I haven’t been well all weekend long. On Friday I started feeling sick–a mild cold. On Saturday morning I felt even worse, but by the afternoon I felt better and went with my family to a neighborhood barbeque and over to some friends’ for dinner. Our dinner plans were on again, off again as my illness was touch and go (they have small children, and I ddin’t want pass it along). We finally decided to go ahead, get together for dinner, and have a great time. I left early when I started feeling worse again. This morning I again woke up with a stuffy nose and sore throat. I thought I would finally be over my illness, but I was wrong. I hope tomorrow I’ll feel better when I head back to work. I’m planning on it, anyway. I’m much too busy to stay away from the office if I can help it.
Thus, this weekend my thoughts have been on the subject of wellness. Not just thoughts on getting better, but on how to live life in general. So many obligations can pull you in many different directions. Perhaps the siren sound of money causes you to focus on building wealth. Perhaps you are spiritually devout and focus your time on spiritual growth, faith, and on religious activities. Perhaps you’re a health nut who spends your time working out and staying in shape. Perhaps you’re a workaholic who stays at the office for long periods of time, whether out of necessity or because you just like to work. Perhaps you’re retired and love leisure pursuits–traveling, video games, golfing, shopping, you name it. Maybe you’re in a difficult situation that preoccupies your time, such as caring full time for children or someone who is ill. Perhaps you’re focused on a lifetime of learning. Maybe you’re a career student working on your second Ph.D, or you’re going back for your master’s degree after leaving your job. One of the unfortunate aspects of life is that there are only 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 365 or 366 days a year (Leap Year). Time moves on. We can’t do it all. We have to choose what to do and how long to do it. We are prone to neglect things we need to do and sometimes focus too much on things we probably should focus on less.
I think most of us have a tendency to focus on a few aspects of life we enjoy or are obligated to do and tend to neglect other priorities. I’m as guilty as anyone. I focus a lot on work, obligations I have to my family, and building wealth (investing). I tend to neglect other aspects of life that I know I should not neglect. I should be out exercising more often. I should focus more on spiritual growth. I don’t though because I have to focus on family and work and because I tend to do the things that can easily brought to closure, such as buying a mutual fund or changing the oil in the car or mowing the grass. Long-term activities such as exercising and spiritual growth tend to take a back seat, for better or for worse, because they never come to a close. To stay in shape, you must always exercise, and to grow spiritually, you need to continually do what you must do to spiritually grow. Some people have different priorities. I have a colleague who exercises diligently every day and is in great shape. However, they tend not to focus on financial security, which I believe is as important as exercise. We could both do better by exercising and planning ahead financially. I know others so focused on spiritual growth or having that they neglect exercise and planning ahead financially.
Last month I read about Steven Case, the former CEO of America Online, who was ousted when AOL’s merger with Time Warner failed. Case, among others, was blamed for the botched merger. He disappeared from the limelight for awhile, but recently he resurfaced with the announcement that he was launching Revolution LLC, an investment firm focused on investing in the healthful lifestyle market. I have a lot of respect for Case. Here is a man who had it all in 2001. He had built the country’s largest Internet service provider, AOL, and was on top of the world when the FCC cleared the AOL Time Warner merger on January 11, 2001. But his success was fleeting, and his career and personal life suffered tragic setbacks soon thereafter. In 2002, his brother Dan, a successful investment banker in his own right, died of cancer prematurely at the age of 44. Dan and Steve were good friends as well as brothers, and Steve subsequently used his celebrity and wealth to help find a cure for cancer. In January 2003, Steve resigned in disgrace as chairman of AOL Time Warner, and he went into seclusion. However, he has refocused and reemerged, focusing on another area he believes has high-growth potential, the healthful lifestyle market. I really admired that he bounced back from such huge setbacks and has a fresh start. It is really tough to come back from a situation as difficult as he had to endure. He has combined his interest in business with something dear to him–health. The healthful lifestyle market has already started to emerge and is visible in ventures such as Whole Foods, the fast-growing organic market chain.
I think it’s time for a "Whole Lifestyle Model" that would encompass all the vital aspects of one’s life into a comprehensible roadmap to a better life. I call it a "Whole Lifestyle Model" because it does not focus solely on physical wellness. Likewise, the word "holistic" is also commonly used to refer to health and wellness. Financial planners help plan one’s financial security, pastors focus on one’s spiritual growth, guidance counselors help you make education decisions, headhunters and job placement agencies help you manage your career, personal training help you get in shape, and travel agencies and leisure-time companies help you have enjoy leisure. Why can’t these all be combined into a single model that helps people manage and balance their lifestyle? It should be a model that changes with time, because one’s priorities at the age of 20 are far different than what they are at age 50. Spiritual leaders will tell you there is no greater calling than spiritual growth. Health nuts will say that physical and mental exercise is paramount. Financial planners will tell you that financial security is key. Many will say that there is nothing more important than family. Other will say, "Hang loose and have fun." When one is torn in so many directions, it would help to have a model that helps one manage one’s own lifestyle, a flexible model that reminds you at age 25 that yes, you should save for retirement and exercise at the same time, play fewer video games, and not sacrificing sleep to cram an additional hour for that exam. It should be a model that tells those at age 55 who go to church five times a week or are busy with grandchildren that they still need to start saving aggressively for retirement, because Social Security will not sustain their current lifestyle when they turn 65.
Morningstar developed a famous matrix to help people decide which mutual funds to purchase. The matrix is intended to help them diversify their portfolios. The "Whole Lifestyle Model" would be something akin to this matrix. The boxes would be determined by the individual’s age and priorities at the age. The individual could work with a "Whole Lifestyle" planner to help them sort through the complexities of life. The planner would not be a pastor or a physical trainer, but they could help the individual sort through their priorities to find the optimal mix to have a whole lifestyle. I’m still thinking through how the model would work and whether it could be a viable business model, but I think it would be a useful way for many people to help balance their lifestyle at various stages of life.