Play the Hand You’re Dealt To Live the Life You Dream


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Play the Hand You’re Dealt To Live the Life You Dream

If you sit on the sidelines and continue to fold instead of playing the hand you’re dealt, you’re never going to get ahead. This is true in poker, but it’s also true in life.

It’s time to stop just going through the motions and work on making your dreams come true.

I reflect on how much we’ve progressed the last decade or two and I’m amazed and proud of us. Seriously. I retired a couple of years ago at the age of 43 and then we moved to Panama. WTF?! How cool is that?!

But I also sometimes see how much further others are in life. Be it my peers or others on top of the financial food chain like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, or Warren Buffet. Could I have a wallet like these guys and be able to make anything happen that I wanted? Maybe.

The key is to play the hand you’re dealt in life though and play it well. If you’re reading this right now and thinking you’ll never reach financial independence or some other lofty goal, it’s time to reconsider. It’s possible but only if you make the necessary changes for it to become a reality.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think privilege and a little luck can make it happen a little quicker, but it’s still going to be up to each of us to attain our goals. I’m a white male and I get that I was inherently in a better position than some. But I also know many peers with the same background aren’t in the same position as us. Why? Because we made the changes needed to accommodate the hand we were dealt in life.

While I think it’s possible for the majority of folks to reach financial independence or be close to it, I don’t ever see that happening. Most people don’t want it enough to make the adjustments necessary to make it a reality.

They’re content enough to just continue living their day-to-day lives as they always have… they’ll worry about retirement later. In the meantime, they’ll just put 5% into their 401(k) plans and give themselves a pat on the back.

Don’t be that person! Learn to be better financially. Maybe early retirement isn’t the goal, but financial independence should be.

And possibly more important, find something you enjoy in life and work on making that what you’ll do at some point in life (even better if you can make money doing it).

In other words, figure out the end goal and then work your way backward to make it real. What do you need to do to make that happen?

If it’s financial, do you need to earn more, save more, invest more, or just learn how to invest better in general? Then map it out and do it. Two suggestions I have:

  1. Gain a better understanding of the stock market and investing with the book, The Simple Path to Wealth. Written by JL Collins, this book is easy-to-understand and is great for novices all the way to experienced investors. It’s a huge eye-opener into why we’re overcomplicating investing and the easy way to do it intelligently. This is, by far, the best book I’ve ever read on investing in the stock market.
  2. Sign up for a free account at Personal Capital and use the built-in tools to take some big steps in the right direction. The Retirement Fee Analyzer saved me $50k+ over a 10-year period and the Retirement Planner is an excellent way to help determine the changes you need to make to retire with enough money. That planner is one of the best calculators available and lets you simulate and save multiple scenarios.

Plan your way to a better life. Don’t just sit on the hand you’re dealt in life if it’s not your dream. And if you’re not good at figuring out what your need to do, bring in people who are good at it to help you. Find a good fee-only fiduciary planner. Work with a career coach or counselor to determine the skills you should learn to get on track with your dream job.

If your vision is something else in life, it’s up to you to make it something that can actually happen. Don’t like your job? Stop going through the motions every day, work on a resume, and get it out there. But honestly, the biggest thing you can do is to get the word out to friends and family.

According to HubSpot, 85% of jobs are filled through networking. In fact, according to CNBC, 70% of jobs are never published publicly.

–via Apollo Technical

85%… that’s no small number! It’s time to play the hand your dealt by making sure that if any of your contacts hears of a job opportunity, they think of you.

Wish you were more physically fit? I don’t buy into the whole “it’s in the genes” or other hogwash. Do something about it. Only you can make this a priority. Find a way to motivate yourself and carve an actual schedule to work out. Make it a routine and then just do it.

I hate working out but I’ve been doing it 5 days a week for a few years now. Why do I do it then if I hate it? Because I want to be healthier and in shape so I can continue to do outdoor activities as I get older. I’ll never be a massive guy or see monstrous results, but I do see a difference in my physique. It also makes me feel good to know I’m not just sitting around watching movies or browsing social media all day and wasting away.

But to play this hand successfully, it needs to be a habit. For me, I know if I don’t do this on a regular schedule, it’ll fade into a few days a week, then just a couple of days, and before you know it, it’ll be over. Know yourself and figure out a way to live the life you want.

It drives me bananas to see folks stuck on the hamster wheel and miserable. Too many people aren’t happy with their lives or large parts of it and just go through the motions anyway because that’s all they know. You’re the only one who can make the changes to live the life you fantasize about.

I talked earlier about Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Warren Buffet kind of money. I don’t need that but maybe you do. If you do, it’s time to get off your butt and do something about it.

I’m still in a state of euphoria that we now have enough money to support our current lifestyle. But sometimes, things will be a little tight. If we start adding in too many vacations in a year (is there such a thing?!) or make some lofty purchases, things will inevitably be tight.

That will satisfy the money equation for us. We don’t need more money but I want more. I’m very happy with everything we’ve done so far. The adventures we’ve taken, the time I get with my daughter, and the freedom that early retirement has given us are wonderful.

So we’re not just going to rest on our laurels waiting to see how things play out. Instead, you figure out how to best play the hand you’re dealt and aim for a win. In our case, I’ll continue to grow this blog and find some other ways to earn some supplemental income doing things I enjoy. And Lisa will likely go back to work part-time, which will bring in a little more money.

Then what?

I’ve never been that good with philanthropy but there are issues in the world that weigh on my mind like homelessness and hunger. So even though I know absolutely nothing about charity work, volunteering, or starting some type of foundation, that’s no reason to fold the hand.

As Faith gets a little older and my free time increases, I’m going to just figure out how I want to be involved and do it. It might start as volunteer work or it might be something bigger that I work with others on… time will tell.

But making a little more money for ourselves and also figuring out how to be a better philanthropist aren’t things I need to do. I could just let time pass and not even worry about these. Life would go on regardless. We’d likely be fine financially and the drop in the bucket I could contribute to the homelessness/hunger situation probably wouldn’t add up to something monumental anyway.

However, these are things that are worthwhile to me. So the only way to make them a reality is, well, to make them a reality. And that’s what’ll happen because I’m all about playing the hand you’re dealt in life and not just sliding the cards back and folding the hand.

It’s time to think about what your dreams are and make them a reality. You only live once, my friend, so make it happen!


Are you playing the hand you’re dealt in life or are you continuing to fold and just going through the motions?

Plan well, take action, and live your best life!

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

14 thoughts on “Play the Hand You’re Dealt To Live the Life You Dream”

  1. You only live once. You have to take action and reach for what you want. I won’t be one of those people that have a lot of regrets when they’re old. Life is short.

  2. Hi Jim (& family),
    Thanks for all your wisdom. You may be humbled that your wisdom comes from others before you; but that’s how wisdom is handed down, right? Even though I’m 30 years your senior, I’m stills willing to learn, to be coached and to pass on the wisdom.
    Faye and I are fortunate that we’re both getting SS “benefits” that we worked hard for and we had saved in 401k, a decent nest egg. But as you say, I want more! I’m going to put the two recommendations above into place ASAP.
    I’m leaving soon on a sail trip from Houston to Puerto Rico, (on my bucket list) soon as a window of hurricanes opens. I’m a blog newbie and haven’t done any of this yet. If you have some quick tips for getting started, I’d appreciate the help (even if I have to pay for a service to get started). Thanks again for your inspiration. – Carl

    1. Hi Carl – love the gung-ho attitude! Be aware though that blogging is definitely not an easy money game. You really just need to enjoy the process… and it can be a lot of work. Although there are some folks whose blog just takes off, but more than likely, it can take a year before you even start to see a little traffic. And then, it might take even more time to earn some money. I’m now 6+ years in with consistent blogging and likely to earn around $5k for the year – nice, but nothing too exciting by any means. I’ve written a handful of posts over the years that you might find helpful:

  3. I especially like these points:

    Figure out the end goal and work your way back to make it real
    The key is to play the hand you’re dealt in life and play it well
    Plan your way to a better life

    and I add: If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, get a hose and rake and you can make your grass green too.

    “Every gambler knows that the secret to surviving is knowing what to throw away ..knowing what to keep, because every hands a winner and every hands a loser.”

  4. Love the sentiment here. It really is about forming habits and getting in a routine, difficult as that may be at the outset.

    I recommend JL Collins’ book to everyone who even remotely broaches the subject of investing with me. Great stuff!

  5. You’re absolutely right Jim, you’ve got to play the hand your dealt. Sometimes that hand is kinda sucky, but if you put in some hard work and energy it can usually be improved. Maybe not Jeff Bezos-level improved, but certainly better than before.

    That’s sort of my life story. Slow progress, but I’m doing what I can to improve things. Sure, I may never get the respect and awe of millions of people, but I’m fine with that.

    1. Haha, you’re a lot better at getting to the point than I am… you just pulled my entire post together in 8 words! 😂

      But yes, that’s it exactly. We’ve all been dealt different hands and it’s up to each of us to take those cards and play the best we can to win not only the hand but also the game.

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