“Everything you need to know will become apparent at that time.” Would you join a club with only that explanation for potential new members? If so, dinner is at 4:57 sharp.
You can come from anywhere, but this most exclusive golden ticket, offering the most colorful view of the world, requires that you must be present. An ability to not look back or forward might just be the best clue for what makes this group’s members, and their track record, unlike anything I have ever seen.
One of its leaders is a guy named George, who was born in Petrozavodsk, Russia. To escape a revolution’s bloodshed, his family moved to Siberia. Two years later, they moved again to Manchuria, China. Then they moved to Seattle, Washington and the family was granted U.S. citizenship. Years later after his parents divorced, George settled in California and worked in a steel plant. This time, it was his company that uprooted George and transferred him Provo, Utah, where he knew no one, once again.
There are absolutely no advantages, of any kind, that I could find throughout his lifetime. The reason I want you to meet George is he may be the finest example of what can still happen when you are not great at anything. At a time when most people reading this are bombarded with great stories about people who have done great things, I wonder if anybody has time to be a beginner anymore.
Learning about George over the past couple of years, and others like him, has had a profound impact on my life. I am embracing amateurism whenever I can, and intentionally seeking things I know I will not be very good at. The unusual dividend I have found accompanying this kind of experiment is a giant sigh of relief. Subtracting any worries, that can only be born from expectations, makes me feel like I am turning back the clock to how I felt as a kid. As a matter of fact, that should have been my first clue when I heard George say his age as the number “and a half,” like a little kid does. I have never heard an adult do that. Little kids have something we all cherish, a lot of free time and not a worry in the world.
The other reason George uses “and a half” for his age each year, is that it marked ski season, his favorite time of year. George explained the first time he saw skis. “I went into the sports store, and I looked at the manager and said, I want to learn how to ski. I want to get the safest equipment. And I heard a voice: 'Use my bindings and I’ll even teach you how to ski…’ I thought, who the hell is this guy?”
That guy was Earl Miller, the father of a hundred different inventions, and a phenomenal skier. Those bindings he invented were the first releasable ski bindings, and the skis were called Miller Supersoft Powder.
It is easy to write that off as pure luck because it is. You could think gosh nobody does that anymore; those were the good ole days. Well, who’s fault is that? On the rare occasion that we have the time or inclination to go into a store anymore, we are digitally armed for a quick draw and clicks on our weapons of information rather than asking for advice.
One of my favorite ways to time travel to those good ole days is simply asking for an expert, and then tell them I’d love to learn from them. Jaws often drop, and it’s as if Santa Claus himself has tapped them on the shoulder to crank up the old toy factory and build something together…let’s get the tools out again!
My kids used to roll their eyes. Now, they are more often to debate whether that is an example of heads-up luck (magical vision from not looking down at a screen) or who-luck (extroversion is no stranger to luck). You have heard of beginner’s luck for very good reasons.
“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” -Mark Twain
After asking for help, George has not missed one ski season since. “Skiing is just a great sport. The thing I would say is take care of yourself. Watch your diet and maintain an exercise program. The love of skiing is what gives me the inspiration to stay in shape,” he says.
When asked to give his own advice to beginners, George says “Don’t get discouraged and don’t rush it. It takes time so go slow and be grateful for the motion you can make. Don’t push your expectations too high too fast. Going down the slopes is great anyway you do it. Skiing is a great chance to practice patience. And you’ve got to be grateful for what you’ve got when you’ve got it. Don’t overweigh or exaggerate the negative. Just think positive and look ahead.”
This is not another story about wishing you had done something sooner or better. It is one to SHRED those with. When George first started to learn how to ski, he was 43 years old. George’s disciplined exercise program that he now credits for making such a huge difference is only 45 minutes, and he did not start that until he was 70 years old. I think of George any time I hear - I wish I would have gotten started earlier. Sure, that would have been great, but the second-best time is now and may be even better.
“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” -George Eliot
Loving any kind of physical activity comes with an inspiration to prepare for it, even just a little bit, every single day. George explains, “To enjoy beautiful scenery, fresh air and God’s country you can’t do that unless you engage in some sport.”
That club George joined is called the “Wild Old Bunch.” They meet every day and have dinner once a week. The shared love of an activity led to a lot of happy and healthy members. The club has been around since 1938, when those friends loved skiing so much that they climbed up the mountain before chair lifts.
On his birthday six years ago, George announced to the Wild Old Bunch that he felt so good and optimistic he bought a new pair of skis that should last him another 10 plus years.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” -Mahatma Gandhi
He is already more than half-way through that prediction. If you are wondering why share a ski story in July, that is when George’s birthday is. He celebrated last year’s by skiing. Yup, with some snow still left and a little help from his friends in Alta, Utah, they groomed a slope for one glorious run. I should mention George just turned 101.
“There is only one success – to be able to spend your life in your own way.” -Christopher Morley
George is an exception, but he is not alone. Clubs like his are growing in numbers. During my career, the Stock Market has crashed 50%+ twice, and more than quadrupled. The number of indexes to keep up with stocks now outnumber them. When I started, nobody had heard of an ETF. Now, there are more of those than indexes and stocks. But the number that has changed the very most, and at the same time is the most underrated factor in planning, is that life expectancy has grown more than 2 years. Even that number dramatically understates the best developments we can dream of. A married couple in good health who makes it to age 65 will shove all the average life expectancy numbers off all their mountain charts. It becomes an entirely different equation at that point - one of them is likely to make it to 95+!
“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” -Satchel Paige
At our firm we have two benchmarks. First, no income plan ends before age 100. Second, is something a little harder to run the math on, but it sure is fun tracking! I call it the GRindex.
There are countless ways to measure the progress of an investment plan, and even more indexes to track performance. Why isn’t peace of mind one of them? It can unlock doors we never knew existed, creating more time (most valuable asset in the world) to explore. There is a big difference between retiring from something versus a pursuit toward something.
I consider the time to become an amateur at something one of the greatest luxuries in life, and among the primary goals of Financial Freedom. After furiously convincing the world how great we are at something, one of the best gifts we can give ourselves is to drop all those balls being juggled. Take off all our masks, we wear so tightly. Instead, find some time to dive into the deepest pool of humility and curiosity we can find. Ultimately, our memory bank will become our favorite account to review. GRindex’ing divides those moments across more relationships to begin the magic of compounding interests, in multiple memory banks.