My alma maters and athletic trainers built me to be a machine.  At age 25, they sent me off into the rat race.  15 years later, after swimming in DC’s shark tank all this time, managing not to drown or be eaten alive, there are a few things I want to share with others as food for thought.

First, what is the point of the game?  Some of us are natural born gamers, and we just happen to enjoy the thrill of the game.  But we really need to think about the actual point in the game and what we will define as a win.   Is it simply how much you have in your bank account at the end of the day? Is it how much fun you had and how many toys you got to play with along the way?  There is no right or wrong answer, it’s whatever works for you– but make sure you define for yourself what success means and then go for it.

Second, I’ve seen way too many people, who’ve gotten caught up on keeping up with their peers.  Let me be clear without revealing any confidences, you truly have no idea how people are financing their lifestyles.  If you could see what I see, you’d be shocked.  So don’t worry about those around you, just do your best to stay grounded in your own life and try not to live beyond your means.

Third, all work and no play makes for a very dull existence.  It is a tricky balancing act that we have to continually struggle with in life, but you can’t just spend all your time focusing on work and worrying on saving for the future.  On the other hand, most rat racers tend to share the motto work hard, play hard.  I dig it, I’ve lived it– however, with the economic downturn, a lot of us have had to rein in the idea of playing hard or redefined how we play.  Between these two extreme views, you need to find a happy medium, and always remember- you can redefine the rules of engagement at any point, and you can always opt out.

In the end, the rat race is not for everyone, and I truly believe that some of us were just born and bred to be in it, yet few of us were ever taught to think about the end-game.  The dealers in this game want you to keep thinking of success the way they define it, and they want you to live by their rules.  But we do have choices and free will, and that is our power.  Embrace your own power and f*!k the rat race.