Why your life plan is bullshit… and what to do instead
It’s the eternal question:
What are you doing with your life?
And those who know me well know I struggle with it on a bi-weekly basis.
Often, I snap awake on a cloudy Tuesday morning like this one, stare for a moment at the ceiling and think:
“Oh fuck. What am I doing here in Madrid? What am I doing with my LIFE? I could’ve done anything… and instead I’m a blogger.”
At the same time, I’m self-employed (no boss for nearly 3 years!) a bestselling author, a semi-competent YouTuber and a local expat celebrity.
You might even call me “successful”.
And it would certainly appear, to an outsider, that I have a pretty good idea what I’m doing.
You’d think so from looking at what I do.
And you’d be wrong.
Here’s the thing…
I’m making it all up as I go along
You know those people who have a big life plan?
A roadmap of “success” that looks remarkably like whatever their parents and teachers told them success was supposed to mean?
Well, let me go on the record right now: your life plan is bullshit.
Maybe if this were the 18th century, you could do better at predicting your life trajectory.
“My grandfather was a peasant farmer, my father’s a peasant farmer, and dad-gummit it looks like I’m going to be a peasant farmer, too. I’ll make tons of babies, lose my teeth at 30, die of something totally preventable, and go to heaven to play the harp with Jesus for all eternity. ”
Good plan, bro.
And if you lived in the cutesy Leave it to Beaver-ish world where my parents grew up, you could make plans along the lines of: get a degree, marry the second person you ever sleep with, work at the insurance company forever, pay a mortgage, retire and die.
But shit, dogg…
It’s the 21st century.
The job market has changed immensely since dad put on his first brown suit to go to the office, a whole 3 days out of college.
And so have all our most basic social relationships.
Don’t live in the past. Adapt your plans for life, as it is, now.
But what do I do instead?
I’m not saying I’m against planning.
NOT. AT. ALL.
And I’m definitely not saying you should just be a leaf in the wind, going wherever the arbitrary forces of nature and culture take you.
I’m just saying you probably need to reduce the scope of your plans significantly…
And then work your ass off to achieve the small things.
I do plenty of planning myself. I’ve got a quarterly plan, a monthly plan, a weekly plan and (this is the most important one) a daily plan.
None of my plans reach more than 3 months ahead…
And I’ve been doing this for years.
My recommendation: if you’re just starting out, start small. Smaller than what you’re currently doing.
Here’s the question to ask: What can I do today that will move me in the direction I want to go?
Because here’s the thing.
The future is a fantasy. It doesn’t exist.
You can only do something – anything – today.
Here’s an example from my life: I write books.
And writing a book is a big fucking project. Intimidatingly so.
Yesterday, my to-do list included the following menacing (ok, completely terrifying) point: Start writing the new book.
I spent most of the day putting it off…
(There’s always tomorrow. And Wednesday. And by that time, the week’s almost over, and you might as well just wait for the next Monday.)
But around mid afternoon I realized why I was procrastinating.
I needed a plan.
“Start writing the new book” makes you think of the finished book. Which makes you think of the long ambiguous process fraught with suffering and tedium that it’ll take you to get there.
So I sat down with my favorite low tech tools – a pen and a spiral notebook – and wrote out the plan, step by step.
Outline the thing. Think of a subtitle. Find a cover designer. Etc.
But most importantly: Write 2000 words a day.
Having it all on paper made me feel better. Then, I got on the computer and did 2000 words. Mission accomplished.
Because here’s the thing about big goals – there’s virtually no big goal you’re going to achieve today. The best you can do is to work on it a little bit, day by day, and enjoy the process.
Don’t let the size of your goals get you down: make smaller goals and give yourself a game you can win…
A game you can win today.
(And tomorrow. And the next day. And every day after that.)
The key to everything: don’t waste (much) time
In Tim Ferriss’ latest book, Tribe of Mentors, Gary Vaynerchuk – who I usually can’t stand – says something that’s really stuck with me.
Q: What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”?
A: Macro patience, micro speed. They should not care about the next eight years, but they should stress about the next eight days.
I’ll paraphrase the rest: most people are worried about where they’ll be in 2 to 5 years. And in the meantime, they’re watching fucking Netflix all day.
They’re stressed about “the future” and their response is to stay in bed till noon, then sit around and watch 22 episodes of Downton Abbey.
My advice: Don’t do it!
Personally, I try to do the opposite…
I don’t have the faintest idea of what I’m “doing with my life”.
But I can sure as hell get 5 to 7 things done TODAY that will move me in a positive direction. (Or 3 things. Or 2 things. Like I said, start small. But work every day.)
Life plan: Work hard first, procrastinate later
This doesn’t mean you (or I) should never waste time.
It does mean you try not to waste your days.
Here’s a novel idea…
Work hard first. Procrastinate later.
If you procrastinate on your procrastination, in the meantime you can get important things done.
Don’t worry: you’ll have time to waste your life… some day.
Full disclosure: I often waste way too much time on social media. But it’s in the context of getting shit done.
I’m convinced that if you get 2 to 4 hours of actual work done every day, you’ll be way ahead of most people. And happier, too.
This system allowed me to fire my boss, quit my day job and build my passive income to levels I could once barely have dreamed of…
And it all started with just a couple hours of side-hustle work a day.
But keep in mind: it has to be actual work – something creative or useful that’s moving you in a positive direction. You might not know the eventual destination. I sure don’t. But the direction should be fairly obvious, if you break it down into small enough steps.
Here’s another (paraphrased) quote that I can’t find a source for…
String together enough great days and suddenly you’ve got an awesome life.
It’s profound in its simplicity, isn’t it?
If you make today great, and then tomorrow, and then the next day…
Suddenly you’ll find that you’re less worried about “your life plan” – because you’re doing so many useful and interesting things in a week that you just don’t have much time. And your life will be awesome, just because you took the time to add awesome things to your days.
Listen: a lot of things are out of your control.
You can’t change what happens to you. But you can change how you respond.
You can’t guarantee your week will be great, or your month, or your year.
But you can make a plan to make TODAY great, and get to work on that – ideally first thing in the morning.
Because that glamorous future you’re imagining starts NOW.
That’s all I’ve got for today.
Thanks for reading.
Daniel AKA Mr Chorizo.
P.S. What do you think? Do you have a life plan? A daily plan? Hit me up with your best personal productivity strategies, right here in the comments… Thanks!
P.P.S. I didn’t mention it in this article, but you also need to work out. TODAY. As my dogg Al Kavadlo says in Zen Mind, Strong Body, “Goals are just a fantasy. The training you do today is real.”