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  • Writer's picturedennisharris04

Taking Stock at a Milestone

I reached a milestone birthday a month ago, the BIG 5-0. Of course, there was the want to get together with family and friends to celebrate, but also to take stock of where I am in my life. I think it’s important to measure how far you have come when you reach certain points, but how you measure might look a little different for each person that you ask. Is it financial wealth? Is it having the family that you always dreamt of?

Some would say that having it all is the true measure of success. But what does that look like to you? Is it money, a family with two or more kids, a dog, and at least two cars in the driveway? Is it travel, life experiences, or something else extravagant or exciting? I would say to you that some of these suggestions might not be quite the perfect scenario that you might think. Something is likely to suffer and not get the attention that is needed to really nurture it.

What do I mean by that? How will it suffer if you have everything? Well if you are chasing money, I guarantee you will not have near enough quality time with your family. If you spend all your time with your family, at some point the bills have to be paid. I think finding the harmony between having some financial ability to live a good life while spending real time with your family should be the goal.

How did I come to the conclusion that something will suffer if your sole goal is financial wealth? I reflected on my own life recently and I have watched enough family court over the years to tell you that the breakdown is typically the same. Money, lack of communication, and time seem to be at the forefront of the end of relationships. So what things can we use to measure where we are at a milestone? I think all the things mentioned above, but you have to look at the entire picture from the beginning. Where did you start? How did you start? Where are you now? If you are not where you want to be, is it too late to change it?

If you have read any of my previous blogs or my bio, you know I started from rough and poor beginnings. I like to think of a boxing metaphor when it comes to life. The people in your life represent your corner team, essentially your support, and mine was spotty at best. There were a few words of encouragement, but mostly my corner was distracted, especially when it came to my well-being. I always maintained that the boxer in the scenario, no matter good or bad the corner, the responsibility lies with him or her to get through the match(or life). If you are the boxer and walk to the center of the ring, and get knocked on your ass, it is your job to get up over and over. That is how real life is lived, so you can lay down and blame your corner for not preparing you, or get up and fight! All that being said, it is nice if you have a good corner, it certainly makes getting up easier.

I kept fighting and there were some lonely moments throughout my life without help when I needed it the most. I worked hard towards never starving again and never being a victim. Even the people that have stuck by me over the years, could never fully know or understand what those moments were like for me. The quality of my life is great now and so when the milestone came, I took it as a great time to reflect, and catch up with friends and family. It all served as a reminder of the path that led me to where I am now, and it’s comforting. I made some big decisions that a lot of people questioned and by the time I was twenty-five had buried a lot of my immediate family. It's good I learned at a young age to get up and fight. The problem is I had lost direction, had very little real guidance, and wondered sometimes what I was fighting for. I needed to channel energy the right way and keep going in whatever direction I could. I was willing to fight, to work and at my core knew I was a good person with better morals than the examples I was given by the people who are now gone. Those are some good tools no matter what path you choose, but you need to add as you go…I think nature is smarter than we give it credit for, and the people that came into my life, at what seemed to always be the right time, reflecting back, have been nothing short of amazing. Some were much-needed guides that came into my life at very crucial times and then drifted away, others are still good friends.

There were three turning points that served to be crucial for me. The first was walking away from a fiance that I fought with all the time. It mirrored the beginning of relationships that I witnessed growing up and I saw nothing but my life repeating what I needed to get away from. The second was walking away from a very draining woman and a very codependent, poisonous relationship that followed. There is a little more detail on those times in previous blogs and will certainly go into detail when my book comes out later in the year.

The big turning point was made during a much more positive time in my life when I was training hard in self-defense and gained some great friends during that time. I am still proud to call those people my good friends to this day. During that time my clarity of what I wanted and what I was willing to accept for myself was becoming greater by the day. I was on a path of healing for the first time in my life and it was starting to feel good to finally be living just on my terms with nothing attached. The friends that stood by me then are still my friends to this day and I’m better for it. The friend that was there during that time when it came to setting up my first incorporated company, passed away this year. Our friendship was forged by the fact that we shared a similar upbringing, worked for everything we had, and wanted more for ourselves. We parted ways for a while in the beginning and came back together, which gave us the appreciation to make our friendship stronger. He used to say,” I’m jealous of your life…” and I used to think it was a silly thing to say because he had experienced significant loss like I had, but also, had a lot of financial success from a young age. He made a better life for himself. I get it now, he meant that he was jealous of the fact that I had the courage to keep an open mind, to keep an open heart and learn to love again, and essentially carry on in the pursuit of happiness. It wasn’t always that way and when I pulled out of the last toxic relationship I was looking for no one and happy to be by myself.

In the early stages of my company, I was doing consulting work and working part-time driving water trucks on movie sets. I was having fun, making good money, and realizing I really didn’t need anyone. Then my company took off and I found myself owning five of my own trucks with twelve full-time employees and a bunch of part-time employees. I had the right kind of people around me to make the company successful, grow my investments and really chase financial wealth. Reflecting back now, after spending time with family and friends over a span of the past month made me realize that something will suffer depending on your path. You cannot be everything to everyone and every opportunity all the time.

If I went after money alone I can tell you that there would have never been a wedding day, no kids in my future, and I would have embraced that life without trying to cross the line of “having it all”. I would not have been as lonely as people would think or maybe at all, read my blog on alone vs. lonely. The thing is my life would have never been as meaningful, had the depth it does and I would have never had cultivated relationships like I have over time by taking the path that I chose.

I have always kinda known that, but it really hit me the first weekend that I celebrated my most recent milestone birthday. Three close friends, one of their wives, and son met my family in a cabin in the middle of nowhere by city standards. They made a long drive where six adults and three kids piled into a cabin for my birthday. After a great dinner made by one of my friends, drinks were had, and as the night moved on it was like no time had passed, we laughed about the rough times, good times and embraced the times to come. We fell into old routines with light-hearted ribbing and listened to the music from past years that we would never have listened to when it came out. It was a fantastic weekend, but I had a realization, and it was a good one. I would have had those friends in my life no matter what path I took, but I would have never cultivated the relationships the same way and they were better because of the person I chose to be. They had all contributed something to my life and my contribution was enough in their life that they would pause their plans to help me celebrate. These are not just friends but have become family. The added bonus was my boys get along with my friend's boy, my wife, and his wife get along with all the friends and have become a big part of all the friendships. How many families can say they can spend a whole weekend in a cabin and say it went swimmingly? I never thought I would…The story doesn’t end there, I said milestone, and I meant it, there was a month of catching up.

The next weekend we had some newer friends over, that we met in the new city we moved to, and it was another good night. A lot of laughs, a few fun bets that I may have lost, and realized we had already met some new lifelong friends in a short time. The weekend after that I went back down to the Coast where we grew up, by myself to catch up with more people. The first stop was with my father-in-law, where we hung out for the day and went out with my brother-in-law and had dinner. It was a great night of laughs, and catching up. A night that would have never happened if I had chosen pursuit of solely financial wealth, again I know that about myself. The next day I left my father-in-law's house to catch up with another close friend who had become like a brother over the years.

We came from similar backgrounds, we lived together in some seriously questionable places in our twenties. We have both made good lives for ourselves and it was time to catch up. He and his wife invited me out to a fundraiser for his daughters’ dry grad at the local legion. Irony…The legion was in the city we grew up in, a few minutes from all the sports fields and arenas I played on during the younger years of my life. We sat in the legion, eating decent homemade style burgers and listening to a cover band with a singer who was a legend in his own mind. It was entertaining and added to the laughs. The three of us shared some good laughs and conversations. It was a subtle and unexpected perfect way to continue celebrating a milestone. It was a nice reminder of where I had come from and it felt good in the present because my friend, his wife, and I had a great evening. I wasn't always popular in my younger years with wives because I was always a hundred miles an hour in whatever direction I wanted with each passing moment. Again without the path I chose, the person I became, I’m not sure those kinds of moments would have been possible.

After a month of celebrating my birthday, I realized how lucky I am to have the people in my life as far as actual family, people that have become family, and most of all I know who I have become. I chose to get married with the intent of being the best husband I could be, becoming the best father I could be, to explore things like coaching and sharing my journey. To give as much or more to the people that I’m fortunate enough to call my friends. Those choices have paid off because that is where true riches come from, having good people around you to share it with.

I found the time to be a husband, dad, coach, mentor, and friend over the years. I don’t see friends as much as I would like, but when I do it’s like no time has passed. Life gets busy and we don't always have tons of time, but the time we do have is quality and things are great. My boys and I have a lot more time than I would have had when I was running a company and we have great relationships. Missed time with your kids, is time you can’t get back. I wanted more than to be known as a wealthy, hard worker. Remember something will always suffer, so make real efforts to find a harmony that you cannot only live with, but if you died, you would be happy knowing how people remembered you.

I am happy to say that I built a life where relationships and experiences mean more than a treasure chest. Let’s go back to the boxing metaphor now, my corner looks a lot better now, more so than I could have imagined at a young age. It makes me think of a couple of characters from the movie, “Rocky”. Mickey the trainer, and Rocky himself. Mickey feels like he doesn’t have much to live for, while Rocky looks for direction and purpose. They become like family and both of them find new life in themselves because of that bond. When Rocky gets knocked down, roughly Mickey exclaims.” Get up you son of a bitch, Mickey loves you!”. They both dared to open their hearts and minds to find each other and it becomes a great story of overcoming by living again.

If I hadn’t had the courage to take the path I did, my friendships wouldn’t have been as complete as they are now, and my experiences would not be as rewarding. The new path started with the choice to get married, but when things are good, you listen to the inner voice, just like when things are bad. I steered clear of that decision twice before ever considering it again and was adamant it would never happen. I had a lot of examples of why that never interested me. Nothing truly good ever comes from your comfort zone, that’s not just a saying.

So with all the above in mind and taking stock of a milestone, How would I grade myself? The answer is I would do it all again! Also, I should mention a couple of things. We are not struggling financially and I am okay with working for a few more years knowing the choices I have made. The ability to make money comes with choices, we all stumble, but when those times come I have a great support system around me. It is often said that if you want to know how you are doing in life, picture who would be at your funeral if you died right now, what they would say and what would be their best memory. I am at peace with myself and what would be said with confidence that my contribution to date would be that the good outweighed the bad by a landslide.

It’s never too late in life to try another path, so here are a couple of questions for you.

Have you found happiness in your life? Have you brought others happiness?

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