Conversation about life with a friend

Below is my email to a friend, I thought it was worth saving here for me to see again in the future at some point.
I was thinking about what you said that you sometimes wonder if you chose the right career path or maybe you could have considered going to a state school then going to live by a mountain town with a decent job or something. I felt the same way for a long time when I watched these gorgeous pictures of a buddy who did that show up on Facebook:
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He lived the life – had a camper that he went from mountain to mountain in, rock climbing and skiing and partying. Turned out though that after years of doing that, he was quite depressed. He felt like his life lacked meaning or purpose. He had fun, but he had nothing else he could do. He had trouble holding a girlfriend or job. He started doing more and more extreme stuff to get the thrill but usually felt more empty and depressed afterwards. He kept pushing it further and further, doing stuff that earned epic photos like skiing on one ski on the edge of a crevasse, or triggering a small backcountry avalanche and capturing it on his gopro, or jumping a 200 ft deep 30 foot wide crevasse (I can’t find that photo):
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Eventually, he pushed things too far and went in the backcountry a year and a half ago after the crazy heavy snows and was killed in an avalanche. When I talked to my buddy Fletch who was Adam’s best friend in grade school, he said Adam had been super depressed and just basically said he was going to keep pushing the limit as that was the only thing that he felt really got him feeling good again. He was a great guy and a good friend who took me to the summit of Rainier, and it was tragic to lose him.
I don’t know if you or I would have been happy just doing that completely live for the moment thing. I feel like you are a pretty happy guy and that having a balance of contributing to society while also doing fun stuff is a healthier balance. Your accomplishments are extremely impressive – the Air Force Academy and flying F-16s has been a big contributor to the security of our society and required incredible dedication and talent to achieve. You’ve been all over the world and made some awesome friends it sounds like.
It does sound like you feel like what you set out to do in that area though and are losing interest in continuing to fly. I think you are on the right path for you as you said you would either go work at the Air Force Academy or get a civilian job. My thought for myself is that taking some risk and making a change in your life is often something that is scary before you do it, and after you do it you realize it wasn’t as big of a deal as you made it out to be and that you just wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. For guys like us especially the financial concerns often end up leading to decisions that aren’t optimal. I still have been letting that control me too much and am trying to get outdoors and do what I love there more. We are heading towards our mid thirties and over half our lives are behind us now… I want to do some great outdoor climbing and skiing and camping before my body starts to break down.
Trying to balance the things that make me happy is tough… here is the current order of how I view this:
  1. Significant other. Nothing else is more important to your quality of life.
  2. Family & friends – quality time with these brings meaning to life and accomplishments don’t mean much when compared to these relationships.
  3. Career. Doing something you are passionate about and believe in is crucial.
  4. Fun life activities – I have been fortunate this year in that I have had a good amount of travel. I prefer being outdoors though and doing physical intense sports and miss this in my life.
  5. No commute. Research shows that one of the biggest factors in happiness is the length you have to drive each day… shorter the better.
  6. Hobbies… I’ve been reading a lot and working out and occasionally playing some video games.
  7. Avoiding the phone trap…. I haven’t figured this out. I literally get sucked into my phone reading articles I don’t care about, looking at ridiculous things on social media, and playing chess. It gets more addicting each day. It’s easy to sit down with it and look up and two hours have gone by. Painful.
What are your thoughts on all of this? I am always trying to make my life better and would love your insights – you are a thoughtful guy and willing to look at tough issues.

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Joel Gross

Joel Gross is the CEO of Coalition Technologies.