Getting off the materialist merry-go-round
Scott Pape From: The Sunday Times 10 Sept 2011
“I SAW a man and a woman take life into their own hands. They were holding hands. Then they jumped. Their bodies smashed into the pavement.”
The image is burned deeply into Dave Speck’s brain.
He was standing on his balcony – next to the World Trade Center – when the second plane hit. As he fled his building, he scrambled past strewn body parts and scenes of devastation. The smell of burning bodies stained his senses.
People have told me that when you stare death in the face it leaves its mark – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but it changes you nonetheless.
Here’s Dave’s story.
The 80-hour work week
Ten years ago, Dave was a 30-something high flyer designing complex financial trading packages, and pulling in a packet.
“I was earning three-hundred grand, which sounds like a lot – but it doesn’t go far in the Big Apple,” he told me.
“You weren’t seen as taking your job seriously unless you were working 80 hours a week. Life was all about working – then dinner and drinks – then back to work.
“Money came in, money went out, and there wasn’t a lot to show for it.
“I’m not saying it wasn’t fun, but it was really just rampant consumerism – all the working, eating and shopping burns you out after a while. And after September 11, it all just started to ring hollow.”
Dave eventually sought professional help and not surprisingly was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. It would take him five years before he would get the courage to really live again. But when he did, he decided to do things differently.
“Five years ago, I said to myself, from now on I’m only going to do the things that I really want to do, and spend time with the people that I really want to be with.”
So, with just five grand in his pocket, Dave started his new life by quitting his highly paid job, packed his bags, and bought a one-way ticket to Australia.
Throughout university, he’d been a keen amateur chef something that had fallen by the wayside since he’d become a suit.
So upon settling in Sydney, he followed that dream, first by getting a job kitting out restaurants, then by launching Biteclub.com, a high-end catering company, as a side project on the weekends.
He also joined the local surf lifesaving club, which gave him an opportunity not only to give back to the community, but to develop a close group of mates.
Australia gave me my life back. The people seem to be more relaxed – there’s just not the gross materialism here.”
Maybe. Or perhaps Dave’s change of perspective came when he began focusing on the things that really matter.
The Simple Life
What Dave really created was a simpler life:
He got off the materialist merry-go-round that had robbed him of a lot of his energy. In the years he’d made a fortune, he’d also spent a fortune.
Remember, his biggest change occurred when he was down to his last $5000.
Then he focused on people, not possessions. His involvement with surf lifesaving allowed him to belong to a group of like-minded people who gave back to their community.
Finally, after all he’d been through, he learnt to be thankful. And why not? He’s living in the best country in the world, with access to affordable health care and education.
They say each generation has its defining moment, and September 11 is ours.
Dave survived, and now – despite his experiences, despite his ups and downs, despite the images burnt into his mind – he’s found happiness.
And on this 10th anniversary, when the world stops and looks once again at those horrific pictures, that’s a pretty damn nice story.
Tread your own path.
Original article here