For many seasoned financial advisors, the road toward building a career and a business can be challenging and rewarding. And even though most advisors would agree that the road to success involves many years of hard work and sacrifice, each advisor’s path to ultimate success can consist of massively different experiences.
In our 102nd episode of Kitces & Carl, Michael Kitces and client communication expert Carl Richards discuss the challenges they have each faced in their decades-long careers, the ways they developed opportunities for themselves to advance in their professional and personal lives, the importance of self-awareness, creating balance, and how reflecting on a career in retrospect can often provide insightful perspectives and appreciation for the present and even the future.
While newer advisors are faced with infinite pathways in the financial services industry, it can often be easy to focus solely on getting ahead professionally while putting aside personal interests and self-care. But by deliberately managing a lifestyle that focuses on work, play, and rest, younger professionals can establish a healthy work-life balance that can benefit their well-being throughout their entire lives.
One critical question for advisors to ask themselves, regardless of where they may be in their careers, is whether they are doing things today to set the stage for the kind of life that they ultimately want in the future. And while there will always be unplanned surprises, maintaining a vision based on the advisor’s values and priorities will help them make the best decisions possible to support their path.
Ultimately, the key point is that while newer advisors can learn from more experienced advisors, there is no one right path to take in an advisory career. Certain strategies for paving career paths and balancing work-life priorities will work for some but not others. However, by learning from past mistakes and staying focused on their values and priorities, advisors can ensure that they make the best possible choices for their own lives and careers. And by sharing their knowledge and experience, advisors can enrich the financial planning community by providing support and insight to others who may be facing similar challenges and victories along their own paths to success!
***Editor’s Note: Can’t get enough of Kitces & Carl? Neither can we, which is why we’ve released it as a podcast as well! Check it out on all the usual podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Spotify, and Stitcher.
Kitces & Carl Podcast Transcript
Michael: Well, good afternoon, David Carl Richards III.
Carl: That’s what I’m talking about right there.
Michael: I’ve been waiting a while to do that. Since all of the last episode, I’ve been waiting. So, you’ll say, it has a nice lilt coming off the tongue, David Carl Richards III.
Michael: A strong name.
Carl: Thank you. Greetings Michael Ernest Kitces I. Super good.
Michael: The first and only. I did not send that name down the family tree.
Carl: First and only, one of a kind. Absolutely. What do we talk about today? I think this is going to be exciting.
Michael: So, for today, speaking of our wonderful genealogical roots of family trees, so we had this interesting message come in from an advisor. We both know the name…appropriate anonymity, we’ll call them Cal.
Carl: Cal, okay.
How Carl Learned The Importance Of Creating Balance In Life [01:11]
Michael: So, Cal had asked, for both of us, would you guys talk about the early days, like back in your 20s or 30s when maybe people didn’t know your name, you were still creating your professional foundation. And so, as Cal has put it, he said I’m interested in this because today, you talk about the family mission, spending time with family, preferably outdoors. You limit your work hours, but probably haven’t been doing it exactly this way since your early days, in your 20s and 30s, or maybe you have, I guess that’s part of the question. Likewise, Cal said to me, granted, I don’t talk as much about free time outdoors. I’m still a little bit of a workaholic, but how has my lifestyle changed over time as well? And Cal sort of said in this context, there’s 30-year-olds today that see the house of their parents and want the same thing without recognizing well, they spent 20 or 30 years building and saving to get that retirement dream home. You got to build a foundation to get there. And I think, in general, there’s this phenomenon like there’s a lot of looking to where people are and not necessarily to where they were and what the path was to get there. And I thought it was an interesting framing from Cal around this question to us of what was it like 20 years ago getting started to build, to the point, where now you get to do what you do today? And so, I thought it was an interesting road to go down if you’re up for going down it, go down this path through the episode today of what was it like in the early days?
Carl: Yeah, it’s such a great question. Cal and I had a conversation about that email just back and forth a little bit, which provided a little bit more insight into it. So, it’d be really fun to share. It’s hard, right? Because I remember… So, I accidentally got into the industry by applying to be a security guard and then I ended up at Fidelity Investments National call center because it’s…
Michael: Because it was a securities job.
Carl: And I didn’t know the difference. That’s actually a true story. And then I worked and worked my tail off there, and then I ended up a Prudential Securities, another big institutional team. And then I left there and went to the firm with the bull as its symbol and owned by a bank because that was the epitome of my career. And I wanted to impress my grandma because I was supposed to be an attorney and all of those feelings. And I just worked so hard and then left.
Michael: Well, wait, so take us back there. You just glossed through 5, 10 years of that early career in your 20s? So, what was it like then? What was Carl’s life then? What did that look like?
Carl: Here, I’ll tell you a funny story. I remember I had a pair of Allen Edmonds shoes, and I remember those were like a 100 bucks or something, whatever, maybe they were $120. And I drove a 1982 or ’85 Rabbit, Volkswagen Rabbit, two-door Rabbit. Now, my wife learned when she was 16, my wife learned to drive in that car. My brother-in-law, her younger brother, learned to drive in that car and her younger sister learned to drive in that car. They gave it away at the end. They were just like, “Get rid of this car.” And then somebody gave it back to them, and I was like, “I’ll take it.” I remember I got a parking ticket and under “color”, the policemen wrote “rust”. They didn’t write “red”, they wrote “rust”. But the reason I’m telling this story is because I can remember parking that car underneath in the parking lot, the Merrill Lynch parking, reserved parking. When I won employee of the month or broker of the month or whatever, I remember parking that rust-colored Rabbit next to, you know what was next to it on both sides, right? And I remember one day I couldn’t get it started because it would often not start. And I had to have somebody in the BMW 7 series, the broker in the corner office jump my rust-colored Rabbit. And I remember pushing it one time to compression start it and thinking, my shoes in this slushy snow-covered street are worth more than this car. I finally got in a little teeny fender bender, the last accident I was in, which was 27 years ago, 26 years ago. And the car was totaled because the damage was 450 bucks. So, that…
Michael: This was your financial advisor mobile?
Carl: Yeah. I remember going to meet with a client and trying to find how far away could I park, so they didn’t see. Those were the early days, right? And leaving and being told constantly, how many sales calls you need to make and swimming upstream to do what we would have called back in the old days level load, as close as you get to AUM back then. I did everything from the beginning that way because I just was lucky. Somebody taught me and I could afford to do it when I didn’t need any money. So, that was the early day. And then we just get to fast forward a bit because I left Merrill, started my own firm, and then started doing this weird thing of drawing with a Sharpie on card stock and then scanning it in and putting it up on a blog called Behavior Gap, which, by the way, the original name, I think I still own the domain, I’m not sure was the Emotional Gap. I’m really glad I changed that. The Behavior Gap, I started putting those things up and then playing in traffic, and how scary is that? I think this is a good question because people don’t realize it’s so scary. What are you doing, you idiot? You should be building a business. Even people very close to me are like, “Why don’t you just focus on building a business, that makes no sense?” And they were right. It didn’t make any sense. I just couldn’t stop doing it. And then “The New York Times” thing happens because a guy named Kent, who I still need to send… I should send him a gift every year because he changed my career. Kent emailed the editor of “The New York Times”, it landed on the right day. Ron opened the email, I don’t know why, right? Asked if I would do it there. I said, “Yes.” Ten years, every single week feeling like “What am I doing?” So scared. So in over my head…
Michael: What was so scary about it? These things seem to roll off for you.
Carl: Yeah, that’s what it sounds like now, right? Every single one of those was super scary.
Michael: To write that column for the Times every week. What makes it scary?
Carl: I’m a kid from the hills in Utah, this is a Sharpie. So, massive imposter syndrome problems, always. And I remember, it’s just one more of these stories. I don’t have them here, but I had three Seth Godin’s books on my credenza. I remember in my office in Las Vegas, I had three of his books on my credenza. And I remember when I would leave at night, for some reason, as I was going to turn off the light, I’d glance over and see those books. And they have his publisher, Portfolio. And I’m making, for those of you not watching, the symbol of an archer, right? Portfolio’s little logos, an archer shooting up at the moon or at the sun. And I remember just having this weird thought because I had three of his favorite books of mine there. And the Archer was across all three of them. He’s published all his books with Portfolio. I remember thinking, “Gosh, if I ever wrote a book, that would be cool.” But I never, never, never thought, I’m going to write a book and I’m going to publish it with Penguin, right? But I just remember thinking, “That would be cool.” A couple years later, Portfolio calls because of what was going on at the Times. And that was so scary, really. But that was…
Michael: So, what about the time allocation for you? You talk a lot these days about, correct me on the statement for your first submission tape, but some of the effect of spending time…
Carl: I want to spend time with my family, mainly outside.
Michael: Mainly outside. So…
Carl: And I do. Now I post things on Twitter about… I spent 17 hours in the mountains two weeks ago. But still, I’m producing more in results than I’ve ever produced now. But I think one of the benefits of this… But early on, yeah, I wasn’t spending that much time. I was riding my bike super early in the morning as a way to medicate from all the stress because I am hyper-alert. So I am constantly, and I would imagine some of you, at least some of you listening will relate to this. I have been constantly, and I don’t know… Well, I’ve done a lot of work around this, so I think I have a sense of why I was doing this. But I’m constantly scanning the bushes for lions, right? There’s a lion in every bush. When I drive, I know every mirror, everything around me. So, I used to come home and just be like, “This is the day every client’s going to fire me.” And my wife would just be like, “For what?” And I was like, “I don’t know.”
So, the stress of that and the pressure and the pressure and the pressure to build and always be creating and build a business, it was no joke. And I used to deal with it. My vice of choice was riding my bike too hard. I’d ride every morning was Thursday morning World cups, right? We would race. And anybody who trains regularly knows what happens to you if you ride hard, medium hard all the time, you end up overtrained and broken. And so that’s what happened. And that’s why I think this is kind of an interesting discussion is, for me, I could have never done what I’m doing now then. But, of course, not. But I wish somebody would have talked me into being a little bit more like… in training, we call it periodization, right? Being a little bit better about work hard, play hard, and the part I never did, rest hard, actually get rest, actually turn the phone off at 7:00. There’s no reason for you to know where Asia opened. What? Why are you up at night, right? Why are you checking email before you go to bed and the first thing in the morning? That kind of stuff. I wish somebody had taught me better about how to be resilient because I ended up a broken human, in the hospital, broken human.
Michael: So, at what point did this drive you into the hospital?
Carl: That was 2000, let’s see… When we moved back to Utah, it would have been 2012…I want to say 2000. Let’s see, we were ‘8, ‘9, ’10, probably 2010. I rode a big mountain bike race as the last thing. But it was already happening. My peaks were getting lower and my valleys were getting deeper, both from a mental health and physical health perspective. And then after this huge bike race I did, I was cooked. And so, classically overtrained, adrenal fatigue, I had just been pressing on the gas for too long, right? And largely, this is a little secret. Nobody knows, so let’s not tell anybody.
Carl: I know, don’t tell. It’s just between you and I, Michael. My wife, largely, this is why we ended up in New Zealand. I didn’t know that. I didn’t know that at the time, but my wife was smart enough to see we got to pull the plug here and get you in an environment where it’s easy for you to rest a little. And I don’t think I’m alone. I’m okay if I am alone. But based on the emails I get and the… I was just at a conference two weeks ago, where I told a bit of this story and I had so many people come up, particularly men come up, look over their shoulders, make sure nobody was listening and say, “Hey, man, I’m doing the same thing,” different vices of choice. Mine was a bike. Other people choose other things. So, that’s when I hear somebody, like Cal?
Carl: Cal asked that question, I think it’s really valuable to go back and say, there was a lot… And I wish I would have done it differently. I wish I would have done it differently. But nonetheless, it turns out it’s hard to build something like I’ve built. And I think your story is similar. It’s not easy. If you do it well, it looks easy later. But it’s not easy, especially the Sharpie stuff. If you simplify it well, people say things like, my 4-year-old could have done that.
Michael: Yeah, yeah.
Carl: Right. So, anyway, that’s the story. Tell me where you want to go with that. Sorry, I didn’t mean to cry on your couch, your blue couch.
Michael: Well, I’m not even going to go into the whole fact that the blue couch is not actually with us for today’s recording, but that’s all right.
Carl: It’s coming. So, everybody should know, will this be out before XYPN LIVE?
Michael: No, this episode may come out after XYPN LIVE. The blue couch is apparently making a journey to XYPN LIVE. So, by the time you’re hearing this, we’ll probably just be past the conference. But go check out Carl’s Twitter feed because apparently, he’s going to troll me on Twitter about the blue couch’s journey from Utah to Denver.
Carl: You better believe it. But after my sitting on your couch, where do you want to go with this?
Why Michael Focused On Creating A Solid Foundation Early In His Career [15:16]
Michael: So, I thought it was interesting this context from, again, what did it look like then? So, I was similar, in many ways, early on of just the grind, like the grind of that first decade or so, it seems for a lot of us in the business. I mean, there’s the first two or three years that are just supremely awful for pretty much everyone because it’s really rough getting the business going if you’re an advisor. But just the broader challenge of how do you go about building your career, whether that’s in an employee model, whether that’s as an advisory firm owner. There’s a slower longer grind of just what it takes for lot advisors that I find is more of like a 7 to 10-year stint of just what it takes to get there because you got the business to the point, you got your career to the point where you’re making it and it’s earning good dollars and getting to a good place.
And so when I look at that from my end, I mean, my decade of my 20s, essentially was pretty much like solid 70-hour weeks, all the way through. Just for the better part of a decade, I was the first into the office and the last one to leave. My dedicated time on Tuesday evenings, Thursday evenings, and Sunday mornings for almost seven years straight was doing whatever my professional education thing was like, CFP, CLU, CHFC, master’s degrees, tax degree, all that. The whole alphabet soup, for me, was never like a super big surge because I was working full-time, I needed to work full-time. I didn’t have the opportunity to leave the workforce to go back to school. I had to do all of it while I was working full-time. And because I was working a lot of hours, just in early-growth stage, fully reinvesting all the time I had back into my career, the only time that was left was some evenings and weekends on top of that.
And so, I took the absolute minimum course load and I stayed continuously enrolled for about seven or eight years, almost a full decade of my 20s. Tuesday evenings, Thursday evenings, and Sunday mornings, the local coffee house. And so, just all my friends and family and everybody knew you weren’t going to reach me on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sunday mornings because I was off studying on top of working the hours. The combination of that, for me, was, in part, because of the number of hours I was working, sort of broadly speaking, I was not very active in all things social activities in my 20s because, frankly, I was working so many hours. I didn’t have a lot of spare time. And if I had any spare time that was free, I just wanted to rest or probably nerd out on video games, at the time, because this was my peak World of Warcraft rating days for anybody who was a WoW player. So, I would raid in almost every off night from studying, so that was my find some balance, equilibrium thing.
Most of that time, similar to you, I had a cheap 15-year-old car I literally bought off of eBay, back in the early days of eBay. Bought it for cash off of eBay for literally a few thousand dollars. It ran, it operated, it never broke down. God bless its soul. And spent almost all that time splitting a three-bedroom apartment with two buddies just to keep my costs dirt cheap, as low as I could. I think my share of the rent was about 350 bucks a month through that time period. I actually went and looked it up recently. It would’ve been about $600 or $700 a month now given that was 20 years ago. So, apartments were a lot cheaper then. That was about a $2,000-a-month apartment by today’s rates for a 3-bedroom in the suburbs that I split with 2 buddies. I had a bedroom, and the three of us shared the living room common area.
And that was my reality for the better part of 10 years, just so that I could be fully immersed into building career, getting the degrees and designations. I had a lot of career upside, I got a lot of raises. Career mobility was very good. I was having a lot of good positive personal growth through that time period. But all my time was immersed there, which ironically meant I had a really cheap car, I had a really cheap apartment, and I had basically no time to spend my money anyways, as I was starting to earn more. And so I banked and saved all of it, which eventually became the dollars that I was able to use to go out on my own and launch a business on my own, walk away from my job and the salary, and go out on my own because I had saved enough from all the time I was working and not spending in my 20s that I had enough dollars available to be able to do that.
Carl: That’s so amazing. So, here’s my question because I think we have different takes on this. And one is just, I think the reason they’re different is because we’re probably just wired different. Would you do the same thing again?
Michael: So, yeah, I would. And granted, I work a lot of hours now, I have a little bit of a workaholic tendency. I enjoy what I do, and I enjoy being immersed… Yeah, just a little bit. Carl’s holding up his fingers just small smidge apart, as I’m saying, like we…
Carl: Well, it’s partially because you don’t see this all as work. You love what you do.
Michael: No, I enjoy what I do. Now I spend fewer hours at it than I did before. My career, my trajectory around it really started to change when I had kids. And I remember very clearly the first time my oldest was old enough to understand what it meant when she saw my travel bag next to the door because I was getting ready to go on a trip. And she saw the bag and she just started crying. She was just over 2 years old because she knew daddy was going away. And that was the start of, from my end, of trying to start shifting how the business operated, where my time was, how much time I was traveling. And I traveled a lot and continued to travel a lot, but it came down from where it was once that part of the journey began with kids. And so, now even as it exists today, I travel far less than I did before. Part of that was because it slowed way down with the pandemic. But even as the pandemic has rebounded, I spent a lot of time in the pandemic rebuilding the business and how we operate so that I would not need to travel nearly as much in the future because now my kids are 10, 8, and 6. And they’re at the age now where they actually like spending time with us as parents, and we can do things with them. I’ve got just a few years before, we’re not so cool to be around anymore. And so, very important for me to get to spend more time with them. And I can do that because I’m now far enough into the business and growth that I have more ability to make choices and shape the direction of where I wanted to go.
But I don’t regret that journey. From my end, in my 20s, I did not have a lot of commitments yet. I did not have family to support. I did not have a spouse and children to support and provide for. I had a lot of room and flexibility. My personal overhead was very, very low, like a bachelor hanging out with two other bachelors who were kind of nerdy as well. So, we didn’t really do that much even when we were hanging out together. There were sacrifices I made for limiting social life and other activities through my 20s. But for me, that was conscious investing into foundation so that I could build a business, start a family, buy a house, be able to have the flexibility for kids when I wanted to.
And granted, I still, as noted, I work a good number of hours now, but I work far fewer hours than I did certainly 10 years ago. I travel a lot less than I did 10 years ago, heavily by choice because I want to be home more with the kids. And to me, the investments I made in my 20s and even into my early-mid-30s were investments into that future that I was trying to build towards to get through, at least some version of what it is today. I don’t know that it’s ideal today. It’s probably still a little bit more work hours relative to family time than I would like. Because once you build up the machine, you can only slow it down and shift it so much in real-time, particularly once you’ve got team members. Because as I view it, I don’t just support the livelihood of my family, I support the livelihood of about 150 people that are employed across Kitces, XY Planning Network, AdvicePay, New Planner Recruiting, fpPathfinder: all the businesses I’ve been involved with that I have a material role in driving growth and success for. So, that many people’s families whose livelihoods depend on the work that I do, means I can only take my foot off the gas so far. And that’s a challenge for the weight you put on your shoulders when you grow business with team. But I don’t regret the path that I took. For me, those felt like good investments, and I’m happy for the opportunities that it afforded. And I do reflect and realize now, I could not do now the pace that I did then. I don’t know that I’d have the energy for it. I’ve got a lot of energy still, but I had more of it back in my 20s to do that. And had more flexibility then that I don’t have today with the commitment to family and business and the rest that I’m glad I made those trade-offs. I appreciate the path that I took. There were hiccups along the way. I appreciate that path. So, it sounds like you are not quite sanguine about the path in the early years.
Reflecting On A Career And The Paths That Were Taken [26:08]
Carl: It’s interesting for me to reflect on it. One thing I try to be really careful about is I don’t regret having regrets. I’m okay with a regret or two. I’m not going to beat myself up. I don’t buy into the no-regrets thing. I don’t know. It’s just pretty hard to unwind whether I would be able to do what I’m doing now if I had chosen a different path. I don’t know. I concede the argument that if I hadn’t done that… I remember the part I left out was after selling the book and the travel, there were times I’d get on… It was a regular occurrence to arrive at the airport in Salt Lake City and not know where I was going. Like, just walk up to the ticket counter and go, “Oh, South Africa.”
Michael: You look at your phone and find out where you’re supposed to be going when you get to the airport because you’re just on autopilot.
Carl: Yeah. And it was regular. I remember getting on the plane and looking out the window and seeing the Wasatch Mountains there and crying like, I don’t want to go. I don’t want to be gone from my family. I don’t want to be traveling again. But I did because I felt like I had a chance to make an impact. And so do I regret that? No, I don’t think I regret that. I wish I had known… I love my oldest daughter is 25 and in private equity right now, and it’s distressed equity. And she works with a small team. At 25 she’s getting to be in the meetings with the CFO of huge companies. She’s really, really got an opportunity here. And I hope she takes a little time off. My other daughter’s finishing a biomedical engineering degree and going into med school and she asked me, “Should I apply this upcoming or should I wait a year?” I’m like, “Please take a year. Go be a river guide.” She wants to be a river guide. Go do that. I wish I’d… So, I don’t know the balance. I’m positive I got it wrong, but I’m also positive I did the best with the information I had at the time. And I’m also positive that I can’t tell anybody else what the right path is. But I do think I would be careful because I get asked this question all the time. Like the young Jedis, 25-year-olds just crushing it and crush, crush, crush. I get asked all the time, what I’d do differently. The one word of caution I always give is just find a way to take care of yourself, like little things, rest, exercise, rest, exercise, and rest. Sorry. Sleep, exercise, and diet are obviously the huge levers. I wish I’d been better about that. That’s the one thing I do know, for sure. But…
Michael: I feel like that’s been an evolution for me that I don’t know, maybe just, I don’t know. God bless young male testosterone effect in their 20s. I’ll own it from my end, I was a workhorse. I was fine being a workhorse. I had an endurance then to just keep going and grinding on work that, today, at least for me when I hit 40, some switch just turned that my body was like, “Yeah, not taking that pace anymore.” And so, these days I find I am much more focused on balance of what I’m eating and balance of sleep and trying to get more exercise and taking care of myself. And again, that sort of affects how our bodies and capabilities change over time. But I felt so full of energy and ready to work and just kind of grind it out in my 20s. I didn’t have a problem. I didn’t have a problem with that. And so I don’t know if that’s just part of how I was wired. Again, to each their own wouldn’t wish or direct anyone to say “This was my path, therefore you have to do the same thing.” Because, absolutely, we all have our own balance around what works for us. But in that context, again, I couldn’t do now what I did then, and I need more of a balance to it now than I did then. But I was fine then.
Carl: Well, and let me be clear…
Michael: The best thing is to know yourself, but I was fine then. The biggest thing that changed the trajectory for me was family and kids and wanting to have a different balance around my time with the kids.
Carl: Yeah. And to be clear, I was fine then, too, right? I had all that energy, too. I was climbing mountains, and running rivers, and running a business, and working 70 hours a week and two kids. Our first kid was when I was 23. So, I was fine then, too. And for some people, it’s never a deal. It’s never a thing. But for others, you pay the price later. And that’s why I wish I would have just been building a little bit of… The way I like to think about it, is just a little bit of slack in the system. And instead of spending every bit of slack, reinvest some of it, just spend a little bit more, develop hobbies. And it may be where… I’m not trying to be prescriptive to anyone because I have no clue. Ten years ago…
Michael: Yes, likewise.
Carl: Ten years ago, I was…
Michael: This is a path, it worked for me. This is not a prescription to anyone else.
Why Michael And Carl Believe In Self-Awareness While Building A Career [31:44]
Carl: Right. This more like Shackleton’s, Shackleton’s Journal. Like, “Hey, I happen to notice that there was a spring here. If you’re thirsty, it might be helpful.” It’s not meant to be prescriptive. But one thing that’s I think really important to notice is that, and I’m sure it’s personality, I’m sure it’s the location. Out here in the Mountain West, people enjoy themselves outside a lot. Everybody I know is out and learning to take advantage of having extra hobbies. And I’m having these conversations with a lot of 55 to 65-year-old planners. Actually, no. It’s even earlier, 50, 45 to 65 who are saying, “Is this all there is?” I worked my tail off. I did everything I was supposed to do and now my kids don’t like me, right? I hardly have a relationship at home and I don’t have any hobbies. And if you’re in that boat, there’s hope there, right? You just do the same thing, you try and get your clients to do it. Let’s just tick off, one, could you start going on a date night? Could you take a daughter to dinner? Could you guess it’s something you might like to do and sign up for the pickleball class or whatever? We just work our way back.
But if you’re in your 40s, I think it’s a cautionary tale that I’m hearing this from so many people. And I’m lucky I had that family relationship and I have lots of interests outside, so I didn’t have to deal with that, but I was broken. But it’s a cautionary tale that so many people, this is happening everywhere. And I know people who are listening to this right now because we’re all masters of the universe with our arms folded. Like, “I don’t know what Carl’s talking about.” Yes, you do. And I would just be thinking in my 40s, “Hey, am I setting this stage for the kind of relationships in life that I want?” And yes, there’s planned imbalance, of course, there always is, you’re never going to get that right. But just be thinking about those things because you don’t want to wake up at age 55 and wonder if that’s all there is, right? So, we should circle all the way back to Cal. To me, yeah, I’m glad I busted my tail. All these things that have happened, largely for me, they are luck. I did a bunch of work to increase my luck surface area. I acknowledged that. I worked really hard to make that luck surface area really wide. And I’m pretty good at recognizing tailwind. I’m not very good at anything else. I can notice when, if Ron Lieber of “The New York Times” says, “Would you do this for us?” I’m pretty good at saying, yes.
Michael: I’m not quite sure how this is going to work out, but that’s a pretty high-profile person. Let’s step into this and see what happens.
Carl: Let’s try it. Yeah. Would you like to speak at this? Sure. That to me is increasing luck surface area, playing in traffic. I’m glad I did all of that stuff because it’s now led to this spot now where I spend a lot of time just focused on results and I’ve been able to figure out what leverage means in terms of results. I’ve divorced myself largely from the time and effort economy. I don’t live in that economy anymore. I live in the results economy. It’s a Dan Sullivan thing. Back to your question, do I regret? No, I don’t think so. I just wish I had been a little smarter, a little wiser. I wish I’d known things I know now in my 20s.
Michael: And I think, from my end, reflecting back, again, I’m pretty happy with the journey. To me, it was, I don’t know that it was like a grand master plan or anything, but I was conscious in saying, “Hey, I’ve got a lot of time and energy and flexibility right now as I’m in my 20s into my early 30s. I’m going to do the hard grindy stuff now so that I’ve got a little bit more flexibility and choices by the time family comes.” And I think the one caveat to that was, I guess sort of overshooting a little bit in the building end of like, “Oops, the growth stuff actually worked too well.” And now the businesses are at a size where there’s a level of keeping my foot on the gas. I feel like now I have to do because there’s a lot of families and livelihoods that depend on the work that I do beyond even just providing for the family. We’re doing pretty well to make sure the kids will go to college and we can retire at some point. But because the businesses grew the way that they did, I didn’t end out getting quite as much flexibility as I expected early on because I grew other dependencies along the way. But it did grow in a trajectory that meant when I wanted to start… I mean, I started working flexible environment from home 10 years ago, as we were having kids and I wanted to be able to do that. And I was at least able to grow the business to the point of saying, “Hey, the kids are getting a little bit older, they’ve noticed I go on vacation, not vacation, travel for work and they don’t like it anymore because I’m going away and they get sad.” And so I started to change the direction, trajectory, the business, be able to adapt that. And I was at a point that I could do that because of the investments I feel like I made in my 20s and early 30s to be able to do that.
Carl: That’s so good. Yeah. This is really fun. Thanks for having this conversation. The only thing I just want to close with is I have no idea if anything I said is useful to anybody.
Michael: Yeah. Your mileage may vary. This is truly not prescriptive for anyone. No joke, we all come to it in our own fashions, in our own ways. I can only sort of figure out what I did that apparently worked okay for me. But hopefully, it’s helpful for others.
Carl: Amen, Michael.
Michael: Well, thank you, David Carl Richards III.
Carl: Thank you very much. Cheers.