As you may have determined by now, I’m not particularly fond of the word “PLAN”.
I’m an anti-plan kind of guy. Plans restrict me and truthfully, I don’t like being restricted.
Sure, people have financial plans and pension plans and health care plans but that’s not exactly the kind of plan that I’m talking about. What I really want to discuss is the other kind of plan – you know, that all time favorite, the Plan for Your Future…oooohhhh…
Plan for the future? If by ‘future’ we’re talking about the next three hours, sure I’ll give it a shot. Anything beyond that though, no thank you.
Call me naïve, call me misguided, threaten to kidnap my new Olukai extra-arch-support sandals …I’m not changing my stance. I believe that in order to make the most out of every day, you need to be free, both physically (by avoiding prison time) and mentally (by understanding that change is vital). You need to have the ability to constantly alter your course in life, as your goals, opportunities and perspectives change over time.
It doesn’t make sense for me to have a plan for my future. I am simply unable to know what I want 1, 3 or 10 years from now. I know what I want today. To finish this post, go to the beach and drink some iced tea. Tomorrow? No idea.
The thing that bothers me about the word PLAN is that it implies that people must have their life in a neat order, with all the steps figured out ahead of time. In fact, if you don’t have a plan, you must be lost. You must be unfocused, you must be worthless, you MUST NOT BE HUMAN. Where’s your plan, man?
Let me check. Wait a minute, is it in my back pocket? Maybe it’s in my file cabinet? Actually I think it’s…oh, I remember now, I don’t have a plan!
When people discover that I don’t have a concrete plan for my future, they think I’m a bum. And then, while slowly shaking their heads as if I’ve just passed away, they display their authority on the subject of life by declaring to all those around, “he’s wasting his life” and “what a shame, he had so much potential”.
But why doesn’t anyone ever ask me if I’m happy living the way I do? Oh, thanks for asking.
I’m happy. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel around the world for 10 years, start online projects in order to sustain my nomadic lifestyle and accomplish more goals at the age of 32 than I ever thought would be possible by the age of 92.
I’m a happy Earl, just not an Earl with a plan.
Do I have goals? Certainly. How do I achieve them? By following my gut and enjoying the ride.
Home Depot Can’t Help Me
One year ago, I faced a major dilemma.
I had finally quit working on board cruise ships for good and I wanted to continue traveling. Of course, I knew I needed to find a way to earn a living (see, I’m not a bum after all).
So, the question was: How could I continue my first-hand exploration of the world while working the long hours required to achieve financial freedom?
I know what you’re thinking…I needed a PLAN.
Well, I thought differently. A plan is a set of specific procedures used to attain an objective. Sure, if my objective involved anything resembling the normal life path, I’m sure a plan would come in handy. Billions of people have already tread this common path, leaving behind an endless amount of useful tools in the form of resume-building websites, pet adoption agencies and the Home Depot. With that information, I could easily formulate a plan.
But considering that my goals involve freeing myself from the rules of a conventional life, I have no idea just quite yet what the procedures are to attain my objectives. How can I make a plan when I’m learning as I go? As I attain each objective, I could then describe all the procedures I used to get there, but I’m quite sure this wouldn’t be too useful at that point.
I know what you’re thinking. Start with a small plan, Earl. Take small steps, set small goals and proceed from there.
And I shall reply with a somewhat louder than normal “WHY?”. I want my life to be full of boundless and bold leaps and aerial jumps and high dives, not eensy, weensy tip-toeing steps. I just don’t have the time to take it slowly. At that rate I’ll achieve my goals by the time I’m 70. I want to achieve my goals much sooner than that, perhaps by February, or March the latest (joke). The only way I’m going to get there is to leap, running leaps in fact. I’m going to long jump my way through life, clearing obstacles, soaring into the unknown and confidently landing in the places I envision when I ask myself, ‘what do I want to accomplish in life?’ Watch out Irving Saladino!
Now that 2009 is almost over, I can reflect on the past year. What was the result of not having a PLAN?
To begin with, I had two major goals before the year started:
#1 Continue my first-hand exploration of the world
#2 Set up an internet business that earns money and can be run from anywhere
Great stuff. How did plan-less Earl do?
Actually, 2009 proved to be one of my busiest travel years ever – Australia, Thailand, India, Italy, USA, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico.
And during this time I also went from earning $0 through internet ventures (I didn’t have any prior to 2009) to earning what many people would consider a decent living. Let’s put it this way, I visited all of the countries above, lived well and traveled well, and still have more money in my bank account today than I did on January 1st, 2009. Is it a great deal more? No. But it’s more. So I’ll call that a success and keep on working to improve my situation.
Inner Voice – It Speaks, I Listen
Over the past year, I never knew when or where the next stage of my adventure would take place until the very last minute. I simply stayed in one location until my inner voice told me to move on. And then I moved on within a few days.
For example, at the end of 2008, I felt an urge to go to Australia. Four days later I flew to Melbourne. Then four months later, after successfully starting an online venture and meeting incredible people that would prove to have a lasting effect on my life, I up and left.
‘It’s time to move on Earl’ is what I heard and so I listened.
Were my businesses fully set up the way I wanted? Nope. Was there a lot of work to be done? Definitely. Would I be leaving behind great friends? Yes.
But I followed my gut and a week later flew to Thailand where I found a quiet island (Koh Mak), booked a bungalow for a month and chilled out in a hammock. I avoided doing any work and instead focused on eating coconuts, swimming in the water at sunset, hiking through the jungle and hanging out with the handful of other travelers – all things that put a genuine smile on my face (unless I eat too much coconut).
This pattern just ended up repeating itself over and over again – periods of independent travel experiences followed by longer periods of staying in one place in order to work on my projects.
After Ko Mak I spent:
- 2 months in Chiang Mai, Thailand working harder than ever on my projects
- 1 month volunteering at Mother Teresa’s Missions of Charity in Calcutta (without working)
- 2 weeks traveling through Italy with my mom (no work)
- 4 weeks of intense work while spending time with friends and family in NYC
- 5 weeks of backpacking throughout Central America, from Costa Rica up to Mexico (no work)
- 3 months of dedicated work while living on the beach in Mexico
So here I am today. Still without a P-L-A-N. Yet still truckin’ on and more motivated than ever. I am free to change direction at any time and to follow whatever path feels right at all times. I don’t have any plan to constantly re-arrange. My life seems to naturally sense the optimal balance of travel adventures and hard work that it needs to keep me achieving my goals one by one.
I have no idea where I’ll end up over the coming year. I barely know where I’ll be next Wednesday. But this lack of knowledge does not cause any fear within. On the contrary, it allows me to concentrate on where I am and what I’m doing today, fully confident that the next stage of the journey will present itself when the time is right.
What are your thoughts on having a ‘plan for your future’? Do you have one? Do you feel it is absolutely necessary to achieve your goals?