lifetime career

Working What We’ve Got

One investment supersedes all others: an investment in yourself. It adjusts for inflation. It helps you have a more interesting life. When we invest in ourselves, we are seeking to improve our value to others. The more valuable we make ourselves, the more an employer or customer will pay us.

The collection of attributes that create this value are called human capital. Many aspects of human capital are free. Years ago, I became acquainted with a senior officer of a large publicly traded company whose most obvious superpower is kindness. After they moved on to a leading role elsewhere, people familiar with them always remembered that trademark feature—and how they had helped them in the past, how they made them feel.

Kindness is free. So are dependability, punctuality, enthusiasm, diligence, and all the other traits we seek when we deal with others. (Others desire those same traits in us.)

Some aspects of human capital require time and money, sometimes lots of both. Think of the education and training required of surgeons, for example. Educational paths and career planning are beyond the scope of this essay, but the value and wisdom of all of your choices ultimately comes down to whether you figure out how to add value to the rest of society.

We have heard the idea of “follow your passion” debated back and forth. Understand the difference between doing what you are passionate about and being passionate about what you do. One of them has a wider range of opportunity than the other.

The source of our wealth is our earning power, which arises from our human capital. It all starts here.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email or call.


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A Lesson From An Old Friend

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Surveys indicate that many Americans dislike their jobs. If you are among them, I hope you are not irritated by the enthusiasm I have for my work.

“Job” is the key distinction, however. One individual who had a formative influence on my life did not have a job—he had an enterprise. Dean Sack founded the York State Bank in the World War II years, among many other endeavors, and ran it to the age of 92. If you have ever wondered how I arrived at the goal of working to age 92, this is it. I met Dean when he was 76, eleven years after he retired—a retirement that only lasted six weeks!

Ironically, much of our work is devoted to helping people fund and find fulfilling retirement lifestyles. Most do not have control over their working conditions to the degree that I enjoy. So retirement is a worthwhile and laudable goal for most, if not for me.

When the Depression hit in 1929, Dean was an adult, at work. He fascinated me, a student of history—and face it, not many want to hear an old man’s stories. So we grew close. Among the qualities that Dean showed: a hunger for new ideas, and to learn; consistency and honesty and integrity, no pretense and no bull; a tight focus on the things he could control. He and others of his generation did much to build their communities and the world.

I was fortunate to observe so much wisdom at an early stage in my career. Thirty years ago, nobody talked about ‘work-life balance,’ but Dean was the model for an integrated life: being the same person at work and play, with friends and customers, day and night.

We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before, as they say. Vast wisdom resides in those generations. The lessons we may learn cost nothing, but can be valuable beyond price. Here’s to our mentors and teachers and wise elders!