How to Live a Balanced Life: Part ThreeMarch 27, 2019
So far, in the first two installments of this five-part series, I have talked about the importance of family, friends and adventure to living a balanced life. Friends and family serve as the foundation of a good life, while adventure and challenge are essential to feeling vital and truly alive.
The third key to a balanced life revolves around the idea of working to maintain youthful vigour and health. Obviously, we can’t stop the aging process. But we can stay physically healthy through proper diet and exercise – we can look and feel younger than we otherwise would. This is not exactly a secret. Most people are aware of this fact whether they practice it or not. What most people don’t give much thought to, however, is exercising the mind as a means of staying young.
Learning new things is essential to keeping the mind sharp, particularly as you grow older. My thirst for knowledge started at an early age. When I was 13, a door-to-door salesman talked my father into buying a $200 encyclopedia set, which he conveniently placed in my bedroom. I was disinterested in school during my teenage years and my marks proved it. However, in the privacy of my bedroom – where I was safe from blowing the cover on my carefully-crafted rebel image – it was a different story. I would leaf through that encyclopedia set with the same secretive enthusiasm most teenage boys would have while reading a Playboy magazine. I started at the very first entry and, page by page, went through each book, from A to Z. Every entry contained something of interest, regardless of whether the topic was science, history, geography, or notable people. It was all fascinating. Strangely, I still recall being intrigued by the inner workings of an atomic bomb.
From CPR to cooking
As I grew older, my interests evolved – largely through my career in finance. When you are in the venture capital world, you are forced to learn about all sorts of things, from food to technology. But I also loved learning about things that had nothing to do with business, from languages to music to cooking. I purchased Italian lessons on cassette tapes for my car. I took weekly jazz trumpet lessons for a year. I took singing lessons to impress a girl by producing a music video (I sounded like a tone-deaf toad, but she appreciated the effort). And I learned how to make the perfect risotto from well-known Italian chef, Pino Posteraro. Last summer I took a wilderness survival course and learned how to administer CPR. Why, you ask? I guess one never knows when those skills will come in handy. Basically, learning anything outside your comfort zone will contribute to keeping your mind sharp.
In 2000, when I was making a transition from the movie business, I went through a one-year period when I didn’t have much going on in my business life, so I decided to teach myself economics. I read everything I could: books, articles, academic papers. That experience led me to start writing on the subject of gold and currencies, which in turn led me to one of the greatest highlights of my business life: the creation of Wheaton River/Goldcorp.
A curious mind is a healthy mind
A friend of mine recently lamented that no one reads books anymore. He believes the younger generation doesn’t have the attention span for books, preferring their information in bite-size snippets gleaned from social media. If he is right, it’s tragic, indeed. I love reading books, on any topic. My bedside table has stacks of books in an eclectic variety of topics, from quantum physics (a real workout for your brain), to history (my favourite subject) to biographies and the occasional novel. If I get bored halfway through a particular book, I put it down for a few days/weeks and start something else.
Not only is a curious mind a healthy mind, but it makes you more interesting as a person. I know a lot of people who are very bright and accomplished, but who have a narrow field of knowledge. It doesn’t make them particularly interesting at a dinner party. There is nothing worse than a successful businessman who only talks about business during a social dinner. I tend to zone out when that happens.
As I get older, I will continue to learn new things. I think it will help keep me youthful longer than if I were to continue doing the same old things. I have this fantasy about taking some university courses someday, and an urge to take tap dancing lessons. Go figure.