Living A Better Life Interview – Jon Brodsky | Finder.com
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Today We Have Jon Brodsky From Finder.com
Give us your best elevator speech!
I’ve lived in New York City off and on since I was 2 years old, and by the time I was in my mid-30s and married, I was tired of brunch being my primary weekend activity – I wanted to be outside surfing and skiing. So we moved up to Bedford, NY, and bought a property with enough land that I could cut a few kilometers of Nordic ski trails. Now, I can wake up in the morning, put on my skis (when it snowed) and get a bunch of runs in while being an hour from New York City.
How are you living a better life than you were last year? 5 years ago? 10?
A little over a year ago, I was in a job I didn’t like and weighed about 30 pounds more than I do today. Now, although I have a much harder job – I run a company with about 50 people growing like crazy – I get to spend a good amount of time with my family, keep myself in shape, and my job is fun!
Five years ago, I was getting reprimanded by my boss for being in the NICU with my newborn son and not submitting my weekly reports. That was around the time I decided that I never wanted to work for someone else again… and then I stayed in that job for four more years, because having a kid and a mortgage is expensive.
Ten years ago, I was probably getting yelled at while I worked at a different job I didn’t like, after having come out of running start-ups for years. Most of my time there was being yelled at, then told I was doing a great job, and then getting yelled at again. It was stressful for no reason.
What would you tell your younger self?
First, stay in that job you had when you were 23 since you would have been a multi-millionaire at 25, rather than quitting to write novels that sold under 1000 copies. That was a very stupid financial decision, Jon.
More generally, I’d tell my younger self to be more patient. I also tell that to my current self, though, with varying results.
Lastly, I’d tell my younger self to finish all the way through something – it’s really easy to do the fun, early parts of building a business, and it’s actually not that hard to sit down and write a book if you treat it like a job. What’s really hard is what comes afterward, where you feel like you did all of the hard work and you realize that all you did was swim across a stream so you could try to swim across an ocean next.
What made you want to change the way you were living?
Noise and trees. I was tired of sirens and missed seeing trees that were there because of nature rather than because of a city planner. Plus, I had a child, and New York City studios with a newborn are a bit rough.
Does financial independence play a role? If so, how?
Of course, it does. I’m lucky in that I have a skill set that’s marketable across a wide array of organizations, and can, therefore, demand a more premium price for my expertise. Owning an almost 300-year-old house is a financial experiment in and of itself, and being able to afford that plus the immense amount of money it costs to commute into New York City is not trivial. It’s true that there are parts of NYC that are expensive; however, once you are wholly responsible for your own dwelling with no doormen or supers to help you (and no all-night, on-call repairpeople), you realize how much of your life in NYC was actually subsidized by being able to share those costs across a lot of people.
What advice do you have for others in living a better life?
Keep your hobbies as your hobbies – not everything that you love to do needs to be your life. When my wife and I first started thinking about leaving New York, we looked at buying and running a ski resort, which can be had for the cost of a small apartment (seriously – from $600,000 to about $3.5 million is the going rate for family-run ski areas). The economics of running one of those is terrible, though, and in the end, we decided to get a place with enough land that we could simply ski out our back door when it snowed (which has a lower price point than a ski mountain, by the way). You’ve got to be able to have fun at the thing that you do that makes money without taking away from the other things you like to do that cost money.
Also, keep your fixed costs as low as you can. We bought a house that started as a maintenance headache (it’s a bit better now that almost everything has been replaced), but our mortgage is about half to a third of many of our friends, which gives us a lot more freedom to do other things. In fact, I’d say keeping your fixed costs low is the key to having a better life whether or not you want to leave the city.
What books/podcasts/blogs have you consumed that lead you to this point?
Blogs and podcasts usually only have one or two interesting factoids per post/episode, and most of them are trying too hard to give you some secret tip about efficiency that’s going to change your life, when it seems to me from my own life and watching a lot of successful people around me that, while there are hacks to make you more efficient at work (I teach everyone who asks me how I keep my inbox at zero, which is essentially setting up systems where I delegate everything I can), none of those actually make you successful. Being successful is about working hard and not quitting when you’re simply tired of working hard (yes to quitting when you’re trying to sell something no one wants). As a result, I tend towards blogs and podcasts that aren’t in my sphere of expertise – I love listening to people training for their first ultramarathon or the science of biomechanics or something similar, because I know nothing about it and that knowledge is genuinely interesting to me.
What’s one area in your life you still struggle with?
I’m a terrible note-taker who relies far too heavily on memory and others to remember what was agreed upon previously, and without email and slack records, I’d be lost. As a result, I’m prone to hire assiduous note-takers at finder.
I’d also say that, like most successful people I know, I’m still always wondering if there’s more I could be doing, or if I could be doing what I do well better. This is super-powerful when you’re motivated and ready to learn, but there are plenty of times where these thoughts are just downright depressing or tiring, and it’s always difficult to pull myself out of those funks and get going again.
Finally, I think my preferred state would be spending 100% of my time with my family, and anything less than that often feels like a failure. Unlike a lot of other people, I wait with my son for the school bus and I’m home in time for dinner, but I always want to spend more time with my family.
If you had to give just 1 tip that you’ve learned along your journey, what would it be and why?
Keep your fixed costs low to give yourself flexibility everywhere else.
Where can readers get in touch with you?
@jonsurfs on Twitter, Jonathan Brodsky on Quora or [email protected]
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