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Sam Davidson's blog

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The Ten Year Question

The next time someone asks you "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?" laugh in their face and run the other direction. They're up to no good. This is a terrible job interview question, if someone asks you this question on a first date then there shouldn't be a second one, and anything you say to answer this question will probably be a lie. Think about it. Where were you 10 years ago right now? Did you think then that you'd be where you are now? Certainly not.

Where was I supposed to end up? Back in 2001, I thought by now I'd be married to my doctor wife (my girlfriend at the time was a med student) and living in Florida. I'd spend Sunday mornings preaching and Sunday afternoons on the water. Exactly 0% of that vision has come to pass.

I was reminded of how much 10 years can change things while reading this article from Landscape Architecture Magazine. I normally don't read the publication, but did so as part of this weekend's assignment (leave a comment on that post as to what you read and learned). The article details how the North Carolina Museum of Art crafted an excellent outdoor landscape to compliment its noteworthy art collection.

A key quote that stood out:

"In time," says Thomas Phifer, "the landscape will grow and take over as the principal image of the museum."

I like that Phifer's understanding of the landscape (a chief asset) will determine the trajectory of the entire identity of the museum. I also like that he's future-leaning without being tied to specifics. He has his mind set on what's to come, but he doesn't set hard timelines and deadlines. He knows where he wants to go, but he's open as to how to get there.

In 50 Things Your Life Doesn't Need, I mentioned that your passion should serve as a compass, not a map. It should point you in the general direction of where you'd like to go, without providing a turn-by-turn route as to how to get there.

Your passion - like the trees and other outdoor materials at the North Carolina Museum of Art - will change as the years go by, morphing and growing. As it does, you can only now have a sense (and not a firm grasp) of where it will take you. This is okay. Much as Phifer did, you're best served by spending time now figuring out your strengths (like the landscape is to the museum) and coming up with a general goal of where you'd like those strengths to take you.

Do you write well? Maybe you'd like to publish books at some point. Are you an outgoing and likable person? Use that to grow your business. Do you envision a better world and can you motivate people to act? Pursue leadership in the nonprofit sector.

You can set a deadline a decade out if you want, but please stay flexible to grow and bend in the wind should storms interrupt your ambitious plans. Understand that you may need to stoop low, get dirty, and plant again. The key, really is this:

Keep growing.

That's where you (and I) need to be in 10 years. Growing. Moving. Doing something.

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