What is a Life Well-Lived?

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(This post is by Cedar Point Capital Partners’ co-founder and partner David Ernst, who was recently honored as one of KCRG-TV9’s 9 Who Care, an annual award honoring outstanding volunteers in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Corridor*.)

What is a “life well-lived?”

David Ernst with his father Gary Ernst at the KCRG 9 Who Award AwardsIt’s a term I use frequently with clients and in my new “#CedarPoints” online video series, and it’s an idea I’ve developed after a career of helping others plan their financial futures—not to mention five decades of my own life experience.

But it’s taken on a new importance for me lately, after a humbling couple of months that included the death of a loved one and an honor as one of KCRG’s 9 Who Care.

A life well-lived is about more than money or assets or wins on the football field. It’s about living in an authentic, passionate way that impacts others. It’s about building a legacy through actions and relationships. It’s developing your human capital and giving back where you can.

The pursuit of that life is why we started Cedar Point Capital Partners in the first place. We wanted to offer more people access to the kind of planning, partnerships and patience it takes to build that life. We wanted to build the long-term relationships that make a life well-lived, and I’m proud of how far we’ve come in just our first year.

So what does it really mean to live a life well lived? Here’s a few things I’ve been thinking over the past few months:

Your measures of success will change.

When I was a young, 20-year-old football coach at Kennedy High School here in Cedar Rapids, I had so much passion—all I wanted to do was win on Friday night. Thirty-five years later, I find myself measuring those wins a little differently.

While I will always want to win football games—at the end of the night, I’ve found that the scoreboard only tells half of the story. The other half? Did we improve as a team? Did our players grow individually? Did we prepare to play hard for all four quarters? Did we maintain our composure when faced with adversity? This tells the complete story.

A life well-lived focuses on legacy and impact instead of the day-to-day. Sometimes you can see your impact, and other times, it’s not clear until decades later—a wedding invite, a birth announcement, a face at a funeral, or simply a message on social media. You may not get that immediate feedback, but if you’re doing the right things, you can trust it’s there.

You must be willing to support other people’s passions.

Living in an authentic, passionate way isn’t just about focusing on your own goals and dreams; it’s about supporting others in theirs, too. When all of our passions are supported, I’ve seen how big things can happen—whether coaching student-athletes or working with staff of our area’s nonprofits.

This is one of the reasons being awarded with KCRG’s 9 Who Care was difficult for me at first. The story the news station put together focused on my work with organizations like Boys & Girls Club of the Corridor and the Olivet Neighborhood Mission, but really, I’ve just been a supporter of people like John Tursi at Boys & Girls Club or Julie Palmer at Olivet Mission, who have truly dedicated their lives to improving outcomes for individuals throughout our community. I’m honored to support people like this in pursuit of their passion. That’s how I can give back.

It takes courage to be different.

One of my favorite phrases is, “if you want your life to be different, you have to live differently.” It’s true—nothing is going to change until you do. That can be extremely hard, depending on the circumstance, but a life well-lived is about having the courage to try.

I have a coaster on my desk that tells me “do one thing that scares you everyday.” I can’t say I always live up to it, but it’s a great reminder to keep stepping out of my comfort zone and say “yes” to as many things as I can. That’s what has created some of my most valuable memories, experiences and relationships. It’s how you build your human capital.

You have to follow your compass.

All you can be is you. You don’t build a life well-lived by being phony or being someone you’re not, because you won’t build long-term relationships that way. We gravitate to authentic people because we can trust them, and trust is what enables all of the other impacts. Listen to your gut and do what moves you—the rest will follow.

Life can be hard, but in a bigger sense, it’s really easy—it happens whether we think about it or not. Creating a life well-lived takes planning and partnerships to ensure you have the capital—human, social and otherwise—you need to make your impact last. That’s what we’re here for.

If you’re ready to start building a life and legacy you can be proud of, reach out and let’s talk. It could be the start of something big.

*About KCRG-TV9's 9 Who Care
Each year, KCRG-TV9 and its sponsors honor outstanding volunteers throughout Eastern Iowa with the 9 Who Care Awards. Nominations are accepted during the month of November, and focus on a nominee’s volunteer work, outstanding achievements and other honors. Nine finalists are chosen by an independent panel of judges. The 9 Who Care award recipients are featured during a newscast and honored at a ceremony each February. During the ceremony, the award recipients are each presented with a $500 donation to give to their charity of choice. David presented his donation to Olivet Neighborhood Mission.

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