Recently, I had lunch with a 30-year-old guy who was seeking advice. He flattered me, saying that he was reaching out to successful people to get the benefit of their wisdom. He told me his goal was to have $10 million in the bank by the time he reached the age of 40.
“How do you plan to achieve that?” I asked him.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “I’m still working on that.”
“That’s $1 million per year,” I said. “What’s your plan for this year?”
His answer wasn’t any better.
Quoting Confucius is a cliché. But clichés get to be clichés because they resonate. As I was chomping on my romaine, I thought I might offer this Confucian quote:
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” *
By the time I swallowed, I had another thought. A single step does one no good if it is not taken in the right direction. And, my lunch companion had no sense of direction.
Better to start with a vision…
“What does your life look like in 10 years?” I asked. “Your bank account is only one part of your life. What does the rest of it look like?”
Once you have that vision, money may not be a major factor.
If your vision includes meaningful, enjoyable work and a loving family with time to enjoy them, having millions of dollars isn’t a factor. About 75 grand a year should do the trick. If you want to add saving for the kids’ college education and for retirement, about a hundred grand should do.
Defining the vision is the most important first step on your journey of a thousand miles. Then every step you take can be evaluated in terms of whether it takes you toward your vision or away from it.
* It turns out the source of the quote was Lao Tse, founder of Taoism.