What Do You Do If You Don’t Have a Plan?
How Do You Get Where You’re Going?
Do you know that job interview question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Nobody ever asked me that.
Which is a good thing. I read about it in some article on how to prepare for an interview. And I thought about it. But I couldn’t come up with an answer that didn’t sound like complete bullshit. Maybe that’s what they want to hear; I don’t know. Fortunately, I never had to find out.
I don’t know if it was the times I grew up in, the sixties and seventies, or the times have changed. Or maybe it’s just me. It seems like I never had a plan, and I didn’t know anyone else who had one either. Of course, I didn’t exactly choose the cream of the crop to hang around with.
But today, it seems like every kid you talk to has their whole life mapped out. At least through college and beyond. The only time in high school I ever thought about college, was when they made me take some sort of test. It wasn’t the SAT; you actually had to want to take that one.
Whatever test it was didn’t spark a rash of college recruiters knocking on my door.
Don’t get me wrong; I was never lazy. I started working when I was thirteen. Forty hours at a buck thirty-five was a fortune. I had discovered Nirvana. I never didn’t want to work after that. And I’ve never not worked. Fifty-two years later, fully retired, and I work at my writing and photography every day.
But I still didn’t have a plan. Bussing tables at HoJos, I never thought about a career path that would lead me to be a manager. I just showed up every day and worked.
And every day after that.
But without a plan. I hardly ever even looked for a job. They always sort of just fell into my lap.
Did you ever just go for a drive? You hear about that all the time, but I don’t know anyone who actually does it. I mean just get in the car and go with no destination in mind. Most people, even if they are ‘just going for a drive,’ have a plan. We’ll head north to the Blue Ridge Parkway, have lunch in Asheville, and then…
They have a plan.
I used to do this all the time when I was single. Just jump into my old Volkswagon and go. Sooner or later, I ended up back at home. Even years later, I used to do it with my camera and motorcycle. I just took off and rode in random directions. When I saw something I wanted to take a picture of, I put down my feet, picked up the camera, and snapped a shot. When I got tired, I turned on the old, clunky first-gen GPS on my handlebars and told it to take me home.
It usually did.
It turns out, I am not alone. Most people don’t have a plan. In a survey released by DHM Research in Portland, Oregon, two-thirds of Americans don’t have a plan. I know it’s easy to fall into that trap. You face every day as it comes and deal with what happens. Tomorrow will take care of itself.
But will it? At some point, you will wake up and there won’t be a boss telling you what to do today. Are you ready for that? Apparently, 66% of us aren’t. And then it’s too late.
“Write, Open, Act: An Intentional Life Planning Workbook” is a few years old, but still a great tool to plot your life. I have written here about how to figure out when and if you have enough money. If nothing else, you need to plan that far.
Another great resource I have been following lately is August Bradley. I am currently using his advice to help plan my Notion databases, but his ideas on how to plan and organize your life are very thorough and thought-provoking. He uses a system similar to Tiago Forte‘s P.A.R.A. method called Pillars, Pipelines, and Vaults in his Notion setup, but it is his Pillars concept that resonated with me. I wish I had seen it sooner.
Maybe I would have had a plan. Or at least a framework in which to create one.
But, I know how you feel and understand your lack of a plan, or maybe even a lack of desire to have one. I didn’t have one for years, decades even.
So, how did I end up here? Retired in a nice house in a nice neighborhood with a nice chunk of change to get me through to the end?
I wrote in another article that if you wanted to get better at something, find someone who is better than you and hang around them.
So, since I apparently wasn’t so good at this whole life thing, I found someone smarter than me.
And married her.
She had the plan. She always had a plan. When I met her, she had just put down a deposit on her first house, later our first house. I didn’t know anybody that didn’t live in an apartment. But she had a plan.
And eventually, that plan became my plan. As we divided up areas of responsibility, she took over the big picture, long-term investments, and strategies, while I took the day to day, nuts and bolts of paying bills etc.
And, once we reached a certain point, since I was familiar with the short term income and expenses, (and I was the spreadsheet geek), I created our plan for retirement. And, I can tell you, knowing that right now, today, you have enough to retire, is a very liberating piece of knowledge.
But, without that plan, you have nothing, but hopes and dreams.
So, what do you do if you don’t have a plan? How do you get where you’re going?
Hell if I know.
Let me go ask my wife.