The first time I wrote that title I typed 2020. We’ve all done it. But usually in January or February for a few weeks. Or, what about when someone asks your age right after a birthday and you tell them the wrong number? While these are common blunders, they feel somehow more characteristic of our current times. There is something about going through a massive change, surviving a transformation, and still feeling totally normal that seems to bend our sense of time.
And no doubt about it, we’ve done just that. The transformation I mean. If you think the world’s not a different place than it was 18 months ago then either you’re living under a rock, or maybe just a really comfy blanket fort. Seriously though – if you truly believe that the pandemic, widespread long-term remote work, global protests against racial discrimination, growing awareness of the complexities of gender, escalatingly unusual climatological events, economic shenanigans, and a failed coup in the US (to name just a few) have not fundamentally changed the world around you – hit me up, I’d love to discuss how that’s possible. For the rest of us, well, for me at least – I know things have changed drastically but somehow that leaves me feeling almost as if time had stood still… It’s a strange sensation.
And it’s amplified by my own personal transformation (which, no doubt, was influenced by the broader shifts in the world around me).
This probably isn’t news. If you’re reading this post on my website, you already know, or, at least can tell. My personal blog is now part of a much larger (and hopefully more impressive) website. And that website isn’t just about me anymore – it’s about Grundemann Technology Solutions. That’s right – I started a business! And now my wife/partner and I are both full-time self-employed. w00t w00t
Funny story, Grundemann Technology Solutions was actually the first real business I ever started. That was back in Colorado at the turn of the century. It was a consulting company and my biggest client was a wireless internet service provider (WISP) that I helped to build and grow over several years. When I went on to take other jobs at larger and better funded companies than my own, I let that business dissolve, fading into a footnote to my origin story.
Now, some 20 years later, the new Grundemann Technology Solutions is six months old, and has already generated more revenue than the old one did in it’s entire existence. What a difference a couple decades of experience can make! Oh, and guess what? One of our biggest clients is a company that owns a bunch of fiber and is trying to become an internet service provider. I guess the more things change the more they stay the same.
More Than a Job
One key aspect of this new venture is partnering with my wife on it, which has turned out to be amazing! It’s opened up this whole new dimension in our relationship, and after seven years, given us totally new things to talk about and to work on. It’s a lot like having kids together I guess. At least in the way that it creates an opportunity for us to support each other and to mutually shape and mold something as it grows. I’m really excited about our potential together. And totally happy to not change diapers ever again.
Of course, being full-time self-employed meant leaving old jobs behind. For me that was Myriad – and I wrote about the journey that led me into and out of that company already. Here I’ll simply reflect that Myriad had consumed my life, and that I’m much happier pouring that energy into my business and my relationships and my life than I ever was doing it all for someone else. Turns out I’m a capitalist. Who knew.
My Gray Hair
Yes, my birthday is in the first half of the year, which means that I’m now in my 40th year on this planet. Wow. So old. For essentially all of the preceding 39 years, my forties have been something like a terrible mirage – not quite real, fairly distant, and not at all appealing. On top of that, for most of those same years, I looked at each birthday as a mark of shame.
I remember being a kid and reading about some 12 year old who was accepted to Harvard and just feeling crushed. I was smart! But I wasn’t going to Harvard. So I guess I wasn’t smart enough. I had that experience several more times. Like when I learned that Alexander the Great conquered the known world in his mid-20s. Woof. I wasn’t even close. And so it went, every year a part of me knew that I was further behind. A year had passed, giving me less time to leave my mark on this world. I never made the 30 under 30. And now I’m 40.
So, how am I taking it? Better than expected. It’s like I’ve been climbing this mountain, the whole time thinking that the top was the end, but upon arriving there I see that instead the whole world is open before me – more mountains, more valleys, rivers, clouds, birds, elk… You get it.
In more practical terms, two things stand out – and if you can get past the potential paradox, they may even be helpful insights:
- I have so much more time than I thought.
- Time is more precious than I realized.
First, I have so much more time than I thought. Because of my narcissism and my ambition and who knows what else I long ago decided that I would accomplish everything I needed to early in life and then retire at 40. That was success to my childish mind. That was how I would “beat them,” how I would win. I would do what I had to do and then cash in and drop out. And while so many things in my life changed, that number never did. It got stuck in the back of my mind. And the clock’s been ticking down.
That specter of 40 that I created was so strong that for a long time I couldn’t see past it. And the closer I got the more I relied on denial to avoid dealing with the reality of it. And now I can very clearly see that the reality is that life goes on. In fact, I’ve got a whole ‘nother life to live. Heck, maybe two if the pace of technological innovation continues to support accelerating healthcare breakthroughs. I know well that I could die at any moment – but, barring catastrophe, I’ve got a stack of decades in front of me that’s larger even than the stack of them behind me. And I don’t have to spend half of it as a literal child this time.
It turns out that 40 was never the end – and it may very well be the beginning. That means that I can still do all those things that the much younger me promised himself to do “by 40.” It also means that I can choose not to do those things. I can choose new things. I can re-write my bucket list as I check things off of it.
More Valuable Time
That’s the other thing that feels more tangible today than it ever did in the past. Just how valuable time is. You might think that someone who pushed so hard to get “everything” done by 40 understood the value of time. The truth is that I saw the scarcity of it, without understanding the value of it. Like the cynic who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing I recognized the limits of time without seeing the possibilities.
I spent so much of my life in a rush. Trying to fit in everything I could. Which, the astute among you may recognize, leaves you no time to enjoy those very experiences. It can also lead you straight into the brick wall of burnout, and that’s a great way to waste a bunch of time, laying on the ground trying to shake off the impact of your will against an immovable object.
So, lately, I’ve become much more conscious of the true value of time, along with the multitude of methods for taping into that value. Much of it I didn’t even realize I was doing, but looking back I see that I’ve ended up putting myself in a pretty darn good position as it relates to leveraging time much more effectively. The heart of that is habit and routine. Using some of my time to rest, to reflect, to plan, and to simply relax can make the rest of my time that much more productive. Spending time catching up with an old friend isn’t taking me away from my work – it’s enhancing it in ways I may never truly recognize. Getting a full 7-8 hours of sleep isn’t laziness – it’s preparing my mind and body to perform at their best. The examples go on – but this post shouldn’t. =)
Okay, so, usually my mid-year posts are all about personal goal progress and public accountability. If you’re curious, you can take a peek at my 2021 goals. But for now, I’ll just say that even though I often forget what year it is or how old I really am, I’m doing great! And you’ll just have to wait ’till my end-of-year post to learn where I beat my expectations and where I fell short.
I will add that my three words are really helping guide me this year. Especially “relationship,” which has prompted me to start two weekly book clubs and to join a weekly Dungeons and Dragons game. “Invest” and “habit” are constant reminders as well, and I think they’re setting me up for one of the best years of my life, old man or not.
I truly hope your 2021 is your best year too, and if it doesn’t look that way now, that you choose to do whatever it takes to point it in the right direction. Remember, happiness is up to you.