What is worth your time?
We don’t ask that enough. Consider it: If someone asks you to do something, what makes it worth your time? Is it a certain amount of money? Experience? Joy?
I got to discussing this recently with Norman Reedus, the breakout star of The Walking Dead, who I profiled for the most recent Entrepreneur cover. Norman has had an interesting life. He grew up without money, spent most of his life not making much money, moved around a lot, worked a bunch of different jobs, and then exploded into a mega-celebrity in his 40s.
He’s grateful that success came later in life, he told me. He had enough perspective to process it, and to understand the difference between what he wanted and what everyone else wants from him.
As a result, he turns down a lot of opportunities. He leaves a lot of money on the table. It’s just not worth the compromise, he said.
And then he told me a story. It’s about someone he met, and the impact it had on him. And hearing it impacted me.
I share a version of it in the profile I wrote, but here in this newsletter, I’d like you to get the story directly from Norman. I’ve transcribed what he told me, and am going to run it in whole below.
“So I'm shooting Ride, my motorcycle travel show, right? We shoot an episode in Costa Rica, and I'm on my way to Uruguay. I barely made the plane. I'm covered in dust. I'm just filthy. I have a little backpack at my feet that's covered in dust. I must smell horrible. And there's this big businessman sitting next to me. He’s got little shorts on, and he looks a little out of place. And people are going up and down the aisle and they're like, Hey, can I get a picture? Can I get an autograph? And it's happening the whole flight. And finally, he goes, “Who are you?”
“I said, 'Oh, I'm on a television show.' We start to talk, and he tells me that he runs one of the largest Fortune 500 companies in the world. I never ask him what the company is. And he starts telling me his story.
“His story is that his mother died. And on her death bed, she said, 'You need to run away.' And he didn't know what she meant. And he goes home to his wife, and he doesn't have any kids. He's amassed this fortune. And the next year, his wife dies. Now he's by himself. He's got all these employees, he's got all this money, this property, blah, blah, blah.
“And so he thought about what his mother said, and he just left. He told everybody, ‘Hey, can you watch the company? I'm just going to take some time.’ And they said, ‘Take all the time you need.’
“So he was bouncing around. He would meet somebody and they’d go, ‘You know what? You should go to Chile.’ And he was like, ‘Okay.’ And he tells me, he gets to this one intersection out in the middle of nowhere and puts his phone up, and he's playing — I think it was a Prince song — and he's just dancing. He just starts dancing like crazy out where no one can see him.
“And he's looking at me with tears in his eyes on the plane, and he's just bawling. And he goes, you know, ‘I've spent my whole life making money. I've wasted my whole life.’
“It had such a big impact on me. Life is short, and sometimes I just say no to things because it doesn't really interest me. And there'll be a big wad of money behind it, but you know, I don't want to go down that road of just being a salesman. There's a level of freedom and enjoying life that I think is very important balance.
“You know, you can die and have a big house and a bunch of cars, but so what? If you can live your life and touch a bunch of people and maybe change opinions, or maybe have a bunch of friends, and make friends wherever you go, and give off the attitude that you're open to be friends, and you're open to meet, you're open to opening up — I think that level of success is much cooler, you know?
“So if that's the way you're living, you're going to make a bigger impact when you go. And I'd rather have a bunch of friends when I go than a bunch of cars.”
…beautiful words, right? Norman, I appreciate you sharing.