There are generally two types of people in the world. Those who let life happen to them and those who happen to life – think the difference between anybody successful and that co-worker of yours who is always complaining about their “bad” luck. The successful group is that they are constantly thinking about where they want to be 1, 5, or 10 years from now and consistently using this as a guide to decide what they should do with their time. Some time ago, I wrote a blog on IGU (Intentionally Growing Up) and those who adopt this philosophy typically live more well-rounded and successful lives than others because this allows them to make better decisions about where they want to go and what they want to accomplish. To take this a step further, these people typically look at their lives in phases in which they are focused on the most important things for them at that time in, so they can make easier decisions. Everyone’s time frame is different, but below, I’ll give you the primary phases in individuals lives, what you should be considering at that time, and some planning tips to help you thrive when this time comes.
Foundation / party stage (Start age – 18-22 / Stop age – 28-32)
This is that time in your life when every thing should be pretty simple. You are a newly graduated college/high school student (I said high school because I don’t truly believe you HAVE to go to college, but it does increase your chances a bit…who am I kidding? A LOT) with the world at your beck and call. There is so much you can accomplish, and you should focus on putting in the hours at work to do so. This is your grinding time. As corny as it sounds, you REALLY should be the first to the office and one of the last to leave. I would highly discourage anyone from getting married or having kids during this time, as it will honestly inhibit your ability to devote the time to your job to be great. And just like Trick Daddy, “I love the kids,”, but it just doesn’t make sense to take on so much serious responsibility at a time that you are just trying to figure out what career you want. This is the time in your life when you typically be your most selfish, as you have to work on developing your abilities as a great business professional and individual. This should be a time of intense personal development in which you are identifying different courses (Toastmasters, educational courses, etc.) in which you are honing your craft and becoming great at what you do. This should also be the time where you have a lot of fun on the weekends, as there is something to be said about partying and experiencing a lot of things to truly be able to say you have had a well-rounded life and can tell your kids that you weren’t really as much of a square as they may think you were.
Leader / family stage (Start age: 28-32 / Stop age 38-42)
If you executing the first stage correctly, this should be around the time in which you are exploring leadership opportunities within your company or own your own. At this time, you should’ve earned the respect of your colleagues or those in whatever industry you are focused on due to your intense work ethic and overall drive. Leadership or entrepreneurial opportunities should be your main focus. At this stage, the education does not end, but actually increases as you look to continue to build your brand in the market and make sure all are aware of your abilities or talents as a whole. In most companies, this would translate to a Director position of some type, while in the entrepreneurial world, this will involve you becoming known as an expert in your field through blogging, industry specific events, or publications. From a personal standpoint, this is when the “party life” should begin to take a little bit of a back seat, as the level of dedication that you will have to devote to being successful actually increases and the threat of hurting your professional brand through your personal exploits will not be worth whatever fun you think you’re having. From a practical standpoint as well, you want to begin to give off the image of a elder professional who is committed to high levels of success, and this is sometimes not quite congruent with the person who is constantly buying tables and popping bottles at the local night club. Also, partying can be hard on the body, and if you have been enjoying life as you should in your younger days (think morning of waking up and asking “How many shots did I have?”), doing it for more than 8-10 years can begin to take a little bit of a toll. Look at Ozzy Obsbourne. From a dating perspective, now is the time to start slowing down and considering dating someone serious. It doesn’t mean you need to marry them by any respect. You just need to start looking at building something long term with someone who compliments what you are trying to achieve at this stage in your life. Being a leader/building an empire, can be lonely at times if you don’t have some to share it with for consistent different perspective and sometimes just to listen.
Executive / Continuous challenge stage (Start age: 38-42 / Stop age; Death)
This is the stage of your life in which you take your game to the next level of achievement. It is at this stage in which you are looking to move into a C-level position with your current company or are growing your business to a conglomerate level in which you are managing “operations” as opposed to the day to day minutiae of the business. The reason for this is that between the age of 35-55, you are at your highest earning potential and, therefore, should’ve accelerated your career/life to a point in which you are seen more as an industry leader/boss than an individual contributor any more. If you have planned accordingly and executed the correct steps to help grow your brand/business from newbie/fledging start-up to respected industry leader/dominant corporation, you should be living a life of financial freedom at this point with exponential growth on the horizon. When I thought about what would be the personal side of this stage, I initially considered retirement stage, but nobody would be retiring at such a young age. And even though some people are always saying they can’t wait until retirement, I’m a little different since I don’t quite believe in retirement. I think, instead, you should look at your life as a series of continuous challenges to keep your mind sharp and your drive alive. When I hear retirement, I think of people sitting in rocking chairs sipping lemonade all day – not an image I want for myself. Instead, I think the concept of continuous challenges (always looking for something new to start to keep you learning and working) will keep people engaged and excited about their lives to help prevent that funk that some people get in their mid-forties – known as a midlife crisis.
Look, there are no simple guidelines that one can truly give to others about life, but it is my belief that if you take these phases of life to heart, this will be a good guide to help you make an evaluation if you are moving in the right direction for ultimate success in life. And while the start and stop age can be some what subjective, getting out of the party age at 42 will probably have you looking like the old man in the club – and NOBODY wants to be that guy.