Preparing for your interviews your senior year at Penn State you ran through the rigor of mock interviews and scripted lines that sounded appealing to the business world. At 22, your mom handed you your 5 suits from Jos A Bank, you pick the bland one, straightened your tie that you had your fraternity brother teach you how to knot and you went to the career fair to interview as if you were on a lazy susan table. You were asked to regurgitate your back story, your school involvement and your career plan. “What’s your five year plan?” The question that we all prepared for, the question that we all have an answer for, the question that none of us truly know.
“What is your five year plan, Eric?”
“Well, I think I’d like to get some exposure to the financial markets, build up a firm understanding of financial products and the general landscape of global markets and then use that knowledge to embark on a career in asset management to manage private client money and become a true advisor for their financial future.”
Young Dumb Broke and Dellussional
That was my five year plan, I wanted to be a financial advisor. I wanted to help people make smarter decisions with their money. Heck, if I could use a mint account and open up a brokerage account, why wouldn’t I be able to help the millions of Americans who needed sage financial advice as well? I always sold myself as the advisor type, the type that people trusted upon first interaction. I never fully appreciated authority and I loved the concept of being a self starter advisor, even if I knew the complete anxiety that my body underwent every time I tried to start something new. While the five year plan was five years away from materializing, I knew that I had a goal now. I had an intermediary purpose and steps to take: get some financial markets experience at Bloomberg. Funny enough, life has a way of throwing curveballs at you.
I was fired from my financial market gathering experience after two years, I landed in tech sales, found it to be a natural fit, a fun environment and a space that allowed me to use my true personality. I found a team of other like minded and fast individuals at Floored, found out that real estate was a great industry that matched perfectly with my love for experiencing the world in the physical environment and quickly became enamored with the personalities in the business. I gained the experience of an acquisition by being gobbled up by a bigger organization and then I woke up and realized I was 27 and not a financial advisor. I’ve well surpassed my 5 year work anniversary, I’m moving to Los Angeles, I’m following my head and my heart simultaneously. My plans have changed. Can’t I revert back to the early days? Mom, can you still pack my lunch?!?
Optimizing for Lifestyle
Some people lay the groundwork from age 5 and they accomplish their goal. The news caster that always dreamt of being on TV or the investment banker that coddled the idea of advising companies to make M&A transactions (yes some people claim to have wanted to be an IBanker their whole life), etc. Their entire life is dedicated to that goal. Some people meander through life with no goal and no objectives, their entire life is dedicated to obfuscating the structure of goal setting. Some people want to smell the roses and taste every marbled inch of the steak, want to see every city, ask every question, talk to every one in their vicinity and learn until they drop. We’re all wired differently. The 5 year plan setting exercise is one way to structure the question of our future but I believe there are other ways to structure the important question about your career and your future. What kind of life do you want to live?
I was asked this by an executive at my company and then a day later by my Rabbi and I frequently ask myself this question. Do you want to live a life where you run from high to high – short term gain and immediate gratification? Do you want to live a life where more is the only way forward and money is your sole end destination? Do you want to live a life with heightened qualities of the subtleties with a community of friends and family that feel similarly? I think the last one sounds most appealing to me but why do we not always act in accordance with what we say we want? Why do we often times say one thing to certain people and another to a different audience – why do we put on the act to make people like us or feel for us? If you say you don’t do it, it’s only because you’re not conscious you’re doing it. Telling your spiritual leader you want to do more but then going home and sitting on the couch only to think about it more - acting in an anachronous way. Telling your boss you’re passionate about something but not showing it through your actions and pushing it off to “tomorrow”. And what do we say about new beginnings?
New Beginnings, Same conviction
With new beginnings comes new plans. With a change of plans comes relief, relief that we were not held accountable for what we thought we wanted. In fact, it’s a very Jewish concept that every year during Rosh Hashana that you are relieved of your vows from the year before (by going in front of three men of your congregation). You are no longer obligated by the things you committed to within the last year. This is a fascinating concept and one that can easily be abused if taken to heart in the wrong way. While accountability is important for things you are committed to do, revision to one’s convictions is a very human thing and one that we need to account for when we are receiving new information.
What you thought was the right thing at the time might not now be the best use of your efforts. This is not to say that you can remove yourself from all obligations and in fact it’s quite the opposite. There are certain obligations you will never be able to escape. Accountability for growth and continuous learning. As folks at CBRE say, "directionally correct, specifically flexible." This is growth in your career, growth in your personal relationships, learning in your world, learning to be a better person, learning to be better at your job, learning to be better with your time. Your accountable for moving all those in the right direction. Withdrawing yourself from the commitment to learn how to structure a fixed for float interest rate swap using current LIBOR rates - totally fair if it's no longer aligned with your larger goals of betterment. So how do you plan for all this and put a time frame on it?
Five years later, New Plan?
What is a five year plan after all? It’s a prediction. It’s an educated guess based on your current feelings, life experience and influences in your life. It’s making a prediction with all of the information you have available but none of the information you will have in those years leading throughout your five years. Do you ever take the time to revise as new information is presented? Do you revise your existing five year plan? Two years after your proclamation of your five year plan do you adjust to create your three year plan - or - is it a rolling five year plan and you continue to think five years out?
If you were to ask me today what my five year plan would be I would likely tell you that I’m a pure opportunist and that I don’t make five year plans. Similar to my decision to stop making new years resolutions, it only sets you up for failure – failure of the specifics. I know myself, I’m not a long term planner but I’m working on becoming a long-term thinker. I’m an investor by nature, I’m a sales person by skill and my mission statement in life is centered around a style of learning and applying it to how I see the world. I have faith in God’s commandments and code of law and I hold myself fully accountable for the action item I've proclaimed to experience the world to its fullest. Eric, this is your mission. This was your mission at age 22 and your mission at 27 and it will be you mission at age 32.
Shave, Stand straight, Don't eat hot wings and Say I Love You
Subsequent to your answer of the five year plan, you were quickly asked about your ten year plan. As a 22 year old, the concept of aging is unfathomable and the idea that I would one day be 30 was just out of the question, out of the spherical understanding of my undergraduate comprehension. The idea that now I would have to compound my five year answer and keep it relevant and aligned with where I’d been the five years prior just didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. I felt like I was being pigeon holed.
I know myself better now and while I’ll tell you Eric, aged 22, that you think you know yourself now, just wait, it’s going to become even more clear with time. Find your conviction of lifestyle and gun for it - your career choices will be aligned with the life you want to live. Don’t ever get swayed by the brands, the influencers, the look, the nonsense, you have to look inside for those answers. All I can tell you is that it’s early: be like the sail and know where you originally docked but when the wind finally takes you, steer it in the right direction because one day you’ll have looked back and seen how much amazing terrain you’ve covered.
L’Chaim Eric (22) – smile a lot!