A couple of decades ago a friend and I were sitting on the beach reading, chatting, and watching our little girls frolic on the strand. We did that a lot. There was nothing we liked better than packing a lunch, loading a cooler with ice and soft drinks, putting supplies (towels, sunscreen, books) in our beach bags and heading to the beach for a couple of hours. Those were the days, my friend, the lazy, crazy days of summer, “days of soda and pretzels and beer.”
As fond as I am of beach memories, that’s not the real purpose of this post. It’s to share something from a book that Lynn and I read that summer, a book that changed both of our lives. Entitled If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, You’ll Probably End Up Somewhere Else by David Campbell, the book’s message was both simple and profound. You need to think seriously about where you want to go and then come up with some specific plans to get there. This probably sounds like one of the dozen or so goal setting books you’ve already read, but this one is different in that the author has an engaging, upbeat writing style that manages to keep your attention while addressing some pretty heavy duty issues. After reading it, Lynn and I got our acts together.
There are several concepts I could write about today, but the one that’s most on my mind is the one in which Campbell talks about a long range plan, the one that you want to be living in ten years. What do you see yourself doing in ten years? He then goes on to remind the readers that things can happen, plans can go awry. Regardless of whatever else happens, however, Campbell speaks a simple truth: You will be ten years older.
When Lynn and I read this slim little volume, we were in our 30’s, enjoying our children, our jobs, and yes, yes, yes, our days in the sun. Our husbands were decent, hard working men, our parents were still alive and healthy, and life stretched before us. Sure, there were things we’d like to change…but later, next year…or maybe the one after that. One day, we dreamed, we’d have a different house, a bigger bank account, a more exciting job. Next year. One day.
Campbell told his readers that if they were 17 and reading the book, that in ten years they’d be 27 and that the likelihood of certain things happening were pretty good. Maybe the person would be out of high school and maybe college too. He or she would be out of the parental home, have a job, own a car and maybe a house, etc. In other words, the teen would be an adult. Interesting, we thought. A page or two later, we read the part that shook us up a bit. Campbell said that if the reader were 37 and reading the book, then in ten years she would be 47!! Huh? Lynn and I didn’t like thinking of that one little bit. Furthermore, the author said that by that time a person would be well into middle age, the children would be leaving home (or GONE), and she would have become about as useful as she was going to be to the employer. The person’s income would probably be about as high as it was going to be.
Yes, I know there are all kinds of exceptions to this, but for us, this prediction struck a responsive chord. Here’s what happened. She and her husband both resigned from their jobs that summer and began working at educational institutions in another area of the state. Both are happier and more fulfilled. There may be days when they miss the days of lounging on the beach and eating ham sandwiches gritty with sand, but if so, they can afford a little beach vacation.
I just ordered an updated version of this book and am in the process of rereading it. In ten years, I’ll be in later adulthood, retired and hopefully back on the beach reading books, going for long walks, watching the happy frolicking children, and feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin lathered in sunscreen. An occasional ham sandwich gritty with sand would be nice too.
Over twenty years have passed since Lynn and I first read Campbell’s words, and it seems like yesterday. Bottom line. How old will you be in ten years, and what kind of life do you see yourself living? More importantly, what are you doing today to prepare for it?