Decade Thinking: Learning to think like Walt Disney, Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, and Jeff Bezos
One of my favorite genres to read is biography. I am fascinated with the ups and downs of people’s lives, the bodies of work they create over a lifetime (all the time being judged for their latest offering), and the arc of their lives. It gives perspective to my here and now.
Twenty years ago, I read three biographies of Walt Disney. The one idea that fascinated me was that he wrote a fifty-year plan for Disneyland long before his dream became a reality. Since that time, I have started several organizations and every time I have set down a fifty-year plan in writing.
We avoid this type of planning because we tell ourselves the world is changing too quickly. The world is changing, but that makes vision more important than ever before. We make sense of what is changing by considering in the context of what is unchanging.
Walt Disney, Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Henry Ford, and Elon Musk, all leveraged decade thinking on their paths to extraordinary achievement.
Decade thinking can be a gamechanger for your life and for your business, too.
A new decade just began – January 1, 2021 – and it seems nobody noticed. In our live for the now, instant gratification addicted culture, the idea of pondering the decade ahead is cast aside as one more unnecessary relic from the past. Or is it? Are we better or worse off for not pausing to ponder the new decade and all its possibilities? Worse, I would say. Considerable worse off. Here’s why.
The period of time we think most about has an enormous impact on our lives. We have all had the experience of asking someone at the store, “How are you?” and having them reply, “I’ll be better in forty-five minutes when I get done with work.” This obsession with the end of the shift is astoundingly damaging to the human spirit.
Adjust the period of time you think about and your life will change. One of the simplest and most powerful coaching techniques we use at Floyd surrounds an exercise we use to help people change their time horizon. Most people don’t regularly think about their lives three, five, or ten years from now. As a result, their hopes and dreams remain always at arms-length.
Take an hour and write down your hopes and dreams for this year, for the next five years, for the next ten years. When you are done, sit with those pages and reflect on how you feel. Most people feel more passionate and purposeful about their lives. Most people have more enthusiasm for their lives. And enthusiasm for life is the secret of eternal youth.
But the most people won’t do the exercise at all. They will find some reason to dismiss it.
For decades, thought leaders have been telling us to focus on the now, live for the now, get lost in the now, and live as if we are dying. There is an element of wisdom to this, but it is only one side of a two-sided equation. The second side is hoping, dreaming, and planning for the future.
If you live every day as if it were you last day, you would never save any money, develop meaningful and lasting relationships, make your health a priority, and so many of the other things that enrich our lives over time.
“Most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year and underestimate what they can accomplish in a decade.” This quote has been attributed to everyone from Marcus Aurelius to Bill Gates and Anthony Robbins. It is true except for one thing, most people never consider what they would like to accomplish over the next decade, so they neither underestimate nor overestimate what is possible. They don’t even consider the possibilities.
This is the tragedy of the unnoticed new decade that just began. Its possibilities are also unexplored.
I am an introvert. I am not comfortable being in groups, large or small, especially with people I don’t know. In social settings, I tend to gravitate to one person, find out what they know more about than anything in the world, and try to learn as much about that topic as possible.
Several years ago, I had such an encounter with an architect. We got talking and I discovered her specialty was designing luxury homes. I asked about her approach, and she explained something that has fascinated me ever since.
“The majority of people build a home to accommodate a family,” she explained. “What they don’t realize is that how they will use this home they are designing and building, will change every five years for twenty-five years, and then every ten years for as long as they live in it.” She went on to explain, “Most people design a home for their needs today, not realizing that by the time the two-to-four-year process of designing and building a luxury home is finished, their needs will have already changed.”
The architect went on to explain that she uses an exercise to help people envision how the ways they use the home will change over time. She begins by having them lay out the next twenty-five years in five-year increments: today, five years from now, ten years from now, fifteen years, twenty years, and twenty-five years from now. Write down how old they will be at each interval. Write down how old their children will be at each interval. Write down which rooms in the home will be the most important during each five-year period.
The exercise radically alters the homes people design and build. Just as similar exercises about our hopes and dreams will radically alter the way we live our lives. Our priorities around money also tend to change every five years, too.
A new decade is before you, what would you like to do with it? What one outrageous goal would you like to accomplish this decade? It may not be possible this year or next, but give you’re a decade and amazing possibilities unfold. What ten things would you like to experience or accomplish between now and the end of 2030? Write them down and spend ten minutes reflecting on what you write down each Sunday afternoon.
It will change your life instantly and forever. Instantly, because it will inject you with new enthusiasm for your life. Forever, because simply by doing this exercise you will begin to learn a quintessential life skill: the ability to look into the future - with your heart, mind, and soul - and envision a bigger and better future.
Don’t take my word for it. The beauty of this theory is you can put it to the test. But I suspect you can already feel a renewed enthusiasm stirring in your loins.
We spend more time planning our vacations than we spend planning our lives. It’s time to change that. Decade thinking is a life skill that nobody teaches and everybody needs. We are at the beginning of a new decade, and there is no better time to learn decade-thinking.
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