I recently ran into the father of one of my former students at a local bar. After exchanging the usual words and sharing a few beers, we delved into the nitty-gritty of what it means to truly live. I hold this man’s opinions in high regard. A recently retired financial trader and father of four, Ken is one of the most genuinely kind people I have had the pleasure of knowing. Perhaps his only trait which surpasses this is his ability to enjoy life, and to allow others to do the same. A truly great man.

Ken proceeded to give me some wise advice. He told me that the key to a happy, successful life is to find something you love, find people who are great at it, and learn everything you can from them. He stressed the following:

“DO NOT WORRY ABOUT MONEY UNTIL YOU ARE THIRTY!”

These words were given great meaning coming out of the mouth of the wealthiest man I knew. With a fiery passion in his eyes, he pleaded with me to heed his words. It seemed out of part love for myself, and part remorse for his youth gone past, he attempted to drive home this concept.

Your job, as a young adult, is to become as valuable to the marketplace as you can. Your job, as a human, is to do so without working a day in your life.

Ken stressed that the most common mistake he saw young entrepreneurs make was focusing on the material gain, and not the gain in their abilities. This reminds me of the words of Jim Rohn, “Ask not what am I getting at here, but ask what am I becoming here.” Just as the children in psychology experiments often choose one marshmallow now over two later, it seems our young adults do the same. After being thrown into the “real world” post college, too many focus on their salary and not mastery. I cannot think of a better way to limit yourself not only in your profession, but in life.

On the drive home that night I was overwhelmed with a deep sense of gratitude. Not only was I fortunate enough to know such a man and to hear his words, but I realized that I was living them. Despite the pressures of my parents and peers, I had forgone the need for material success and lived in pursuit of higher ideals. I had found something I loved, and studied my craft under the best in the world. Though my bank account may be humble, I feel as though I am richest in matters most dear to me. I find myself fortunately without fortune.