

No, you're never going to pitch for the Cardinals or be President. Some doors remain shut to you because of prior choices or random fate. Nonetheless, I've seen 60 year-olds start eBay businesses. Two clients started their own businesses, failed miserably, and took new jobs but were happy they took the chance to fail. A retired accountant drives a school bus. It doesn't matter what you love doing, but it matters that you seek to do what you love.

Life isn't like a train track; it's more like a tree. You choose which branches to take, and you know taking one branch may keep you from reaching other branches not chosen. But if the tree's healthy, the branches will continue to grow and create new branches, endlessly, until you're done with this life.

Keep feeding the tree. The new branches are growing right ahead of you if you'll just look. Don't stop looking for those new ones. You're not finished.