With a $1.7b parachute, the ex-CEO of We Work could fall from the stratosphere and still land smoothly on a cosy pool-side bed. His great-great-great grand-son would land as smoothly too. Somehow, most of us do not have much of a corporate parachute. I thought I had one. I worked a lot and sacrificed many cumulated years of family time and holidays for it, which I will never get back. Only to discover, when came the unfortunate time that I needed the parachute, that somebody else sabotaged it. Ouppsss... Free fall!
It's not easy to build your parachute. How do you prepare for the unknown?
As my corporate parachute did not give me much protection into the future (so far), I am happy that I slowly but surely built for myself and my family, a kind of personal parachute. So far, this one seems to keep me relatively safe during the long fall from what appears to be a huge sky-dive. I had learnt at a very young age that the social parachute (the one offered by the government) would never be one for me, so I had to build one for myself.
That brings me to the more important point, which is not the parachute itself, but the mindset and right conditions for building your own private parachute.
From a very young age, I often seeked reassurances (a kind of safety belt, if not a parachute) to justify taking a more rewarding but also more risky route into the future. I think one is more likely to take such risks if one has absolutely nothing to lose, or if one is constantly convinced of a safe parachute anyway. I never thought I had nothing to lose, as I always thought I had a lot. When I was 12 years old and I had stashed away 200 Francs (€30) after years of savings, I already thought I had a lot of savings and safety for my future. You want more stupid reassurances? Here's a small list:
- When I resigned from my first job at 25, to then "take part in a start-up project", I thought that I had saved enough money to sustain living on kebabs for a few years, so I allowed myself to take this risk. Let me tell you that I did not necessarily calculate well that eating kebabs is not the biggest necessity on earth.
- When I decided to move my family to the U.K. and start all over again, I thought I had already made it (if you read my book, you probably know it was a total illusion at that stage), so I believed that the risk was covered. Three months into it, I stared at the abyss!
- And when I decided to buy a huge mansion in Spain on a jumbo mortgage, I did it because I was sure that I had ten times more coming from the success of my company, and my share of this success. It took 15 years to slowly realise, deception after deception, that paper money is not money, and minority control is no control...
I moved to the UK in the worst possible conditions. I bought a mansion in the worst market ever seen in decades, in the worst hit country (well apart from Greece it could not have been much worse). And I made so many other stupidly risky bets. In the end, I managed to turn right most of the 'low-educated' bets I made, because I would not allow them to turn bad. That fighting spirit is undeniably extremely important to build and keep going.
But had I not thought very deep inside myself that I was somehow covered by a safe parachute (multiply by Pi!), I would probably not have taken all these risks. The consequence is that I would not have enjoyed any of the rewards. Before you ask, the rewards are not all financial in nature. It is important and gratifying to have financial rewards, but it cannot be always the case that you end-up on the winning side. As I explained many times, ultimately, the Journey is what matters. And at least in my case, to start and then run the journey on the right track, it was the feeling of a safe parachute which mattered most.
Build your own idea of a parachute so that you can leverage your life to its maximum potential.
To your journey!