I believe that a man should manage his life in much the same way he would manage a business; more specifically, a corporation. Gone are the days when a man’s life was run like a ship captain on the open sea, acting and reacting to the perils of hostile waters caused by unforeseen weather patterns. Today’s modern man has to prepare, anticipate, plan, and execute according to his goals and appetites; his needs and the needs of those he is directly or indirectly responsible for. In the spirit of this statement, one could say that I am the CEO, COO and CFO of Me, Inc. I answer to a Board of Directors consisting of two 20 month old boys, who happen also to be majority shareholders, by default, with a vested interest in the successes and failures of their executive leadership. To this end, I am also the janitor, chauffeur, tutor, and chef.
A man without a plan is destined for ruin and a company without leadership will certainly fail. A sole proprietorship has far more latitude in the way it operates. For instance, a sole proprietor may choose to take a sick day, just because. He may choose to commingle funds from his business account with his personal account. He may choose to sell a company asset to pay for a new toy, and while any of these practices may be considered poor business management, there is no accountability for these actions beyond their impact to the individual’s bottom line. In a corporate structure, an individual commingling funds between accounts may very well be guilty of embezzlement and any action he takes is strictly scrutinized by a Board of Directors. He is held absolutely accountable for his actions by his shareholders, to say nothing of the IRS and SEC, etc., who are tasked with corporate oversight and accountability.
In the world of business, I have always had my act together commensurate to my positioning on the arc of a very steep learning curve, but on a personal level, discipline has lacked in the areas of personal finances, diet and exercise, and housekeeping. Put another way, as a business professional, I handled my affairs like a boss. In my personal life, I handled my affairs like a man with six months left to live, who would certainly be outlived by the consequences of his poor planning and decision making. This reality was a force to be reckoned with, once confronted with the responsibility of raising children as a single man. Suddenly, it wasn’t just my health effected by the dietary choices I was making; it wasn’t just my money I was accountable for managing; it wasn’t just the cleanliness of my home I was responsible for maintaining. Most importantly, it wasn’t just me who was privy to the undisciplined example I was setting. But, like all challenges in life, they bring about much needed change in individual areas of weakness, complacency, and procrastination. This has been no exception.
I feel fortunate to have developed the practice, early in life, of seeking out information that interested me and implementing it until it perpetrated lasting effect on my actions, and, eventually, my habits. This constant reinvention has allowed me to shape and mold my life into the image I’ve created, both internally and externally apparent. Recently, this practice has forced me down the path of transforming my personal life until it reflected my business life and, as a result, my personal finances are now budgeted out twelve months in advance, planning for bills, everyday spending needs, goals, and periodic responsibilities. It has also forced me down a road toward eliminating debt and becoming self-insured, rather than credit-dependent, in the event of an unforeseen financial crisis. I now have a plan for funding goals exceeding one year, out as far as five, ten, and twenty years. Why? Because the well-being of my children cannot be contingent upon the fickle and unstable nature of the economic climate or political landscape as it relates to my current professional life. If left to chance, I will have made very little provision for retirement or the creation of net worth, let alone wealth and self-sufficiency. In short, I will have provided no legacy for my children.
Of all the things a man should seek to provide for his children, legacy should be chief amongst them. In this way, a boy learns what it means to become a man and put away childish things. Without legacy, what influence does a man have when presenting the importance of education — financial and social intelligence, manners and gentlemanly conduct, integrity and work ethic — to his children? In the absence of such things reflected in their example of a man, there is very little in the way of contrast for a boy to challenge the short-term appeal of professional snow sports, booze, and promiscuity (for example). In the absence of these things, “Do as I say, not as I do,” simply does not carry any weight.
In stark contrast to the way people shy away from doing business with a crooked enterprise, children grow up to model whatever standard has been upheld during their development with very little exception; although, exceptions do exist, in both positive and negative examples. But leaving this to chance is a wager a foolish man makes on the future of his legacy and the advantages he can hope to provide to his children. A wise man forecasts, prepares, and implements disciplined effort in the execution of his plan, adjusting where needed along the way, and then teaches his children how to do the same through instruction and example. Giving them a clear picture of what to emulate and what to root out. Of equal importance, giving them the tools necessary to emulate that example. Tools that are smelted in the forge of self-discipline, delayed gratification, and personal sacrifice.