Trust me, you don’t need a life plan.

In high school and college, I heard lots of talk from friends and teachers about “having a life plan.” Five-year, 10-year, 15-year plans: Career moves, marriage, children, whatever it was you wanted in life, you needed to have a clear set of goals to get there. Everybody stressed the importance of having a predetermined path to get to a specific place where you thought you wanted to be.

Over and over again, I’ve seen friends who couldn’t meet the goals outlined in their “life plans” and suffered great anxiety and disappointment because of it.

Through the course of my job, I’ve had the privilege to interview a large number of people who have been deemed “successful” by the world at large: company CEOs, lawyers, doctors, civil servants, athletes, coaches, television personalities, etc. People who have reached the top of their field, according to those around them. And I’ve started to see a common thread running through all my interviews.

They didn’t have a “life plan.” They didn’t follow a set of goals to get to where they are today. In many cases, they aren’t even in the fields they intended to be in and wound up where they are largely by happy accident.

Bill Rhodes, president and CEO of AutoZone, was hired into his first auditing job (which later led directly to his AutoZone position) not because of his auditing skills, but because that company had an interdepartmental golf challenge each year, and Rhodes was an all-star college golfer.

He is CEO today, ultimately, because he could hit a golf ball. (He’s an excellent leader and has done great things for that company, but we’re just focusing on the beginning steps here.)

Houston Gordon, a nationally-recognized trial lawyer, took the exam to go to law school because his friends were taking it, and he happened to have enough money to pay the exam fee. Then, while in law school, he joined the National Moot Court Team because a friend saw a flyer and wanted to try out. He didn’t even know what the word “moot” meant! (Told me that himself earlier this week.)

His experience on that team led directly to a position with the Army JAG Corps in the ’70s, during which time he served as primary defense lawyer for Lt. William Calley, a case well-known by those who grew up in the Vietnam era. That case in turn changed him from a tax lawyer to a trial lawyer, and he went on to change the national laws and procedures for half-a-dozen different legal charges. He’s consistently named one of the top-100 trial lawyers in the country, is the winner of dozens of awards and is highly sought-after by clients all over the nation.

No life plan. Just enough money in the bank to take the law school aptitude test.

So I’ve come to this conclusion: having a set “life plan” probably holds us back from many things. Houston Gordon intended to be a professional basketball player. Think of how different the legal world would be if he’d been successful on that path.

I think it is of more benefit to teach our high school and college students to have a good enough educational, spiritual, physical and emotional foundation to be able to accept new opportunities when they come and take the chances that may be offered along the way. Who knows, maybe the person who could have cured cancer ended up teaching mathematics at a high school somewhere because that was his/her original “life goal” and he/she never even considered any other field.

Be open to change. Don’t fear opportunity. Maybe taking life by the horns is the best way to get where you’re truly meant to go.

Happy weekend,

The Missus

 

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Weeks ago, my husband nudged me awake.

“Babe, your alarm is going off.”

Wait… what…?

I sat up and listened. Hard.

“I don’t hear anything.”

He pushed me again.

“Trust me. Your alarm is going off.”

So I rolled to the edge of the bed and, sure enough, my iPad screen was on and a still, small sound was barely audible. I’d left the volume turned down to the lowest possible setting from the night before. I pushed the button and rolled back over.

“How can you hear that but you can’t hear me when I’m talking to you?”

“What? I dunno.”

[flash forward a few days]

“Honey, I still don’t know how you could hear my alarm the other day, but you can’t hear me when I’m talking to you. I was right next to it, and I couldn’t hear it ringing.”

“Well, I spend all day, every day, listening for small sound changes. Heart murmurs, valves closing, that sort of thing. So big sounds just get tuned out. You talk all the time. You’re a big sound. I don’t even hear those anymore.”

…….

…….

…….

Well, there you have it.

😉

Lines

Anyone who is or has ever been a Gilmore Girls fan knows Rory Gilmore is supposedly a world-class journalist. She ends the original series with a post-graduation position as a press corps member on the first Obama presidential campaign – a job that would be demanding, stressful, challenging and incredible, regardless of political party. 

In the newly released four additional episodes, “A Year in the Life,” Rory takes a writing assignment “on spec” (without pay until the article is finished and accepted for publication) for a major magazine. The pitch, called “Lines,” is supposed to focus on the long lines prevalent in New York City for everything from store openings to special sales to mystery guest appearances and the people who spend their time waiting in them. 

Rory spends several hours one morning interviewing people standing in various lines and asks a lot of random, disconnected questions about the things they are waiting to buy. She ultimately goes home disapponted and unable to find an angle to pitch the story at all.

This irritates me to no end because I know exactly how she should write it! The whole point is the human interest aspect – who are these people and why do they spend their time this way? We don’t care what they’re waiting for; we care why they’re waiting! 

Never once does Rory, who has supposedly been published in The New Yorker, ask any significant questions about these people’s lives. What backgrounds do they come from? Why are those special sneakers important enough to them to camp out on the sidewalk? Why did the mother she interviews leave her children at home to wait in this particular line? What are these people giving up to have the time to be in these lines, and why is it worth the sacrifice? 

She even runs into a man who doesn’t know what he’s waiting in line for! He just saw a line of people and got in it, figuring he didn’t want to miss out on whatever they might be waiting for! Now, if you can’t pull a story from that then you aren’t worth your salt as a journalist. 

I love human interest stories! I love writing them and I love the interviews that tell you more about the lives behind the faces you see on the street. I could have pitched a whole series of articles on the different reasons, personalities and backgrounds of people in New York’s infamous lines! In fact, I would love to do that! I love our quiet little town, but sometimes I wonder what things I could have done somewhere else. 

I may be burned at the stake for this, but I am very disappointed in Rory Gilmore.

What was all that Yale education for, anyhow?