tl;dr – design your Level 50 Character, and then plot out the tasks you’ll need to achieve in order to live the life you want.
You’ve heard of a bucket list – this is different.In Steve Kamb’s book Level Up Your Life, he challenges you to dream big – really big – and come up with what your bio will look like when you’ve finished Level 50 of your personal Epic Quest.
Here’s Steve’s Level 50 character:
“Steve Kamb, Rebel One: Living in a house on a coastline, up early with the sunrise to write articles or work on my next book. Late morning is spent at the gym training with powerlifting, gymnastics, and capoeira exercises. My afternoons are spent playing golf or music until my kids come home from school. My evenings are spent with family and/or friends, eating a home-cooked dinner outside around a fire, live music being played, and fun being had by all. When I’m not at home living my life, I’m traveling on an important mission or adventure that challenges me physically and mentally.”
Isn’t that crazy audacious? Note that he isn’t actually working in the way you or I would probably define working, but that’s the life he wants to lead. Sounds awesome. Given that Level 50 character profile, that would dictate the steps he needs to take to work his way into that life: he’s gotta come up with enough passive income to make it work.
Here’s my Level 50 Character.
“Brent Ozar and Erika Valencia: Each morning I wake up before dawn & Erika rise, working for a few hours to build my passive income portfolio. In the summer, we’re living in our Iceland cottage, making day trips to incredible natural sights and watching the Northern Lights at night. In the winter, we live at a beach, spending our mornings making sure baby sea turtles make it to sea, and our evenings at our favorite local restaurant. I have a couple of really nice sports cars, and I love sharing them with others at local events. When we’re not at home living our life, we’re traveling to beautiful, relaxing locations.”
Now for the most challenging part: I wanna get to Level 50 at age 50.
So now, how do I get there?
In my Epic Life Quest levels page, I track the progress of the tasks I’ve already finished. In this page, I track the work I want to do to in order to make my Level 50 character a reality. Some of the tasks are absolutely required – like those that ensure our financial stability – and others are ones I just personally value, like travel to specific destinations.
I’ve broken out the tasks into a few different arbitrary categories. These aren’t prioritized because life changes your priorities pretty quickly. Some years I make more progress on financial goals, others on personal goals, just depends on what opportunities life throws at me.
Future Partner Achievements
Things I’d like to do to make life better for those around me:
- Vacation with Erika in Bora Bora – Erika’s always dreamed of staying at an overwater bungalow.
- Take Dad & Caryl on a land trip through Alaska – they really enjoyed the Alaskan cruises we’ve taken together, and I think they’d like a train/lodge/car trip even more.
- For 5 years straight, take off one month straight per year with Erika – gradually ramping up my vacation goals. I started on this one in August 2019 when we took August off (aside from a couple of SQL Saturdays and their pre-cons, which honestly doesn’t feel like work for me – I really enjoy those.) 2020 and 2021 were checked off with a month each year in Iceland. This one won’t be completed until 2024.
- Get my family’s handwritten holiday and birthday cards out on time for an entire year straight.
- Learn conversational Spanish – I know just enough to be dangerous and funny, but not enough to hold a serious conversation with a stranger. Erika’s family is from El Salvador, and I look forward to the day when we can have a relaxed conversation. (Today, they just feed me wonderful food, and hey, there’s a lot to be said for that too.)
- Vacation with Erika in Greece – neither of us have ever been, but the crisp white walls on the blue sea have always called to us.
- Get Erika a split flap display – I built a cheap projector version, but we both still want the real thing.
Future Enjoyment Stuff: Health
Once I hit Level 50, I’d like to stay there as long as I can enjoy it:
- Work out 3x/week for 3 months. I used to run half-marathons, but the time drain for long runs was pretty bad. Then after I broke my arm, I babied myself for a while. I didn’t realize just how bad my upper body strength was until I started with a personal trainer, and I couldn’t do a single push-up! Started & failed this one a few times since 2016.
- Get annual health exams for 3 years – including physical, eye exam, and dental exams. Boring, but it takes discipline, and it’s part of being a responsible adult. I struggle with this.
Future Enjoyment Stuff: Experiences I Want
Things I’d like to experience for myself before I shuffle off this mortal coil.
- Take a photography class – I enjoy photography, but I suck at it, and I should learn some basics to kick things up a notch. (I don’t ever want to buy a camera again – I’ve owned a bunch, but the best camera is the one you have with you, and the iPhone cameras are pretty doggone good.)
- Build a listening room – I love music, and I’ve got great ears for details. I really appreciate good audio, but living in an apartment, I can’t really bombard the neighbors with high volume music. Erika and I built a townhome in Houston, but at the time, we didn’t have the financial ability to include a listening room as part of the blueprint.
- Visit a Zen rock garden – I’m not really into taking care of plants myself, but I’m really intrigued by the thought of tending a public rock garden as I get older. I want to visit one before I consider tackling the challenge of building one myself.
- Take a one-day skiing class – I have zero ambitions to be good at anything physical, but this seems like a fun achievement to unlock. Snow skiing, not water skiing.
- Ride in a go-fast boat going 100mph – every morning before going to high school, I watched a rerun episode of Miami Vice.
- Ride in a glider – I’ve never wanted to fly a small plane: the angry noise and failure rate doesn’t inspire me. However, Tom Roush’s post about flying a glider sounds like a hell of an experience.
- Learn Ikebana – the Japanese art of arranging flowers. Something about this just really calls to me ever since I saw Anthony Bourdain show it in his Tokyo show.
- Volunteer for 3 days a week for one month at a pet shelter – Erika and I have agreed that we’re not going to get another dog because it’s a lot of commitment and travel restrictions, but I’m sure I’ll want animal time again.
Car-based stuff, which I threw into their own group because I wanna balance out my life with the above stuff and the below stuff:
- Attend a high performance driving class – I suck at driving fast, even in video games. I’m not one of those guys who goes fast on public roads, but I’d love to have the confidence to attack a track and not feel like Hellen Keller at the wheel. Now that I’ve bought a 911, I’m thinking the Porsche Experience Center in LA makes sense.
- Learn to drift – sure, I can slide around on the snow, but I would love to be able to just knock out a lurid slide on dry pavement on a moment’s notice, especially given that we’ve got a great car for it.
- Ride in a ‘Ring Taxi – The Nürburgring is a famously difficult race track in Germany that I don’t have the slightest chance of ever learning, but I’d love to ride along with a driver who knows it well.
Future Enjoyment Stuff: Places I Want to Visit
I’ve been so absurdly lucky to have had jobs that required international travel, so I’ve been able to cross off a lot of amazing destinations. There are still a few left, though.
- Take a true first class flight – because the Emirates first class suites sure look different than the business class flights I usually take.
- Tour Italy – we’d love to drive through the Tuscan countryside and see the museums in Florence.
- Visit Germany – I did spend a few days here in 2008 while working for Quest Software, but that wasn’t good enough. I really liked what I saw, and I’d love to take a nice, slow journey through the country. Erika’s really interested in ordering a custom Porsche and taking European delivery.
- Visit the Grand Canyon – I’ve seen it from airplanes, but I’d like to see it closer. Maybe a helicopter tour.
- See a major mountain range – the Alps, Himalayas, whatever. I don’t want to climb a mountain, mind you, I just want to see one for scale.
- See a near-24-hour-day – as a fan of Arctic Circle stuff, this one intrigues me.
- See a near-24-hour-night – see above.
- Set foot on Antarctica – broken into a separate category from the below because even this is hard enough, but doable on a long cruise.
Future Work/Retirement Achievements
I debated a lot about ordering the groups of tasks in this page, and sometimes I rearrange it. I think putting retirement first sends a bad message, but the reality is that I want to make sure my family is taken care of, and that starts with financial security. Therefore, these tasks are important even though they’re at the bottom of the page.
- Be gone for 3 months in one year – regular readers will know that vacations are really important to me, and that I’ve worked remotely for a long time. I’m gradually taking it up a level: in 2019, I was “gone” for 2 months of the year. For me, being “gone” means that I’m away from home, and I’m mostly on vacation. I still do work before Erika wakes up each morning – email, write, learn – but when I’m “gone,” I’m not available for client work (because I’m often in places with odd schedules or sketchy Internet.) The hard part of this is making it work while not sacrificing income – the company’s still at $2M/year in top line revenue, but just barely. Gradually, as I get older and segue into retirement, this goal will transition into a combination of being “gone” and just flat out not working for longer periods of time. (That’s probably a decade away though.) This was originally scheduled for 2020, but pushing it to 2021 since travel is basically off the plate for the rest of 2020.
- Outsource my online store management – we sell over a million dollars a year of online training and services, and I’m still managing WordPress and WooCommerce myself – and doing a pretty poor job of it. I don’t bring value to this task, and if I’m going to be away from the computer for extended periods of time, then I need someone else managing the customer support.
- Own a home with zero debt – I’ve been living the Dave Ramsey way for over a decade, only buying things I can pay cash for. This is the next logical step, but it’s not on the near-term horizon just because Erika and I like to move around a lot, seeing different cities in the US, so apartments are a lot more convenient with the unpredictable real estate market. A couple related goals:
- Own a Mexico or California beach place where we can hear the ocean
- Own an Iceland summer house
- Retire – and what retirement means to me is living my Level 50 character: not taking any new live clients, not teaching live training classes on a schedule, only making money from passive sources like selling recordings or online services. I’ll probably always work a few hours a day, but I want those days/times to be chosen by me ad-hoc, based on how my week is going and where I’m at in the world.
These aren’t my only goals – there are private revenue and profitability metrics that I don’t share here. (I just don’t want you thinking, “Hey, why’s this guy counting blog posts but not tracking his expenses per year?”)