Finance & Fitness: The Key to a Wholehearted Life
Many of us possess our own ideas on what it takes to achieve a wholehearted life. The term wholehearted is defined as showing complete sincerity and commitment, and its synonyms consist of adjectives such as positive, devoted, dedicated, and enthusiastic. In a time when society is often rushed, in debt, overweight, and disillusioned, who doesn’t want to attain a wholehearted life? But as we all come from different walks of life and pursue our own paths, it is hard to form a consensus on what leads to a wholehearted life.
In his book, Financial Fitness: The Journey from Wall Street to Badwater 135, William Corley explores the parallels of finance and fitness, and in many respects, makes an argument that when the two are aligned in one’s life, it leads to wholehearted living. According to Corley, his purpose in writing Financial Fitness was to share the story of his economic and physical journey to inspire others. Corley, who grew up in Tennessee and was raised in a middle-class family, never had excess savings or means beyond the basics. Beyond lacking finances, he was clear that his athletic talent and innate gifts were limited. But where he lacked in ability, he had an abundance of determination. “I charged ahead my whole life, learning, and taking risks along the way, and eventually, I achieved what I desired – solid savings, and improved fitness, which opened the door to a more lucrative and peaceful existence.”
The correlation between Corley’s career path and his athletic journey unfolded over the years. As he took more risks in sports and ventured out of his comfort zone—first a 5K, then a half marathon, and ultimately Badwater 135, a 135-mile trek across Death Valley in July—he felt more empowered to try new things in his professional life. He gained confidence via sports, but also learned about hardship, the possibility of failure, and how the decisions that we make along the way carve our paths, for better or worse. He discovered that by pushing his body beyond its limits, the possibilities were endless.
The book, which alternates between sharing experiences and tips related to finance and fitness, helps readers to carve their own routes to financial and physical health. “We live multi-functional existences: we work, we run, we play, we spend time with family. We don’t get to compartmentalize our lives; what we do in one realm impacts other areas of our lives.” Having invested the time and energy in personal finance and economics as well as sports is what his life has been about for the last few decades, so writing a book that appraised his evolution in both realms, side by side, made sense.
Corley is convinced that “continuous vigorous exercise is the veritable fountain of youth.” His proof? As his health and fitness improved, he evolved into a better version of himself. “For me, becoming both physically and financially fit is a function of one’s mental and spiritual status. It takes mind, body, and soul, for me to live life optimally. When we strive to improve our body’s stamina, endurance, strength, and vitality, it can be painful at times. But I’ve found that when I persist and cross through to the other side, there are positive benefits. I am a living example that strenuous exercise improves the quality of life.” Beyond the basics, Corley noted that because of his increasing fitness feats, his sleep grew sounder, food became tastier, and he achieved mental calmness, which has led to an overall more optimistic and grounded version of himself. It was those benefits that helped him to thrive in his professional life, and has led him to be better equipped to manage the challenges involved in running a business.
Corley acknowledges that change is often overwhelming, whether it’s beginning a savings plan, getting oneself out of debt, or running that first mile. He is the first to acknowledge that the first step for any change typically poses the most challenge. To tackle both a financial plan as a well as a fitness plan at the same time may be too much. But, according to Corley, it doesn’t have to be. “It’s about one small achievement at a time. You walk a mile. Then you walk two. You save a few dollars one week. You save more the following week.” There are no shortcuts to personal wealth or ideal health; it’s a process, and often it can be best attained with the help of someone who has already been there—an adviser or a mentor.
When posed the question, which is harder, completing a 100-mile running race, sticking to a financial plan, or writing a book, Corley didn’t hesitate: “sticking to a financial program is the most difficult. 100 milers test a runner’s pain threshold. Finishing the book was a mind warp and at times, it taxed me to the nth degree. Staying on course financially is a lifelong pursuit. I don’t think most people realize that. They think that things will just somehow fall into place for them financially, but in the end, it doesn’t work that way. You must consciously make a plan, and stick to it. Like anything in life you wish to pursue, it’s about planning, putting in the time, and staying the course.”
Jodi Weiss was editor of Financial Fitness: The Journey from Wall Street to Badwater 135.