Stay in the Game Balancing the Life Game

In the book titled “The Purpose Driven Life,” the first sentence reads, “It’s not about you.” Upon reading this sentence, I closed the book. It was all I needed to hear. The clarity of that statement made me challenge myself even more to help others. I believe that youthfulness, high energy and emotional health can be enhanced dramatically by assisting others.

Finding a Balance

How does someone live life focused on helping others? After considerable thought and reflection, I decided to engage in various philanthropic organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Kairos Prison ministry, and various other causes that pulled on my heart. Several years ago, I came to the conclusion that I was spreading myself too thin with family, career, philanthropy and physical well-being. I decided to make a change and focus on more balance and less stressful scenarios. Why did I come to that conclusion? That is a long story but I will give you the abbreviated version. After my dad served in Korea with the armed forces, he climbed the corporate ladder and moved our family up and down the east coast before finally settling in the Chicago area. His health was not the greatest and he had been fighting many health issues. Ironically, after listening to Kelly Ferrin, a leading expert on geratology who spoke to our clients about health and retirement, I received a phone call that our family had lost my dad that evening. It hit me that I wanted to enjoy the next phase of my life. I still wanted to help others but also needed to invest time in myself in order to do so. I felt my physical well- being was my weak link and wanted to do something to improve my overall health. I knew from past enjoyable experiences, that getting back into playing squash was the right prescription for bringing things back into equilibrium.

Neil Garrison and his wife, Carol, are partners in helping others be the best they can be.
Neil Garrison and his wife, Carol, are partners in helping others be the best they can be.

The Back Story

Let me “back and fill” for a moment. It is tough to be an effective dad without a great partner. My wife, Carol, and I spent a lot of time balancing who was going to be where and when for our daughters while instilling the value of independence and responsibility. I am very lucky and humbled to have such a great wife and kids that have strived to the best they can be while helping others be the best they can be.

Seeing my daughters participate in games that they love solidified my desire to get back on the court. In 2008, my oldest daughter Ashley had recently graduated from high school after a strong high school golf career. She was awarded the Karen Stone Sportswoman of the Year. Ashley had numerous scholarship offers; not bad for someone that started the game 30 days before her high school tryouts. My other daughter Elizabeth, a recent University of Florida graduate, played basketball. Three years were invested in following my daughter and her wonderful teammates and coaches to basketball tournaments around the region while traveling throughout the eastern part of the United States to watch Ashley play college golf. I didn’t miss a shot her junior season at Loyola University of Chicago and my car now has 178,000 miles on the odometer and a new engine. My youngest daughter Megan told me in the spring of her freshman year of high school that she didn’t want to play golf. I asked her why. She said, after significant discussion, “Dad, I want to play lacrosse because you don’t know anything about lacrosse.” Ouch! A few months later in her last lacrosse game of the season, she scored five goals to put an exclamation point on her views of playing golf. Later she went on to become salutatorian of her senior class and is currently studying engineering at The Ohio State University.

Neil’s daughters, L-R: Megan, Elizabeth and Ashley, are his inspiration for staying in the game.
Neil’s daughters, L-R: Megan, Elizabeth and Ashley, are his inspiration for staying in the game.

The Comeback

Three years ago, and frankly it was supposed to happen sooner, I finally took action steps toward a comeback in the game of squash. The game gives me balance and clarity more than any other sport I have played. I played the game of squash for about 12 years and then “retired” for about 14 years. The game is recognized as the top workout by Forbes Magazine and as I approached 50 years of age, I made the decision to comeback with low expectations. The low expectations lasted a month or so and my comeback went full circle this past winter with an undefeated record in our league and an automatic bid to move up. I should be careful what I wish for as the players at the top of the league are really good. I played a few weeks ago with our club champion and he beat me like the proverbial drum. Next year, I get to be the “victim” of the best players taking out their aggressions on the old guy … be kind guys. Someone asked me some time ago, “Why do you love squash so much?” After a little thought, I think it’s the comradery with the players and the fact that after 45 minutes on the court the result is a phenomenal workout. I don’t have back pain anymore, my golf game is better, and when I go to Colorado skiing, I feel like I can ski all day. I owe this to the Toledo Club, John Seidel our squash pro and many others far too numerous to mention. A lot of the same people are still there from the 1980s and every time I enter the Toledo Club (one of Toledo’s great gifts), I always have a smile on my face and can’t wait to get on the court.

The game of squash helps Neil maintain his physical well-being and stay balanced.
The game of squash helps Neil maintain his physical well-being and stay balanced.

February’s Toledo Open Championship match photo can be seen on this month’s “Boomers and Beyond” cover. I ended up going down in flames but it was fun to make it to the “B Finals” of the tournament. My opponent was a 23-year-old from South Africa and he flew like the wind! I challenge every “baby boomer” to find a venue that will create more balance with their family, physically, mentally and spiritually. Squash has done it for me. It has paid dividends in every aspect of my life except my cost of having a tailor make some adjustments to my wardrobe. I have improved the quality of my life by continually pushing myself beyond my self-imposed limits, striving for a comeback and rising above the health history of my dad. Who knows, with greater balance, purpose and physical well-being, one day in the far-off future, I might enjoy those non-favorite words of mine, “retire” and “retirement.” I strongly urge you to make a comeback of your own and stay in the game on and off the court.

Over the next several months, Neil Garrison will continue to find balance and assist others by sharing his gift of knowledge and experience as a Financial Advisor with Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. On a personal level, he looks forward to giving readers a monthly “pearl of wisdom” on ways to make life better. Garrison has enjoyed sharing ideas with financial advisors from around the country for over 28 years and will pass along his knowledge to better your “game” in the complex financial arena.