If you could Design your Future, What would it Look Like?

We believe planning should start when we are young, preferably when we are still in school.  Individuals plan their future.  Governments plan their future.  But the best planning in the world is probably performed by large companies.

Consider the company Apple.  Apple without Steven Jobs brings up images of the Titanic heading for the bottom of the ocean.  When Steven Jobs took the helm again at Apple, Apple became one of the most dynamic companies in history.  It changed almost every American’s life.  What made Steven Jobs so successful?  I promise you it was not focusing on the daily management issues or monthly earnings of the company.  Steven Jobs was a visionary.  He envisioned the future and then created that future.  That is what we mean about planning for your future.  It was Steven Jobs’ forward thinking that took a near bankrupt company and turned it into one of the most influential businesses in the world.

This act of forward thinking, this ability to envision what a business or a person’s future should look like, is what we have in mind for you when you plan your future.  If today, in this moment, if the now that is echoing in your mind, is the beginning of the rest of your life, we pose one question to you:  Given the infinite possibilities or directions your life could take, which path will you select?

Before I started my first job, I asked the partner at Arthur Andersen & Co. moments after he offered me a job if I could take a few months and go to Europe.  Sy, the partner, was dumbfounded by the question.  He left the room.  After a brief discussion with other partners a decision was made to let me go to Europe before I started working there.  It was felt I would benefit from the multi-cultural experience, especially since Arthur Andersen was a worldwide company.  So they let me go.

In Europe, I learned a lot about other cultures that proved to be of great value to me. I would later be a financial officer for a Dutch owned company.  I was selected by the President to meet all incoming guests from Europe and other nations to help them get accustomed to working in America.  This selection probably had a lot to do with that trip I previously made to Europe.

While in Europe I met the reigning Miss America and travelled with her.  Her view of the Europeans and Americans further influenced my understanding of and ability to work with people from other cultures.  Miss America influenced my feelings about love.

Have you ever thought about quitting your job and moving to a tropical paradise?  We had a client, a single woman, who closed down her successful business in Atlanta, had a male friend take her on his sailboat to Belize, where she opened a stylish clothing store.  I assure you that move changed her life forever.

Do you have a Belize dream?  If you were single, would you run away with a man or woman and go to another country?  Does that sound romantic to you?

It puzzles us that individuals tend to plan the next year of their life by doing what they are already doing or by doing something they did well in their past.  People are amazingly uncreative.  How many people pack their bags and move to California in hopes to become actors?  Far fewer than you might imagine, when you consider how many of us spent our childhood lives wondering what it would be like to be an actor or actress.  What keeps us from doing that?

How many good students are told by teachers, “You should be a doctor,” or “You should be a lawyer.”  And they do exactly what their teachers say to do.

How many young men become policemen, because their dad or granddad worked as policemen?  How many become firemen for the same reason?

How many Fortune 500 companies are run by presidents who continue doing exactly what they have done for decades or even generations?  Yet you can count on one hand the number of true visionaries in the business world.  Steven Jobs created the first laptop, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, the iPod Nano, the iPod Touch and the iPod Shuffle.  While away from Apple, he ramped up a company, Pixar, and redesigned how cartoon movies were created.  You know Pixar…they created Toy Story and many other three dimensional type pictures via computer animation.  Any other CEO would have stopped after one success.  And consider this…how many of us stop with no successes under our belt.

Now consider the majority of the Fortune 500 companies who create nothing new, and continue the status quo.  That’s right, nothing new.  They don’t have an iAnything, they don’t have a Pixar or a laptop computer under their belt, and they are still paid tens of millions of dollars a year.

Consider Walt Disney.  He had a job at a newspaper and was fired because he was told he lacked creativity.  It is the authors’ belief that in fact Walt Disney was so creative that his boss didn’t know how to deal with him.  Walt Disney went on to create Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Mini Mouse, Goofy, Pluto, all of the Disney characters, cartoons on television, incredible movies using manual drawings with fascinating stories.  He created Disneyland in California, laid the foundation for Disney World in Florida, including Epcot center.  Disney went on to create ESPN, Disney Cruises and hundreds of wonderful movies that have no cartoons.  Walt and Roy Disney were not only visionaries, but by hiring Michael Eisner, selected a CEO who continued the visionary pattern of the founders.  Today Disney has replaced creative genius with the “ho hum” of status quo management.

Do you get the difference?  One executive accepts the status quo.  Another is never satisfied with the status quo.  They all plan.  That is the job, the primary job of a Fortune 500 CEO:  To get a vision, and to guide their company in the direction of their vision.  Yet today, most of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are baby sitters that never had a creative thought in their lives.

If these people who are paid millions of dollars a year, and whose sole job is to design the future of their company and can’t do it, what makes you think you can?  But you can.  Think about it!

Most of us accept what we are handed and never think outside of the box.  But thinking outside the box is exactly what we are asking you to do.  Think about your future.  Really think about it.  Don’t just accept what you are handed.  Change your life.  Shake it up.  Don’t just go to work.  Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life.

How old do you want to be when you design the rest of your life:  60, 65 or older?  Yet this is the age most of us are when we first consider hiring a financial planner.  Please!  Get a life!

Dutch Sheets wrote a book entitled Dream.  He is a Christian minister.  In the book he describes a tenant of Christianity, which he says is:  God enters us and works through us.  Here are some of the thoughts he has about dreaming, specifically dreaming about your future life:

There is a verse of Scripture that addresses this and has meant a great deal to Ceci (his wife) and me over the years:  “Roll your works on the Lord.  Commit and trust them wholly to Him.  He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and so shall your plans be established and succeed.” (Proverbs 16:3 AMP words of King Solomon)…

Dreaming works so much better when we bring the Author of dreams (God) into the plans.

Proverbs 19:21…  “Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord will stand.”  (Once again, words of King Solomon).

Dutch has a chapter in the book called Dream or Decorate.  This is what he says:

No one imagined Charles Dutton would ever amount to anything, for he spent many years imprisoned for manslaughter.  When asked how he was able to make such a remarkable transition, this now-successful Broadway star replied, “unlike the other prisoners, I never decorated my cell.”…. cells come in all shapes and sizes.  If allowed, they will imprison you in a confined place of isolation, despair, hopelessness and inactivity.  Their ultimate effect, if not checked, will be to rob you of your future….

God didn’t want a family of independent dreamers; He desired co-dreamers.  It was never His plan that we dream apart from Him and His influence—not because He’s a control freak, but because He wanted partners and associates.  God wanted someone to dream with and someone to dream through.  He needed outlets for His dreams.

While the belief the Holy Spirit can enter Christians, it seems to be a common theme to most religions, except for atheists.  Dreaming about your future, while a somewhat selfish act, really is about fulfilling your destiny in life, the destiny God has called you to fulfill.

Have you ever thought about designing your ideal life?  Well if you are going to spend the time to design your life, why not make it ideal?  It’s your dream about your future.

Imagine you haven’t been born yet.  Imagine you are with God in Heaven and he is asking you what you want your life to look like?  But then God says something remarkable to you.  He says “You will have free will to choose your own life after you are born.”  You then look at Him as if He lost his mind.  Remember, you are looking at God as if he lost his mind!

Consider what Doc Emmett Brown says to Marty and Jennifer in Back to the Future III.

Jennifer: “Doctor Brown, I’ve got this note from the future and now it’s been erased.”

Doc: “Of course it’s been erased.”

Jennifer:  “But what does that mean?”

Doc:  “It means your future hasn’t been written yet.  No one’s has.  Your future is whatever you make it.  So make it a good one.”

Honestly, most of the clients we advise shut down their ability to make decisions like what their life should look like after they entered grade school and were told to stand in line, say nothing and do nothing.

This is your wakeup call!  It is time to come back to life.  You aren’t dead.  Don’t accept the status quo.  Wouldn’t you single men like to travel through Italy with Miss America?  Wouldn’t you like to join Sinbad on a sailing adventure?  Wouldn’t you single women like to be Kathleen Turner in the romantic movie, Romancing the Stone? And what about you married people, wouldn’t you like to rediscover your romance and love for one another and see the world together?

We heard a story about Marilyn Monroe that is worthy of mention.  When she was a little girl, her mother was walking with her past the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre Restaurant where famous actors put their hands and feet into cement for posterity to see.  It was reported that she said to her mother, “Mom I will put my hands and feet in the cement here one day.”  Could she have known her future when she was such a little girl?  I believe we somehow have wisdom or pre-knowledge about our future lives, even though that is impossible for us to know scientifically.  But if we assume we are called to do things in life, we have a destiny we are to fulfill, and then it makes sense that we get in touch with that inner person and find the direction we are to take.

Whether or not you believe in God does not matter, at least as far as this exercise is concerned.  What matters is that you find that purpose and passion about who you are, what you believe, where you are headed and what your destiny is, and why you are headed there.  (3)  Once you know the answers to those questions, it is critical that you take action to get there no matter the cost.  Go that way as if your soul depends on it and you will accomplish your true dreams in life.

Now take a few minutes and think about these questions (1):

What does your ideal life look like?

What does it feel like?

What does it sound like?

Who are you with?

What are you doing?

Who are you being?

And write down your answers to these questions and ask yourself this:  If your future hasn’t been written yet and you have a future that you really want more than anything else, how will you design it, and what steps will you take to get there?

Discuss the results with your spouse or a friend.  Then ask them to consider the same questions for themselves.  Once you know the answers to these questions then design the lives you want to live together, and do this exercise as if your eternal soul depends on it.  Start the journey NOW!

If you have children, ask them these questions.  It will help you understand who they are and what they want in life and a candid conversation about their future can change their lives forever and for the better.  It can also be used to help have a candid discussion about their self-respect or feelings of inadequacy.  Mom and dad can do a lot to help children overcome their fears, their feelings of inadequacy and give them confidence to overcome even the greatest obstacles.



(1)    We are indebted to Bill Bachrach for these ideas and the concept of designing and living your Ideal Life.

(2)     This values staircase process is outlined in Bill Bachrach’s book Values Based Financial Planning if you would like to explore this further.

(3)    We are indebted to Tom Vicola and his training on Purpose and Passions.