When I was a very young man, I ‘collected’ CEOs. At 21, I was sure I wanted to build a business, sell it, make millions, and then retire in the San Juan Islands. I began to ask CEOs for an interview for an imaginary book ‘I was writing’. I took six months off college to work as the personal assistant to a CEO of a startup software company. I interned one summer at iRobot and convinced the CEO and President to take me to dinner so that I could pick their brains. Nothing of this is an exaggeration. I really did these things.
After a while, I started to see patterns. All CEOs were engaged by their life, but they all longed for more leisure time. They all wished for more time to step away from their busy lives; to have more freedom and relief from the stress. I realized that in this regard, they were no better off than the lowest paid worker.
There were also character traits that I didn’t share. Every CEO I met craved the limelight. I’m the opposite. I crave solitude. CEOs are frequently too busy to consider other people’s feelings. To me, that is the definition of an asshole. I hate when I catch myself acting that way.
I came to see that leisure time is a luxury that even the wealthy can’t buy. In line with the adage that ‘the things you own, own you’, these CEOs were victims of their own success. Most wealthy people are, in my experience.
It also dawned on me that I did not need a lot of money to live in the San Juan Islands. I just needed to integrate myself into the environmental and economic ecosystem of this area. The only thing keeping me from it was… me.
Leisure time does not mean that I can not work. It means that I work only if I want to. Only if I’m moved to. It means the need to make money is not eclipsed by the need to watch a sunset, or walk along the beach.
And so, I started my slow migration north.