Can I Get A Little Serious On Ya?

“Time is very precious to me, I don’t know how much I have left.” – Jim Valvano (Jimmy V)

March 4th, 1993

After everyone went to bed last night, I was flipping channels looking for something decent to watch before I hit the sack myself. I came across an hour-long special on ESPN about three people (2 of which who have passed away) who battled cancer. It was about Jim Valvano, Stuart Scott and Robin Roberts. I was only able to catch the last 15 minutes or so. Unfortunately, I was unable to find the whole thing on demand so I could watch all of it. I say unfortunately, because if the last 15 minutes is any indication of the whole hour, I missed a fantastic show.

Three things struck me as I was watching the show:

  1. Jimmy V knew he didn’t have much time left to live. He was fully aware that his time was coming very soon. (In fact, he passed away roughly 6 weeks after he gave the quote I referenced above).  
  2. He chose to use his remaining life to inspire others and to spend time with his family.
  3. I need to live my life in this same fashion. Because the truth is, I have no idea how much time I have left.

The last chapter in my book centers around death and how we can use our impending deaths to ignite us, rather than scare us. Or depress us. It’s my favorite chapter of the book because it’s something we all know, but not many of us (including me) live like it in our everyday lives. Every one of us of knows that we’re all going to take the dirt nap one day. But do we really let it sink in?

Some of us know that day is coming very soon. People like Jimmy V. People who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Jimmy V and Stuart Scott knew their time was coming to end very soon. Personally, I have no clue how I’d respond to getting news like that. If I ever do get news like that, I’d like to think I’d use my remaining time the way that those guys did. Spending it with their family, loving other people, and inspiring as many people to live (and I mean truly live their lives) as they could with their remaining days. 26 years later, around this time each year, I hear Jimmy V’s speech somewhere. On TV, on the radio, on social media. It’s always somewhere in early March. Each year it’s a wonderful reminder for me to put what’s really important in life, first.

I’m a financial planner. I work with people to help them make good financial decisions. I help them manage their investments. I put together financial plans for them. I watch the stock market and I read the financial headlines. This is the daily bubble I live in. And, look, I’m not complaining or anything. Only setting the stage for the next paragraph.

Sometimes, this bubble clouds my vision and leads me astray from focusing on what’s truly important in my life. More often than I care to admit, I get to thinking that a bigger ROTH IRA balance will lead to more happiness. A bigger house is what’s important. A bigger salary is what matters. I’ll start to think “if only I had X amount of money, then I’d be ok.” Or things like, “if I don’t have $2million saved up by the time I’m 65 I’m screwed.”

I’m not an idiot (some people may disagree). I know that money is an important part of life. It pays for our kids to go to school. It pays the mortgage. It pays the water bill. It allows us to take vacations and create memories with our family and friends.

However, it’s not the most important thing in life. Sometimes, in my bubble of personal finance and investing, I forget this.  

What’s most important are nights like I had last night when I took my 6-year old to her gymnastics class. I couldn’t help but smile and laugh as I was watching her do something resembling a cartwheel and falling down. I had one of those proud Dad smiles on my face as I observed her little personality shining through as she was talking with the other girls in her class and laughing with them as they were swinging their legs on the pull-up bar. Then I got to talk to her on the way home about her life and what was going on with her lately. It was a really nice moment.  

Upon arriving home, I got to read my 4-year daughter old a book on the floor as she laid on my back. Then my nearly 3-year old son came running in and wanted to lay on my back while I read him his book of choice. A few minutes later, his twin sister was laying in bed (with the door shut) and started screaming “I need one more smooch from Daddy!”

Folks, that’s what’s truly important. This is what really matters. Our families. Our friends. Our loved ones.

I’m as guilty as anyone in forgetting this from time to time. Even though they’re no longer with us, I want to thank Jimmy V and Stuart Scott for reminding me each March, of what’s truly important in my life. And also, that none of us has unlimited time left on Earth. I’m sure if I had the chance to talk with either one of those guys, they would tell me to get busy living and to focus on what’s most important in life. Yes, my job is important, and I take it seriously. I love working with my clients. However, family is more important. For all of us, not just me.

So, that’s what I want to do from here on out. That’s what I’m going to strive to do each day. My hope is that in March of 2020, that I won’t need that reminder again because I was living it out each day over the past year. Only time will tell I suppose.