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Don’t look back in 10 years and regret that you’ve done nothing with your life

Lately, Facebook’s “On This Day” has been showing me things that I have done since joining Facebook over 10 years ago. It is hard to believe that I am turning 35 later this month. It seemed not too long ago I was just enjoying my early 20’s.

Where did the time go?

In the past year, I have been reminded by the same thing over and over – that time is relative, 10 years may seem like a long time, but it can also pass by with a blink of an eye…

2008 selfie taken with a real camera…when cellphone selfies didn’t exist yet

 

Meeting with a university friend

I recently met up with a university friend whom I have not seen since we went our separate ways after university. He moved back to Toronto after graduation and did not visit Vancouver since and our schedules didn’t match for a meet up the few times I was in Toronto. When we calculated the last time we saw each other, we quickly realized it was over 10 years ago.

Back in the university days we were new to the adult world and were learning many things on our own. We moved away from home, lived by ourselves, and often partied like there was no tomorrow.

We studied hard and we partied hard. That was the motto we lived by during university days.

More than 10 years later, the both of us are in our 30’s. We both have our respective families and are trying to be great dads to our kids and great husbands to our wives. We no longer just consider ourselves when making decisions, we must consider our families as part of the decision making process.

10 years has been kind to me when it comes to aging. On the other hand, grey hairs are visibly showing for my friend.

Hard to believe we went from young adults to responsible husbands and dads.

Octoberfest 2004…before all the crazies began!

 

An encounter in Japan

Earlier this year when I was on a business trip in Japan, I ran into one of customer senior VP’s that I knew. This senior VP is responsible for my customer’s entire engineering group in Japan. I first met him when he visited our office in Vancouver circa 2006. Back then I just started working at my company as a young engineer. I was sent down to Silicon Valley on short notice because of an urgent critical issue with this customer’s device. Monthly after the incident was resolved, this senior VP visited Vancouver. I had 10 minutes to present the work that we did to resolve the issue to. He was really appreciative of the work I did.

Since our first meeting I went from a young engineer to more senior roles with more responsibilities. I continued to have meetings and dinners with him whenever I visited Japan. Since meeting him for the first time in 2006/2007, he has seen me progressing with my engineering career.

Over time I have learned that no matter how urgent and critical the issue on hand might be at the time, it is always important to breathe, step back, look at the big picture, and understand the macro. This is true for all types of issue, whether be technical or non-technical. Never get sucked in by the issue and stop looking at the big picture.

“Bob, you are all grown up.” He told me when we ran into each other earlier this year. We shook hands and I invited him out for dinner.

To my surprise, he showed up to our blow-fish dinner and had some drinks. Over the drinks he and I chatted and jokes about the encounters we had over the years. When I recollected our first meeting in Vancouver, he was completely surprised that it was over 10 years ago.

Blowfish sashimi. Yum yum yum! Hopefully not the poisonous kind. Ha!

A post shared by Bob Lai (@tawcan) on

 

University graduation class reunion

It has been 11 years since I graduated from one of the toughest engineering programs at University of British Columbia. Because we have not had a graduation class reunion since, I decided to organize a reunion with my classmates.

About 20 of us showed up for dinner and we all commented how everyone still looked the same. Although we all graduated as engineers, not everyone still work in the engineering field. Some of us now work in marketing, finances, or sales. Some even started successful businesses. Over dinner a few of my university classmates mentioned that they read about my feature on Money Sense and the conversation quickly changed to personal finance and investing. Since we are all engineers by training, we all have a very analytic approach. We started talking about the concept of financial independence and early retirement and I could see some of them were intrigued by the concept.

When one is young, still dumb, and fearless…

 

Work work work

I have been with working in the same company for over 11 years. As a millennial, I was told by several people that we millennials would change multiple jobs over the course of our working career. Therefore, I started working with the idea that I would join a different company after a few years.

11 years later, I am still with the same company. I have changed my job title a few times and my responsibilities have grown. I am no longer one of the youngest persons in the company. Whenever Co-op students or new graduates join the company, my co-workers and I would comment how young they look.

Although I am in my 30’s I still look relatively young. Recently when I was in San Jose, I got ID’ed while having a drink with my co-workers.

Last week when I was on the road, one of the GM’s of my company started referring to me as the “22-year-old”, while my VP joked that I was left at the company when they had a “bring your kids to work day” and never left the company…

Where am I going with this?

10 years has gone by quickly. Isn’t it weird that time seems to go by much quicker as you get older? I remembered that a year was like an eternity when I was a teenager. But now, a year seems to go by faster and faster each year.

Looking at Baby T1.0, each day is new to him. He wakes up each day as if the day is a brand new adventure. He still does not have a clear understanding of time. He understands what tomorrow, today, and yesterday are, but he does not quite understand what a year means just yet.

For Baby T2.0, every minute is like an eternity. When she is hungry and wants to eat, she certainly does not understand the concept of “wait a minute.”

Isn’t it weird that “time”, a concept invented by humans, must be learned through time?

Can you believe that Christmas is just around the corner? It felt that it was just yesterday that Mrs. T, the kids, and I were in Denmark, celebrating Christmas with Mrs. T’s family. Odd that 9 months passed by with a blink of an eye.

Despite how much money we have, time is one thing that we cannot purchase more of. Time will continue to tick away regardless of what we do with our lives. Therefore, we need to remind ourselves to use our time effectively so we don’t end up looking back in 10 years regretting that we have done absolutely nothing with our lives.

It’s hip to be square

 

Using time as an ally

Time can be a powerful enemy if you don’t use it properly. But time can also be a powerful ally if you use it properly.

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

– Chinese Proverb

Using the same logic, yesterday was the best time to invest your money. Today is the second best time to start investing.

Looking back, I am glad that we had a financial epiphany. By having an epiphany and be on the same page as Mrs. T, we have managed to achieve quite a bit.

What have I done in the last 10 years with my life? Here is a list in non chronological order…

  • Met Mrs. T and married her after dating for about 1 1/2 year
  • Witnessed and assisted with the birth of my two wonderful kids
  • Changed job position 4 times while staying at the same company
  • Going on many outdoor adventures and seeing the beautiful backcountry
  • Bought & sold an apartment, then bought a house
  • Graduated university with no student loan (Thanks to my parents), but also thanks to me being very frugal.
  • Went from $54 annual dividend income to over $10,000 in 2015
  • Grew our net worth over 250% in last 5 years. (Obviously way more in 10 years).
  • Started my photography business
  • Started our cookbook business with Mrs. T, wrote and published two cookbooks.

It would have been easy to have not done anything significant in the last 10 years. But I am always amazed looking back and seeing what we have done together in the last 10 years.

What will the next 10 years bring? It is hard to imagine that in 10 years, Baby T1.0 will be a teenager, and Baby T2.0 will be almost finishing elementary school. Staring into their innocent eyes right now (ok sometimes slightly mischievous eyes) , I can’t imagine what they will be like in 10 years. Where do I see myself and my family in 10 years?
Here might be an idea of where we will be at:

  • Financially independent
  • Perhaps living abroad as digital nomads?
  • Perhaps still working at the same company but in a different role?
  • Enjoying my life
  • Working because we choose to, not because we have to
  • Helping people with their personal finance and investing
  • Volunteering, maybe become a Scouts leader
  • Traveling and exploring different parts of the world with my family
  • Meeting more PF/FI bloggers and like minded people, building a strong FI community
  • Becoming more physically fit, spending more time hiking, climbing, skiing, and other outdoor activities

The possibilities are endless. But if we don’t use time as an ally, we will look back in 10 years and think to ourselves that the kids are grown up and we have done nothing with our lives.

We are not going to let that happen. And that is why I vow to myself to take even more charge of my life.

 

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25 Comments

  • Reply
    DivHut
    September 18, 2017 at 10:07 am

    Well said. I always say that “regret” is my biggest motivator. That’s why I started my business almost 20 years ago, that’s why I invest as much as I can, when I can in dividend growth stocks, spend time with family, travel, etc. so in 10, 20, 30 years or more I can have little or no regrets in life.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      September 18, 2017 at 2:01 pm

      I think for most people, regret is the biggest motivator. You really don’t want to look back years in the future and regret that you’ve done nothing. 🙁

  • Reply
    Dave
    September 18, 2017 at 10:13 am

    I can relate to your post. My wife and I just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. Those 10 years went by in a flash. I think that is because we are living life to the best of our ability. We work hard, but put more effort into what we enjoy.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      September 18, 2017 at 2:02 pm

      Wow 10 year wedding anniversary, congrats! When Baby T1.0 was born ppl would tell us that babies grow up so fast. I didn’t understand what they meant back then but now I totally understand. Gotta make every second count!

  • Reply
    Chris @ Mindful Explorer
    September 18, 2017 at 11:08 am

    What an incredible 10 years and good on you for 11 years of growth and dedication to the same employer. That provided some cool stories about your growth. Amen to the financial epiphany and I don’t know what i would do if I hadn’t had that moment and put in place the changes to make my life the way it is today. Keep doing what you are doing and all the best to the next 10 years 🙂

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      September 18, 2017 at 2:04 pm

      Ha I wouldn’t call it dedication, somehow I’ve been with the same employer for 11 years. Not sure how that happened.

      Here’s to great 10 years for the both of us.

  • Reply
    Oldster
    September 18, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    As someone who is a little further down the road (ok, a lot further :-), I can promise that time passes faster each year. Intellectually, I know that the passage of time is static, but emotionally, it feels exponential. Find joy in each day. Live today while planning for tomorrow, but don’t plan for the future to the exclusion of today. If there is something after this life, it makes sense that the only thing we take with us is what we know and have experienced. Everything else will pass away.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      September 18, 2017 at 2:23 pm

      Very well said Oldster. Finding joy in each day is so important.

  • Reply
    Dan
    September 18, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    Awesome article Tawcan. I really agree that time is so fleeting and that this life we have is so very fragile. Reminds me of the verse “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

    I also really enjoyed the Chinese proverb you shared. Thanks again!

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      September 19, 2017 at 8:18 am

      Thanks Dan. Life we have is indeed very fragile if you think about it. Don’t take time for granted.

  • Reply
    Passivecanadianincome
    September 18, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    Great post Bob! Ive been 20 years with the same company… haha family business. Sounds like a great 10 years and cool oldschool pics. I agree life flys by. Enjoy it. Cheers

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      September 19, 2017 at 8:21 am

      Wow 20 years that’s impressive! 🙂

  • Reply
    wealth from thirty
    September 18, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    You’ve achieved quite a bit in the past 10 years Bob. I met a University friend last month 10 years on, it’s amazing that in some ways it’s like we’ve only spent a few months apart, yet now he has a family, spent a few years living in Canada and has moved into a senior role in an (engineering) company. When we were Uni mates he was doing a student program there! Meanwhile, I joined and left the airforce, finished a masters, started a PhD and opened my own business. I don’t feel much older than I did at 21!

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      September 19, 2017 at 8:27 am

      Hi wealth from thirty,

      Thank you. I keep having similar occurrence lately, running into friends that I haven’t seen in a while and it’s amazing how quickly time has passed. Keep inside I still feel like that I just turned 19 not long ago. 🙂

  • Reply
    Mr. Tako
    September 18, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    That’s a great list of accomplishments in 10 years Bob!

    People often say we shouldn’t do things like start businesses because “it’s risky”. I think the real risk in life is not doing anything with it.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      September 19, 2017 at 8:30 am

      Thanks Mr. Tako. Aiming to accomplish even more in the next 10 years. 🙂

  • Reply
    Dividend Diplomats
    September 18, 2017 at 7:54 pm

    Bob,

    First, you have accomplished a ton over the last ten years. Second, with your attitude and appreciation for enjoying now while preserving/setting the table for the future, I am sure that you will quickly start crossing items off your list. Too often, we sacrifice so much in the moment to prepare and set the table for the future. I’m very guilty of that. Recently, I have tried to focus on blending saving but having these memorable experiences with my friends. I’ve been more focused on making sure I am enjoying every second we all hang out, rather than focusing on the negative or avoiding the experience all together because I am so focused on saving for the future . I just had my 10 year high school reunion as well, and it was funny how we really haven’t changed that much and how happy people were to share their experiences. While I had some, my goal is to have a 20 year reunion where I am happy to share what I’ve accomplished over the last 10 years and tell everyone that I enjoy what I do, am financially independent, and have a great family. To me, that will be what defines my next 10 years and I cannot wait to start building towards it.

    Thanks for the inspiring read tonight!

    Bert

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      September 19, 2017 at 8:32 am

      The goal is to accomplish even more in the next 10 years, including becoming financially independent. Having the right attitude and having appreciation are quite important. As I’ve been saying for a while now, the key is to find the right personal balance between saving for the future and spending to enjoy life today. What’s the right balance for me probably won’t work for you and vice versa.

  • Reply
    OthalaFehu
    September 19, 2017 at 7:44 am

    Feel like I know you better now, great post!

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      September 19, 2017 at 8:34 am

      Thank you OthalaFehu, I appreciate that.

  • Reply
    Amy @ LifeZemplified
    September 19, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    Excellent! And yes you still look the same (looking at the 2004 pic). Okay, maybe a tad older. 🙂

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      September 20, 2017 at 1:33 pm

      Haha hopefully a tad older after 13 years. 🙂

  • Reply
    Xyz
    September 19, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    Crazy to see how fast it goes by…
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Mrs. Adventure Rich
    September 24, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    I could not agree more! Regardless of state of life or financial phase, it is incredibly important to live each and every day 🙂 Thank you for the reminder and here’s to many more awesome “10 years” timespans!

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      September 25, 2017 at 10:33 am

      Thanks. Many more awesome 10 years will be awesome.

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