In the 1991 hit comedy, City Slickers, Billy Crystal and his middle-age friends leave their wives and lives for a mid-life crisis escape trip to the American Southwest. They encounter a hostile natural environment, a gruff cowboy (played by the inimitable Jack Palance), the challenges of their own aging, and an awareness of their own privilege.
Palance holds up one finger as he asks, with a cigarette burns precariously from the corner of his mouth, “Do you know what the secret to life is? This.”
Crystal looks over at Palance, puzzled, and asks, “Your finger?”
Palance looks over at Crystal. “One thing, just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean shit.”
“That’s great, but what’s the one thing?” asks Crystal.
“That’s what you gotta figure out,” says Palance.
Sam Mickey is a financial advisor in Boston, Massachusetts. He spends his days helping clients create a plan for meeting their financial goals and guiding their progress along the way. Everyone has their own secret of life, and for many it is the dream of a comfortable retirement.
It is Sam Mickey’s job to help his clients realize that dream.
Sam discovered the secret to life a little earlier than most.
“Scorching heat and eight hours everyday atop a horse was far too much for me when I was thirteen years old,” explains Sam.
“I was fortunate enough that my family had a wonderful tradition of traveling on relaxing vacations. It was not uncommon to find us spending holidays on the beach, but when I was thirteen, we decided to do something vastly different. That year, we booked a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The plan was to spend a week on a dude ranch with no access to phones, television, or Internet and try to enjoy each others’ company.”
“This ranch hosted a series of full day horseback rides through the Grand Tetons and surrounding mountain ranges. I will never forget how miserable I felt after lunch on the first day, nor will I ever forget how kind and patient our guide, Wayne, was with me.”
“I had practically spent the entire day complaining about my aches and pains and asking when we would be done, and my antics were absolutely wearing on everyone.”
“I was not used to doing things outside of my comfort zone and would simply complain, thinking it would eventually help me. Wayne was unforgettably kind to me. After lunch he hopped up off his horse and started walking, while instructing me to do the same. He told me that sometimes you have to take things into your own hands.”
“While walking, Wayne explained to me that complaining does not get you any sort of favor with anyone, and I was ruining a great day for everyone. We proceeded to chat while we walked the whole rest of the way home, and the rest of my family was able to enjoy their time on horseback. Up until this point in my life, I had never really been told that we can’t have everything we want, and that sometimes patience goes a lot further than complaining.”
“The next morning Wayne pulled me aside and asked me to be his partner for the week in saddling up, feeding the horses, and in cleaning the yard. While at first reluctant, the perspective and companionship that Wayne had showed me, allowed my family and I to enjoy the week, while also enabling me to understand the impact that my actions had on others.”
“On the last day of our trip, Wayne ran to find me and give me a shiny silver horseshoe he had in his hand. Wayne said that he had found it all rusted and bent in the woods and fixed it up for me.”
“This horseshoe still hangs in my bedroom today, and still serves as a constant reminder that complaining is rarely helpful, and that taking the time out of your day to carefully explain something to someone can change their lives for the better. I strive to demonstrate patience in my practice and in my everyday interactions, and I owe it largely to Wayne, a ranch hand I met when I was thirteen years old.”
Everyone has the capacity to discover the secret to life. For Sam Mickey, it involved the powerful understanding that patience goes a lot further than complaining, and sometimes you have to take things into your own hands.