Saying goodbye to the “deferred life plan”

I did something crazy this week.

I flew down to Mexico by myself for a 4 day surf trip.

No kids.

No wife.

Fish tacos every day.

A $90 a night hotel room with youth hostel vibes.

And tons of surfing.

Cerritos Beach in Mexico

Now here’s the crazy part. It’s only the second trip I’ve taken “for fun” since in my eldest was born.

Yes. I’ve only traveled by myself “for fun” one other time in eight years. (More on that later.)

So this was special. Here are some metrics from my trip, starting with fish tacos:

Next we have margaritas (volume low to preserve surf energy):

And this was a “working” vacation (focusing mostly on my $10K strategic thinking). And since I was sans kids, time felt like it literally stopped. Here’s hours worked juxtaposed with hours surfed:

(The waves were actually too big – between six and eight feet which is outside of my skill set.)

And as I write this essay on the flight back, I was overwhelmed by deep gratitude. I said to myself:

“Damn, I’m no longer living the deferred life plan.”

What is the deferred life plan?

For much of my corporate life, I was living for tomorrow. The next vacation. The next purchase. The next promotion.

You could call it the hedonic treadmill. The when-then trap. Or just an omnipresent dissatisfaction with what was directly in front of me.

Now some of this “deferring” was in service for a better tomorrow. Making financial sacrifices for my kids’ college education. Or learning a new skill to advance my career.

And I’m glad I made those sacrifices.

But the deferred life plan was a bit more sinister. It was an elusive pursuit of fleeting happiness. It was a flawed belief that my life would start once I hit “my number.” Or when I retired at sixty.

Now leaving Wall Street seven years ago put the plan into motion. But it wasn’t until this trip that I realized how all the pieces fit together.

Here’s how it went down.

Acknowledge the magic window

I’m a big believer that life is lived in seasons. And each one of these seasons contains its own magic.

There’s the summer after freshman year, where there’s no pressure to “get the internship.”

There’s the just-married-with-no-kids phase where the world is your oyster (and your time is yours).

There’s the your-kids-think-you’re-the-best-person-ever phase of new parenthood.

And then at the ripe age of 42.75, there’s the my-body-still-lets-me-do-physical-activities-without-consequences.

This realization that there aren’t sooooo many years where I can surf 6 foot waves for 5 hours made me realize that the time is now.

Not tomorrow.

Finding true partnership with your spouse

When I told friends about this trip, there were two common responses. The first (and more typical):

What, you’re marriage is f*cked up if you can’t take off with your boys for 8 years!

The second response was:

What, I can’t believe your wife let you go!

The reality is that neither is true – for us.

While we definitely don’t split parental responsibilities 50-50 (Lisa is the primary caretaker), I’m heavily involved in pick-ups, meals, baths and bedtime routines.

By choice.

The reason I avoided traveling for so long was because I didn’t want to miss those special moments. It felt selfish.

But with our kids a touch older (and both in school), we’ve entered a new season of life.

And Lisa and I are totally aligned on what it means for each of us getting back to the things that we each put on hold.

You’ll still make excuses to not do it

Despite getting the family blessing to go, I still was lollygagging about actually taking the trip. I’d make up a lot of excuses around work (“My team needs me around”), family (“I’m going to feel guilty”), logistics (“What if I get stuck with COVID in Mexico?”) and cost (“My portfolio just got annihilated, is this really prudent?”).

What this taught me is that even for things that excite me, I still needed to harness my own agency. And that meant fighting the complacency to put things off (and stay on the deferred life plan).

Work-life-harmony is where it’s at

The crazy part about this all is that when I wasn’t surfing, I wanted to work.

I wanted to do some 5 year visualizations. Think about new customer acquisition strategies. Brainstorm a marketing analytics framework.

And with no kids around, I had plenty of time to do it.

There was something creatively inspiring of being out of my environment, with lousy WiFi and some Tacos Pulpos in front of me. Plus, I had the full faith and confidence in my team that our business was humming along.

Tacos #6 and #7, Pulpo on the right

Mother nature is a fickle beast

To be honest, the actual surfing part wasn’t epic. There was leftover hurricane swell that generally made the waves a bit too big and powerful for my skill level.

I didn’t have the epic rides that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

But it didn’t matter. I was there. Every moment was peaceful.

And most importantly, I wasn’t waiting for an imaginary tomorrow.

Shout-out to my fantastic host (and longtime RadReader) Greg R.

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