Well, we’re all professionals, right? We know that you have to focus on the long term, don’t we? But is that really the right approach – I’m going to borrow from the laws of physics to suggest an alternative viewpoint.
In physics, focused light passes through a focal point and then expands. And the closer to the light source the focal point is, the more the light expands afterwards. So to create a large area of light – let’s say the projection of a movie, perhaps – we need a focal point that is much closer to the light source than it is to the screen.
Now think about that image as the movie of your life, projected up there onto the screen of your future in glorious technicolor. It’s no good putting your focus too far forward – that way you end up with a nice little home movie for your family and friends. If you want the story of your life to be a blockbuster, the sooner you start to take focused action towards it, the bigger and the more star-studded an experience it’s going to be.
So what’s the problem with working with a long focal length? Its simply that when you are too focused on the long-term future, its all too easy to explain away a lack of progress, calling it “taking a long term view”, and to kid yourself that you have plenty of time to put it right.
At 52 years old, I can tell you that the long term future has a nasty habit of creeping up on you!
I started out in my entrepreneurial journey nine years ago, aged 43. When I left corporate life, I worked out that I had another 20 years ahead of me – as long again as I had already spent gaining experience and achieving a lot in business – albeit for someone else. So, no rush – right?
Wrong! That laid-back approach means that nearly half- way through the 20 years I gave myself, I’m not as far forward as I wanted to be. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a whale of a time, but I know I’m not living up to my potential.
Contrast that to my friend Tom – in those same 9 years he has completed 3 successful projects and sold and moved on from two of them – while still having a great time. And I’ve noticed that Tom always sets short goals for himself – 2 or 3 years at the most.
How would your life change if you worked on shorter goals?