What Words Will Define Your Life in the Next Decade?

I am 66 years old, and I know I need a 10-year plan.

Here’s why.

In ten years, I’ll be 76. My oldest grandchild will be 16 and driving. My four children will range in age from 36 to late 40s. My close friends will be in their early 70s to mid-80s. 

My business for the last 25 years was investing in startups. In ten years, every one of my investments will be resolved. Even the one that is over ten years old at this writing. My angel investing career will be officially over.

I will have lived in my “new” condo for 16 years. I will have given up riding motorcycles. I will weigh less, sleep less, have less sex, be less active, and less involved. I will be focused more on endings than beginnings. Health and doctors will become a bigger part of my life. There will be funerals and eulogies instead of weddings and toasts. Hospital visits. Home visits. Prayer for more friends and family who are ill and need the healing hand of God right now.

This is a strange stage of life. 

Strange to me as I haven’t walked it. It is the end-stage. There is still a lot of life left, but there is a definite end to it all. 

I was speaking to a friend who had a vision for his life after retiring. He had just turned 65. His plan was simple and well thought out. At 65, he was going to cut back his work to three days a week for three years. He was then going to retire, move to a golf community, join the club, and enjoy his newfound freedom, friends, and golf. He figured he would schedule Sunday suppers with his kids and grandchildren. And he would watch them all get older and more accomplished as he aged gracefully. 

Then, unexpectedly, he found a few bumps on his neck. Metastasized skin cancer was the diagnosis. He’s never been sick a day of his life. When I called him to find out what happened and how he is feeling, he said to me, “You thought I was Superman.” 

And you know what? I did.

Over dinner, he said, “What is my vision now? I don’t have one.”

I had lunch with another friend who has cancer. He said to me, “There are one of three miracles which will happen. One, all the prayers will be answered, and the cancer will disappear. Two, the treatments will kill the cancer. Three, I’ll walk out the door of this restaurant, and the Lord will take me, just like that!” and he snapped his fingers. 

“In any case, they are all good options, even the last one. I am looking forward to being with Jesus for eternity.”

Then a whole new conversation took place between us. 

A conversation I’ve never had with anyone. I asked my friend, “Is there anything you would like me to do for you after you are gone?” I knew at that moment, I had to ask this question. I just knew, so I asked. This led to a discussion which clearly helped settle my friend. He loves his family, friends, and ministry. He wants them all to go forward successfully without him.

I have another friend who almost died of a brain hemorrhage. He can’t stop thinking about what he needs to be doing for God. “He saved me from certain death. God must have a plan for my life, even now in my 70s.” Then he proceeded to tell me of other men who had amazing multi-generational impact for the Kingdom of God. 

So he is filled with ideas. But he is slow to recover. He does not have the energy he once had. Nor does he have the physical resiliency. It was brain trauma, and those types of injuries take a long time to heal. 

With all this going on, I was thinking, “I need a ten-year plan.” 

The last plan, when I turned 40, was a 20-year plan. I thought then that the runway of life was long, exciting, and without end. I accomplished that plan.

Here’s the plan I put in place at 40: “I will help start 20 businesses over the next 20 years. At 60 years old, I’ll look back and say, ‘Now that was a successful career.’”

Looking back does not bring fulfillment.

I don’t have a rearview mirror. I’m always looking forward to the next new thing. I’m 66, and I’ve been without a plan for six years. I’ve been operating day to day with no clear objective. I’ve been purely opportunistic. I feel like I’m drifting. It’s time to put a stake in the ground. Time is evaporating. I want to be on purpose again. 

Oh yeah, and I’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer, among other medical conditions. This diagnosis was simply another reminder that I am not forever. There is an end to this runway.

Purpose is easier at 20. Challenging at 40. Crazy hard at 66.

At 20, my purpose was to establish myself and my value to society. Then, once established, I needed to capitalize on it, enjoy the rewards, and build a family and a life. At 40, my purpose was to serve God and his purpose. And to do it by serving others. I used my interest and experience in business to help entrepreneurs achieve their dream of starting and leading their own company. 

Now what?

At 66, the money motivation isn’t there anymore. Nor is the interest in partnering with entrepreneurs in starting new businesses. The interest is purer and clearer. It is about relationships. Helping people. Not everyone. But the people God puts in front of me. This includes my family, friends, and next-generation leaders.

Seven words that define my 10-year plan

Love. Learn. Serve. Give. Write. Speak. Enjoy.

I came to these verbs by reading the Bible recently. I always say, “When in doubt, ask God.” I ran across the Apostle Paul speaking to Titus, his next-generation leader. Paul is old and imprisoned, and he shares this life advice.

Our people must learn to do good by meeting the urgent needs of others; then they will not be unproductive. Titus 3:14

And in Hebrews 6:11-12, Pauls writes, “Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.”

This is my stage of life. I am creating SMART Goals for 2020 around each of these verbs. Maybe I’ll even share them with you so you see how I intend to live them.

Ten years from now…

I want to look back over these upcoming ten years, when I am 76 years old, and say, “That was ten years lived well. Thank you, Lord, for the extra time.” I’m not counting on it, but who knows, maybe by then, I will have a rearview mirror. 

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One thought on “What Words Will Define Your Life in the Next Decade?

  1. I don’t know if this speaks to anyone else, but it speaks to me. Part of my issue as I get older is that so few of my friends wrestle with their life transitions in a transparent way that allows others to learn and be encouraged. Thanks for taking the time and having the courage to share your journey.

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