Life’s Questions Answered

This is a story about Jim and Adam. Both twenty-something year olds on the verge of figuring out what the rest of their lives will look like. Jim is a Yale Graduate and a high sought-after broker. Adam is a Seattle University graduate, testing the waters with his passions to see which will create a sustainable income. As our society might refer to him as, a wanderer who happens to get lucky sometimes.

Jim grew up in a small town, with good schools, parents who had the money to give him all of life’s best opportunities (even if they weren’t always what he wanted). Jim played basketball, football, and at one point he even ran a little bit. Thinking he might play college ball one day, his parents quickly talked him out of it by making sure he knew his college experience was going to be about furthering his education for an opportunist career. So, Jim followed suit.

Adam, on the other end of the spectrum, had a bit of a tough upbringing. Divorced parents (pretty common nowadays unfortunately), he attended multiple schools, and embarrassment at check stands, from holding up the line for the clerk to process his mother’s food stamps, was pretty standard. As you can see, Adam had a few more odds against him. But, he had a mom who cared deeply, hard working role models, and a sense of right and wrong. By the time college rolled around, Adam’s GPA spoke for itself, and a small private school in Seattle, Seattle University, was where he decided to spend his college years…wandering…and running.

Jim graduated early with a B.A. in Finance, which allowed him to seek out high paying careers. Before being swayed by many firms around the country, he settled in his home town, close to mom and dad. At the prestigious firm, Jim spent his days sitting in front of a computer and answering phone calls to make people money. It was a good paying job. It was a safe job. Jim had security, a pretty paycheck, and every one seemed to be a lot nicer to Jim now. He enjoyed his bourbon strong, his women pretty, and lived for the weekends – those two days we seem to have glorified above all others.

Adam graduated with a B.A. in business – a safe degree seeming he wasn’t quite sure what career he’d aspire. He knew he loved coffee, reading, and talking politics, though. What could he do with these passions? How could he monetize them? In business school (the day he happened to be in class) Adam heard an entrepreneur speak about how if we follow our passion and what we care about, the money will follow. So, Adam began to reach out for opportunities. He met many people over the years, working odd hours at coffee shops, for the newspaper, and speaking at different small business events. It wasn’t until he hooked up with his mentor, Joe, who gave him the confidence and planning tools to start his small business. Adam took out a small loan and opened a small coffee shop in his home town. He wasn’t just making coffee though, this cafe was equipped with rooms to house study groups, political and business conferences, and other organizations. Adam’s small business encompassed all the things he was passionate about. His work wasn’t work, it was just living. Every day he just loved living. Adam got to make the rules. His successes were up to him. And although he didn’t become rich, Adam enjoyed all seven days of the week.

Jim was happy; or as happy as he thought he could be. Jim had a beautiful wife…Well, he had had a couple by the time he was blessed with some beautiful children. His children, like him, had all the things in life they wanted. But Jim’s health was poor. For most of his life, Jim had the “luxury” of ‘good’ food, strong drinks, and long flights sitting down while visiting exotic places. His lack of activity and poor food choices were catching up to him and Jim was only in his late thirties…

Adam didn’t take many days off. He worked hard to make sure his coffee shop was the best in town! He loved what he did and made that shine through to his customers. One day, while serving a cup to a sweet little Miss, he decided to ask her out. This little Miss became his Mrs. and she, too, had a love and passion for coffee, politics…and the outdoors. So, Adam and his Mrs. would spend the little days off they had playing outdoors, since the rest of their days they were busy with their other passions. Once in awhile, they even sneaked away for a week to enjoy all three passions elsewhere in the world. This is where they fell in love with a new passion together…Good food!

Adam’s life was full of ‘work’, fun, and adventure. The Mrs. and him brought a few children into their world, but unlike Adam’s upbringing, they didn’t have to be on food stamps. He taught his children to work hard, enjoy what they work at, and that nothing is ever handed to you. They weren’t rich by any means, but Adam supported his family and loved doing so. Jim, on the other hand, did love supporting his family, but became obsessed (like most Americans) with the weekend, making these two days his sanctuary. The rest of the week was just, well, work.

Jim’s health deteriorated. By his late fifties, he had retired having made great money, but was instead spending it on healthcare bills. Like him, his family had no real knowledge of good health habits, but instead indulged in bad habits that money tends to buy. Jim was seen as a hard worker, a good father, and great son. On Jim’s death bed, at the age of 65, he began to look back at his life, though, realizing he had worked to live for money and for a reputation; where did his life experiences go? The laughing, the loving, the rich experience? (Note, his parents passed away in their sixties due to health issues, so most people in Jim’s family blamed his issues on genetics). Jim’s kids would enjoy the luxuries of his life insurance fund, living out their ‘dreams’ the same as Jim did – hoping they’d fulfill his legacy…as a great worker.

Adam lived to be 95. He enjoyed giving people joy each day with a small smile and cup o’ joe. This was his way of giving back. Adam taught his children hard, but good lessons, he loved his wife till’ death did them part, and he lived out his passions. Adam ate good, clean food, and enjoyed being outdoors and activity whenever he could. Adam’s children hope to be as passionate as their dad was.

Jim left behind lots of money, a strong resume, and some kids who’d follow suit (like he). Adam left behind lots of smiles, lingering laughter, and passion for a good, healthy life. Both very different stories. Both very different outcomes. What makes your life matter?

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