Fourteen years ago, I went with four of my friends to get our photo taken with Santa at the Burbank mall. Were we far too old to be doing this? Absolutely. Did we care that we were the only group in line that did not include young children? Nope. Is Santa kinda creepy with five grown women sitting on his lap? Definitely… which makes it even more hilarious. What was meant to be a one-time joke turned out to be so fun that it became an annual tradition, complete with themes and costumes. Even as our own families and lives grow and change, it’s a once-a-year event where we can feel like kids again with each other.
Over time, the things you used to play at become serious endeavors, or to-do list items, or no longer worth doing at all. Running around with your friends outside becomes running on the treadmill at the gym, scheduling coffee dates to see your friends, and attending networking events to make new ones. We think of those activities as good and healthy, but they’re actually remarkably unnatural, not to mention not very fun. Because if you saw a kid doing any of those things, you would feel like you were in an alternate universe. Kids don’t run to stay fit, they run to feel the wind on their face and the grass beneath their feet. Kids don’t network to climb a career ladder, they bond through joyful moments. Kids go for what they want without worrying about why or what for—they just want to have fun. As adults, we deny ourselves that luxury without understanding the incredible benefits we’re missing out on.
The 'what are you waiting for' vibe really struck me. We can do anything we set our minds to. I get caught up sometimes in all the things that can hold me back. There will always be obstacles. But I prayed about it all and I was given an idea, and it can truly make a difference, and I want to make the most of this life.
Most people bury this knowledge in the back of their brains and heap on distraction upon distraction—anything to avoid seriously reflecting on the fact that our time here is limited. We hide it away in hospitals and retirement homes. We pay lip service with bumper-sticker phrases like “life is short” or “you only live once,” but mostly we just suppress thoughts of our own mortality.
Bringing up this topic is considered bad form. Society operates under a silent agreement to keep any mention of our mortality off-limits. And when it happens—a friend gets in a car accident, a relative passes from a heart attack—you still might think, That's not going to happen to me.
Well, unfortunately, life is not a dress rehearsal, and death is too important to ignore. To embrace and understand what it means to really live, we need to make sure our relationship with and understanding of death is honest and realistic.
Look at your calendar now. This is your “before” picture—what do you see? If it’s not full of valuable experiences, don’t expect them to appear out of thin air. You have to put them there. That’s what living intentionally is all about.
For example, in our Life Experiences Survey, thousands of people said that skydiving was one of the top three things they wanted to do in their lifetime. What’s interesting is that skydiving isn’t really very hard to do. Is it scary? Hell yeah. But it’s available in most places and only requires a few hours and a couple hundred dollars. Anyone can manage that, even if it takes a year to save up the money. But most people have it on their mental “someday” list, so they never bother to actually find out what it takes or make a plan to do it.
You already know that serving others feels good. But that warm glow isn’t in your imagination—it’s actually measurable in your body. When you give to others, your brain releases all kinds of feel-good hormones (just like novel experiences, but apparently even more). Giving is associated with lower stress and blood pressure, as well as less depression. One study found that seniors who volunteered tended to live longer, even after accounting for their age, health status, and lifestyle habits.
On the emotional side, researchers consistently find that giving leads to greater happiness and satisfaction. One study published in the Journal of Economic Psychology found that people who spent money on others reported higher levels of happiness than those who spent money on themselves. Another study published in the journal BMC Public Health found that people who volunteered had lower levels of depression and higher levels of well-being compared to those who didn't volunteer. Furthermore, a study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that people who performed acts of kindness for others experienced an increase in positive emotions and satisfaction, and a decrease in negative emotions.
My work focuses heavily on your life, but in the end, it’s about way more. The richer you are in experiences, the more you have to give to others. The more joy, love, and wisdom you cultivate for yourself, the more you spread in the world. You become valuable to others when you share your experiences with them, thus creating opportunities for them to build their own experiential wealth.
When you’re gone, the only thing that remains behind is what you’ve given to others. That’s how you can live forever: through the impact you have on other people. In the end, serving others is the most powerful way to feel your life is well spent.
Because visualization can have a real impact on how you think and feel, it’s so important to visualize the future you want—especially if it feels distant or hard to reach. When you imagine it in great detail, you bring it closer in a very real way.
That said, fantasies of your desires aren’t much use unless they lead to action. Visualizing what you want gives you focus and clarity, but it also gives your brain a dopamine hit. That moment of pleasure can make you complacent, as if the fantasy itself is enough. Obviously, it’s not.
So, don’t just imagine the end goal—visualize the process to get there as well, including all the obstacles and failures you might experience along the way. Imagine what will happen if you don’t take action toward your dream, as I did when I thought about taking that boring job after getting laid off. That “negative” visualization is just as important as imagining success. In fact, it’s been shown that thinking about failure or inaction makes people twice as likely to achieve their goals.
Money is a means, not a meaning. Wealth influences a small variance in levels of happiness, and the pursuit of wealth itself doesn’t create happiness. Most importantly, you do not have to be wealthy to have an experience-rich life. Some of my most memorable and valuable experiences happened when I was flat broke.
This may sound like I’m just placating you. Don’t get me wrong—if someone said to me, “You don’t need to go on a safari—just go to the local zoo instead!” I'd probably want to punch them in the face. I certainly know that big, expensive experiences can be some of the most magical, and you should absolutely seek ways to plan and achieve them. For example, gorilla trekking in Rwanda wasn’t cheap—it took us a long time to plan and save for it—but it was an extraordinary experience.
As pandemic restrictions started to loosen a little, I was overjoyed to find my pod of friends interested in doing all sorts of new activities—tie-dying clothes, teaching ourselves to roll sushi, hosting Connect Four tournaments, fermenting and labeling our own hot sauce and pickles, and sneaking out to Venice Beach at midnight to swim in the bioluminescent waves. As bad as the pandemic was in many ways, seeing others try new things with people they love was a bright spot, a small glimpse of what life should be like.
These experiences gave me natural bursts of serotonin and dopamine—feel-good hormones—that jolted me out of my depression temporarily. The novelty forced me to pay close attention to the task at hand, leaving little room to dwell on the past or worry about the future. And when I succeeded at something new, it helped build my confidence and courage.
My personal experience aligns perfectly with scientific research. The evidence states that simply being more present by doing something new stimulates and activates regions of our brain that improve our mood.
When you were younger, you might have had some type of allowance to use on whatever you wanted. What if you gave yourself an allowance for your experiences? We’re not personal finance experts, and there are plenty of books on that if you want to go deep (I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi is a great place to start). We do, however, know that when experiences truly become the priority, spending habits often change.
One day in your past, you had the last sleepover with your childhood friends, you just didn’t realize it. The last time you played hide and seek. The last time you pranked your parents. The last time you had a snowball fight. But why?
We asked 20,000 people, “What’s an experience you did as a child that you’d love to do again?”
Some of my closest friends are people that I worked with that I shared once in a lifetime (or just out of the ordinary) experiences with, whether it was staying in a haunted castle in Scotland together, seeing someone hear for the first time, hiking Machu Picchu, or simply staying up all night talking about life after attending Coachella together. But it wasn't just about having a good time.
Shared goals and experiences play a crucial role in fostering a great corporate culture by creating a sense of unity, belonging, and purpose among employees.
Here are some ways in which they contribute to a positive corporate culture:
This is a simple one, but can be powerful.
Plan an experience by yourself that you would normally do with someone else. For some people this could be as big as an overseas trip, for others it could be going to the movies, a baseball game, a hike, or a class.
Take notice of how you feel doing this on your own.
When did you stop playing? And by playing, I mean doing something just for fun, with no goals or expectations about the outcome. Even if it’s a game with winners and losers, the result doesn’t matter, and your aim isn’t to get better over time. It’s just to enjoy. (Consuming entertainment doesn’t count—real play involves your active engagement, beyond just watching a screen or turning the page.)
As a kid, practically all you wanted to do was play. Every other activity (school, homework, chores, family dinner) was something you had to get through so you could go play.
But little by little, other things became more important. It’s not just that you now spend more (or most) of your time making sure bills get paid, people get taken care of, chores get done, etc. There’s been a social and psychological shift in priorities, too. Society expects adults to be productive, responsible, and serious; play is a luxury reserved for children. So, you might feel like it’s immature to play, and other people would judge you for it. And the less you play, the less exercise your imagination gets, and the more focused you become on practical matters—perpetuating the downward spiral of playtime.
When you were a kid, you needed permission for everything. Permission from your parents to watch TV, permission from the teacher to go to the bathroom. Raise your hand, get in line, wait your turn. Obviously, that goes away as you get older… but maybe not entirely.
Because many adults act like they’re still waiting for permission to do what they actually want, especially when what they want isn’t so easy to reach. They tell themselves they can’t, for all kinds of reasons. It’s not the right time, they’re not ready, they’re not good enough, it’s a silly idea, it’s not prudent. No one else around them is doing that kind of thing. It would be selfish or reckless or arrogant to try.
How would you feel if we said right now that you have permission?
Here it is, in black and white: your permission slip. You have permission to take an acting class, go to Bangkok, paint a mountain landscape, learn to make Ethiopian food. To ask for a promotion. To try something new. To change. Even to fail.
Hilton and Huff present an anecdotal approach to increasing the real value of your life.
The authors commence their debut nonfiction collaboration with some of the stark questions every reader has likely asked at one point or another: “When was the last time you had a once-in-a-lifetime experience? What about just a memorable one? What about something you did for the first time? Was it months ago? Years?” Hilton and Huff provide context for these questions by pointing out that most people have experienced life-long conditioning on the subject of wealth, taught that a large reserve of currency is the bedrock of happiness. The authors seek to overturn this view, urging their readers to imagine their experiences are treasures and to take a “treasure map” approach to life, interrogating each decision with questions like “does it make you grow?” or “does it bring you joy?” rather than “does it make you money?”
The Light Show Episode 177: Show Notes
Is the pursuit of monetary abundance leaving you unsatisfied? Are you worried about having regrets in life? In this episode, we embark on an incredible journey with Bridget Hilton and Joe Huff, the authors of the inspiring book, Experiential Billionaire. While they're not actual billionaires, their wealth lies in the extraordinary experiences they've pursued.
Join us as we uncover the profound impact of experiences on their lives and how these experiences have made them wealthy in more ways than one. Bridget and Joe are far from privileged individuals. Hailing from blue-collar backgrounds in Flint, Michigan, and Chicago, Illinois, they initially followed conventional career paths.
Joe and I have worked together full time since 2012. We've been lucky to collaborate on the creation of multiple brands, write a book together, and be on the ground working on philanthropic missions around the world. We've also experienced the highest highs and lowest lows together over the last 11 years, and have seen each other and our co-workers grow leaps and bounds in ways we never expected.
If you have a full-time job, you spend at least a third of your waking life working. That’s a lot of time to be surrounded by your boss, colleagues, clients, and business partners. The stronger those relationships are, the happier and more successful your work life will be—and shared experiences play an important part in that.
CONVERSATION HIGHLIGHTS IN THIS EPISODE
- Why we need to be constantly reminded to invest in experiences, and what’s at stake if we don’t
- How to live an experientially rich life after you've already lived A LOT of life
- How to understand and define our IDEAL SELF
- How to tune out what doesn't matter and tune in to what does
- The Mori Memento Chart and its simple power to help you create a more meaningful life