"I had a job interview at an insurance company once, and the lady said 'Where do you see yourself in five years?' I said, 'Celebrating the fifth year anniversary of you asking me this question!'" - Mitch Hedberg
I love this joke. Not just because it's funny, but because it made me ask some important questions about my five year plan. Why does it have to be five years? Because that's what everyone says? Because it seems like a nice round number? Because it feels like enough time to complete my goals, at a comfortable pace?
The problem is, gas fills the size of its chamber. Gas being work, and the chamber being time. Like when you started a high school book-report the day before it was due. Despite having four weeks to finish it. For some students, it took exactly four weeks to finish. But for you, just one manic evening. And I'm willing to bet you still received a decent grade.
(Of course, if there's too much gas in a small chamber, it explodes. So if you started your book-report five minutes before class, it would have blown up in your face. Please proceed with caution.)
What does this have to do with five year plans? Well, try this. Imagine where you want to be five years. Envision the path of your success and the steps which lead you there. Now ask yourself: "How can I make this happen in six months or less?"
If you only had six months to do what you planned for in five years, what would you do? What would you focus on? What risks would you be willing to take? How courageous would you have to be? Chances are, you'd be forced to do things which scare you. But those are the things which matter most, and will give you the biggest return on your time invested. No pressure, it's just a thought experiment. But you'll start to see the excuses you've created to waste time and feel busy, without actually doing anything. That's what most of social media is -- a great way to feel busy. And it may be job specific, but for most, it's akin to high school busy work. So you'll need to be ruthless about where you spend your time.
Six months is just the right amount of time to do almost anything, without getting burned out. What's more, if you do decide to move forward with this idea, in five years time, you may end up with 10x the amount of "success". Success being what pulls you into action, and makes you feel excited to wake up everyday. Having a sense of urgency to move, create, think and feel totally enriched.
Time is non-refundable. So don't spend five years spreading yourself thin. Class starts tomorrow, and your book-report is due.
If only I could follow my own advice.