Vail Daily column: Break away | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Break away

Benjamin A. Gochberg
Valley Voices

Last week was a big one. I asked for more words in this column to explain how and why I just left my job. Never thought that I would ever put that in writing. Don’t worry, I’m not losing my grip. This day has been planned for a long time.

I’ve told the story to those closest to me that my career ended as the result of a two-minute conversation in a parking lot some seven years ago. I had recently returned to work from a family reunion where I was reminded that I needed to start thinking of ways to change the course of my life. See, my mom was going to need a hand later on. I knew it, she knew it, and frankly, I felt like eventually absorbing her care was going to end up as my responsibility.

It was with this reality rolling around in my 24-year-old head that I started to pay attention to how I was living. I had already considered myself successful, but that was without any external complications. I define success in the same way now as I did then: Having the time and resources to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish at my core.

I tried to craft success with what I had seen work regularly. I went to school, worked hard, and thought I had arrived when I was offered my first branch stewardship at age 24 for 42K. Within six months, I realized that all I had done was committed myself to a larger cage. At 10 years of service, they give you an extra week of vacation — I used to think that was a fair trade.

I was fortunate at a relatively early point in my career to be mentored by a couple men who taught me a few basic rules to this whole game. First, figure out what you want, find someone who has it and align yourself with them. Follow the leader. Second, never be afraid to bring people into your life who possess different talents, views and skills from your own. Excellence comes in many forms.

It was with these lessons in mind that I had chased someone I just met out into the parking lot of the bank (going back to that fateful conversation). He was too young to be as free as he was then. At his core he was purely ravenous energy, though he was also sincerely joyful. He woke when he tired of sleeping. He answered to only those he loved. Most of all, he was more successful than I was.

I thought I loved my job, but this guy, he was playing on a different level entirely.

The summary of that two minute conversation is this: You pay your bills with your job, but you build your fortune and freedom with what you do and don’t do in your spare time. I had been saving money up to that point, but my trajectory for eventual freedom was still age 60. After that conversation, I realized that I could shorten that time horizon — by about 30 years.

Can someone please explain to me why they didn’t teach me this in school? I took AP European History for God’s sake.

What in year one was a pipe dream became an obsession in year two, then a strategic plan, then a five-year sprint of tactical implementation. By the time anyone realized I was making a break for the door it was too late.

Back then I didn’t have any brilliant ideas, so I started building my freedom the hard way. I took a night job at a restaurant while managing a bank. I worked 18 hours a day. This continued for roughly two years. I made money because I didn’t have time to spend it. I don’t think about those years.

Keeping my eyes open, I then met a GC named Chase and a gold refiner named Lonnie. I had some capital on hand and Chase said he could flip a property. Lonnie taught me how to buy and sell gold. We built relationships based on trust and mutual respect. I flipped a property, bought a few more, rented them out and started running around town arbitraging gold.

Then, without much fanfare, I woke up one day last year and realized that I grossed a few dollars more each month from all sources of passive income than it cost me to live — granted, I don’t drive a Maserati, but that’s not really the point. The point is winning back the only limited resource: Time. I still have to hedge for downside risk and build more for what I want, but from now on I work entirely on my terms, or not at all.

See, I just couldn’t stomach giving my time to anyone that valued it less than I did. I was tired of doing work that lacked transcendence and impact. I was willing to earn far less if it was made up in time. With money almost entirely out of the way — well, you get it.

The best part: I can now devote myself to being a more focused tool to help other people do the same thing I did. What would you endeavor? What would you do for free?

From past experience, I know that when folks like me break out — well, imagine that you’ve spent the last 10 years on the sidelines, staring at financials, operations and businesses from dozens upon dozens of industries. What do you think happens when we drop the headset and clipboard to suit up? As I’ve heard George Gillett say, “We are going to have some fun together.”

I’m not telling you this to try and claim some kind of public victory. In fact, given my opportunities, I should have done it faster. Frankly, I’m embarrassed by my wastefulness. With a little more self-discipline and austerity, I could’ve done it in four years. I’ve since found ways to help others do it much, much faster than I did. I had help, and part of my success was luck. Part was also making sure I was in a position to benefit from luck.

I’m telling you this because no one told me until I was 24. Nobody grabbed me at age 21 and said, “Here!” There are literally hundreds in this community that can show you how to do it. If one of you is reading this (as I know you likely are), then call me and teach me more. I’m not done. And for those of you that want to know what I know … are you ready to get started?

Benjamin A. Gochberg can be reached at Ben@benjaminagochberg.com or 801-725-7344.