Friday, December 28, 2007

Life is an Optimization Function

Wednesday morning, I got out of a meeting with an older gentleman that I consider an informal mentor (but that will be changing soon). I have never felt so inspired to write a blog post as I did after that meeting.

That's when I began writing this.

In the 40 minutes or so that we spoke, he told me about his experience with a small-ish tech company that he joined after leaving the bureaucratic, sclerotic company we both used to work for (and that I still work for). I asked him what he learned from his experience, at which point he described, with an accompanying drawing, his experience over the last few years. It would be an understatement to say that I was blown away! Although I knew the stuff he told me, and I've heard it before, I've never heard it presented the way he did.

During the conversation, my will-be mentor drew 3 horizontally oriented boxes, side by side, with a line of progression through the first 2 leading into the last. In the first he wrote "Workers", although the word "Labor" would fit just as well. 80% of people fall into this group - those who go to their jobs, make payments on a mortgage or rent, raise their children and generally are blissfully unaware of the other 2 groups.

In the middle box, he wrote "Wealthy". This group makes up approximately 15% of those involved in economic activity - corporate managers and the like. They have some money, and have generally enough to live the kind of life they want to live. Nothing wrong with that, or with the "Workers" for that matter. However, the third box is where he and I both aspire to end up - "Investors". Calculating their percentage of the population is left as an exercise to the reader.

From there, we discussed some of the things he saw while with this small-ish tech company as a member of the management team. Lessons learned. Relationships formed. How money works. How this opportunity has allowed him to move from the "Workers" group into the ranks of the "Wealthy"; unfortunately, it has taken him a far longer amount of time than he would have liked had he been aware of these distinctions sooner.

Its just staggering, in a beautiful way. I literally had flashbacks to "Wall Street" after walking out of his office.

As I made my way back to my car to leave, I realized that life is an optimization function. It really is about maximizing every opportunity, every moment, every minute, and that, as Bud Fox told us in Wall Street, "Well, life all comes down to a few moments. This is one of them." Optimizing every single opportunity that presents itself should be your goal. That's what I'll be working on in 2008. I have 2.5 years to accomplish my biggest goal. Playtime is over. I get it now.

"Money never sleeps." Neither will I.

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