The Reality Behind a “Life by Design”

Jul 23, 2019 | Wildhorn Insights

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It’s no secret that Colorado is my happy place.  I grew up going to the mountains for a week or two each summer, and its become a tradition I’ve carried on with my wife and kids.  Luckily for me, my wife has fallen in love with my old CO stomping grounds, and we make it a goal to spend at least 2 weeks at high altitude each summer. 

Those weeks are part of our “Life By Design” (which we’ve written about in the past), whereby we strive to construct a flexible and intentional life.  Life By Design also seems to be a popular theme on Social Media right now, where it always comes across as the ideal state to be in, usually while living in an exotic locale, and something that everyone should aspire to.  We aspire to it–and spend a lot of time trying to design that very life. But living a “Life By Design” often looks simply like “Designing Your Life around Work”. Obviously you can’t control everything around you, and Life By Design in the Colorado mountains has been quite stressful the last two years–not exactly the simplistic photos and perfect ideals you envision (and see everyone posting.) 

 “Cry me a river” you say?  “Whats the problem buddy, the air too thin?”  Not exactly. 

For the last two years, we’ve been awarded a new value-add apartment deal the day before my family left for Colorado.  I hate how much the word “literally” is misused these days. But, literally, the day before we’ve left, two years in a row we’ve gotten the great news phone call that we had won a new deal.  I’ve joked with my wife that we need to book more trips to Colorado. 

Getting those calls the day before you leave on a trip is great for the business, and pretty terrible for any sort of life by design–let alone a family vacation.  This year, the first week of our trip I didn’t leave the house for 3 days, trying to cram 6 days worth of work into 3. In the hopes of carving out a little family time the second half of the trip. Last year, I remember walking out of Best Buy with a new computer monitor to bring on our trip–so I could keep my double monitor set-up I use in the office to ramp up my productivity. 

In no way do I want to complain or make it sound like we’re unappreciative of spending 2 weeks in our happy place, or for the general flexibility we have in our life  And I”m certainly not complaining about getting awarded new deals. But, there can be a downside to Living Life By Design.

Life by Design means you beat to your own drummer, and you’re likely self-employed.  There’s no asking for vacation or time off–you just go where you please. It also means there is no vacation policy, which is a big appeal of the Life By Design movement.  The downside? There’s no vacation policy and no switch to turn it off or corporation to pick up the slack. When you get awarded a deal the day before you leave for a trip, that trip suddenly becomes a Relocation, and not a Vacation.  The scenery will be different as you look out from your office window–but there’s going to be plenty of work. And the pressure I felt as I’m missing out on activities with the kids is no fun. But, who’s going to start the entities that have to get created?  Who’s going to negotiate the agreement with the seller and give instruction to our attorney? Create our Investment Summary? Start talking with Investors? You have a small window to get a ton of work done, and that work has to happen no matter where you are. 

The key to success in Living a Life By Design? 

Having a great partner–in my case my wife. My wife and I are in this game together.  Life By Design doesn’t happen by accident and its a team sport.  When I told her we had gotten a deal, she was excited for us. She also knew that meant I was going to be super busy, and it was going to impact the arc of our trip.  She stepped up and immediately started planning activities for the kids so they’d have a good trip, and be out of the house some so I could work. The whole first week they went to the town library multiple times, visited several different parks and hung out at the tiny beach.  Not exactly the big vacation week we planned, but certainly in line with the Relocation idea–these are all activities they’d likely to at home but instead they got to do them in the mountains. 

Now that we’re back in Austin, and I’ve had the chance to reflect on our trip some I realize it was a great trip.  I have a laundry list of fun things we did that made memories. And I was able to get everything done I needed to on the work front.  We’re ahead of schedule on our largest deal to date and I’ve got tours set up already this week looking for our next deal. 

The only thing missing?  That 55 degree weather and beautiful office view.  Can’t wait for next year.

Andrew Campbell

Written by Andrew Campbell

Andrew Campbell is a native Austinite and Managing Partner at Wildhorn. He is a real estate entrepreneur who first broke into the business in 2008 as a passive investor. In 2010 he transitioned into active investing and management of a personal portfolio that grew to 76 units across Austin and San Antonio. He earned his stripes building and managing his personal portfolio before founding Wildhorn Capital and focusing on larger multifamily buildings. At Wildhorn, he is focused on Acquisitions and maintaining Investor Relations, utilizing his marketing and communications background to build long-term relationships.

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