Imagine awakening to find yourself in the middle of the forest. It’s just you, the trees, and oddly – a backpack full of $100 bills. You get up, throw on the pack, and start a long trek. Hours, days, weeks, months, years pass by, but you hardly notice (time seems irrelevant here). There’s an enchanting light off in the distance, so you head towards it. It grows brighter and brighter as you draw near.
You reach the beginning of one long street and begin heading right down the middle, towards the light at the end of the it. Eventually you see other people and stores begin to line both sides of the street. The crowds grow thicker. You get swept up in the excitement of the moment. Every step you take, a new store, advertisement, fancy meal, special sale, luxury item, or materialistic old friend does everything they can to draw you in – to grab your attention. Often, they succeed, and you stop and unload a few bills from your backpack. They want you to stay, relax, let the time pass by – and you happily oblige. You’ve lost your focus of the light at the end of the road. But eventually a flicker off in the distance reminds you that it is time to pick up and move on.
Then one day, before you know it, you reach the end of the road. There is a big glowing sign on the front of a storefront with a grand entrance that says, “Your Future”. You are curious, thrilled, even a bit scared as you walk through the doors. At the other side of the store is a counter. There is no one else in the store, just you. As you approach the counter, a lone person steps out from the shadows. You can’t quite make out the face, but a sense of comfort and familiarity hits you. And as the stranger comes closer you realize it’s you… wait… not quite you. An older version of you – 5, 10, 20 years older? It’s hard to say. You’re greeted by the largest, most genuine smile you’ve ever seen.
“Why hello there!”, the familiar stranger joyfully declares.
“Haha, you look a bit surprised. Don’t be. You traveled long, much longer than expected, and far to get here, but you have finally arrived. And I’ve been waiting for you.”
“Of course! I see that you’ve brought the backpack, thankfully. It looks a little lighter than I expected, but still pretty full. That’s good, you’re going to need its contents.”
“For what? And, yeah, I kept getting distracted, there were so many things along…”
“I know, I know. Relax, the important thing is that you learned and you are here now, and by the looks of it, you will have enough. Now, it’s time for you to make some purchases.”
Your host proudly turns to the side, one arm extended to reveal multiple video screens lined up next to each other. Each is aligned with a big green button with the word “Play” on the top, on the counter in front of you. Each screen has a number with a statement and then a price just below.
- Wipe out last remaining credit card debt: $10,000
- Finish paying back student loans: $50,000
- Own your home, mortgage-free: $250,000
- Financial independence: $1,000,000
“Judging by the size of that backpack, it looks like you should have just enough to cover all of the options, which is fantastic. Really, that’s all you needed, no more. Should we go through in order? I’d highly recommend it.”
“Um… I guess?”
“OK then, just pass me the amount from your pack, and then hit play!”
Hesitantly, you hand over $10,000 and reach for the first button. You push it, and immediately wake up in your bedroom. You look around, but your new friend and your backpack are nowhere to be found. Was it all a dream? It must have been. However, something feels different. Almost like a huge weight off of your shoulders (and no, it’s not from the lack of the backpack, it’s a mental weight). You move on with your life, but you can’t help but think that things have changed. You’re happier, much more relaxed. You show up to the same job and keep getting the same paycheck, but your paycheck seemingly is going a lot farther these days than before your odd dream. Life is looking up. When… all of a sudden, ZAP!!!
You’re startled to find that you are back in the “Your Future” store with your host and your now slightly lighter backpack, in the same condition you had left them in.
“But I thought…”
“It was a dream? No, no. It was real. And it’s spectac…”
Before your host (who looks great, btw) can finish their Seinfeld reference, you slam down the next $50,000 on the table.
“Haha. Well, I thought you might feel that way. Go ahead and hit play, you silly bastard!!”
Life returns again. Better, brighter, more optimistic, happier, with less fear and resentment. Your pack of cash is gone again, but that’s just fine because your paychecks are adding up quickly these days. And it’s not long before… ZAP!!!
“Ah, back again – and quickly this time! I think you’re REALLY going to like this next one.”
“Let’s do this.”
You wake up. Life improves, yet again. And it’s starting to feel like you’ve reached some sort of tipping point. Work still kind of sucks and your boss doesn’t really like you, but… you have no fear. In fact, to remove that minor inconvenience, you just pick up and leave to start your own freelance gig. It pays well and you’re satisfied. You start taking every Friday off because you can and spend the free time on some cool projects you never had time for and with your friends and family. Then you start taking every Thursday off too! You have your good days and your bad, but on the whole, life is definitely better than it was before you last hit that green button. Could it be…? ZAP!!!
“Freedom! It’s the only thing left on the menu. Once you pay for it, there’s no coming back. But, that’s OK, because I don’t think you will want to come back.”
“But… how will I ever thank you?”
“Thank me?! Oh, no, no, no. For it is I that should be thanking you. If you hadn’t avoided the distraction and temptation along your journey, you – no… WE would not be in this fortunate position today. Sure, we could have arrived sooner, but we made it. Many never will arrive at their Future Store. Let’s press this last one together, shall we?”
You and your host extend your arms to simultaneously press the final green button. ZAP!!!
As you awake, you walk to the bathroom and are startled to see your host looking back at you, but this time, only in the form of a mirror reflection. That’s right, you’re older now. But not that old – there’s plenty of good decades ahead of you. You smile and are struck with an overwhelming sense of gratitude.
You go back to work… no, not THAT work. You get to work on the things that you enjoy and care about. Things that align with your values, your goals, your passions, and with complete autonomy. Your days are filled with endless challenge, learning, helping, providing, giving, connecting, growing, and living.
You think back to a younger version of yourself and wished you could have been here even sooner! Those distractions – the overpriced restaurant food and drinks, the path others laid out for you, the fancy car, the far too big house, keeping up with friends and neighbors, the garage and closets full of toys – all that stuff turned out to be meaningless. The best investment, the best purchase, was the one that you made on yourself. And all you can do is say “thank you” to that younger version of yourself who eventually figured it out. Better later than never.
When those who try to separate you from your savings and goals come along, will you show the restraint needed for your future self to thank you?