How far into the future can you see?
In a world where only some people make two year plans and fewer plan on a five year horizon, how much of an advantage do you have when you plan your life on a 7, 10, or 20 year scale? I heard Peter Thiel speak at HBS a few weeks ago and he said (to paraphrase) that life starts to get very interesting when you cultivate a twenty year vision for yourself. What he said made a lot of sense to me.
I’ve been proud of my own 2-5 year goals for quite some time, pleased as I was able to check off the mental boxes as I progressed. A two year goal is relatively easy to keep your focus on, easy to articulate to friends, your significant other, easy to quantify when you achieve it. Other goals might be just as easy going, at least, if they don’t challenge the circumstances of your reality.
Put another way, a 2-5 year goal is likely to sound something like:
- increase my net worth X % or to Y level
- move up the corporate ladder at work
- move in with, get married to your spouse
- buy a car, condo, house, etc
What does a 20 year goal look like? On a horizon segmented by 5 or 10 year goals, it becomes clear whether these smaller steps are actually taking you where you want to go. It becomes clear whether the job you’re considering, the relationship you’re pursuing or the purchase you’ve been saving for will actually move you in the right direction. It becomes clear whether you’re shaping the life you want to look back on.
The most alarming part of all this is how much more difficult it is to remain focused on a clear and coherent 20 year plan. I’ve taken to allocating some time each week to re-center and consider my 20 year goals and ponder the world that I think will emerge as we approach that horizon.
What do you want the great achievements of your life to be?
If you’re interested, This is a great post on the same talk, by Alex Taussig.