Your Life In 10 Boxes

Thought Experiment Thursday

Let’s say you live a 100-year life. Wow! Aren’t you lucky? That’s a long time. So what will you do with all those years? Let’s try to get some perspective.

Imagine ten boxes. Like this:

Every box represents ten years of your life. The first box is age 0-10, the second is 10-20, and so on. Let that sink in for a second. Each box is a decade. That too is a long time - which is why people often underestimate how much they can do in one.

But it also takes that kind of time to find greatness. Want to be a great dad? That might take ten years. Climb up the corporate ladder? Well, most executives aren’t 25. Hoping to succeed as a creative? That’s at least one box.

Thinking of your life in 10-year projects has a lot of benefits. You can’t help but take the long view. Your expectations won’t be as high. It’s easier to be patient. But how will you fill those boxes?

Well, we can pretty much cross out the first two. You can hardly do anything on your own in the first and may still live with your parents all through the second. Those are just growing up.

Then again, who really has their life figured out by the time they turn 30? Aren’t your 20s supposed to be fun? We might be grown up, but the soul-searching has just begun.

So let’s cross that one out too.

Okay. Awesome. 30-40. This is where the game starts. You’re grounded, committed, and you know what to do. But, now that I think about it, what’s with the end of the spectrum? I

mean, you definitely won’t have that same energy you have at 30. You won’t keep that up until you kick the bucket. Especially if you live to be 100. So, actually, we can kinda cross off those last two boxes as well. You need some time for retirement, after all!

Wow. Wait a minute. Hey! Those aren’t that many boxes! There’s only five of them left! What the…? That’s not fair. Where’d my 100 years go? Well…

…that’s life! Like everything with momentum, it takes a while to get going and it slows down before it stops. That’s normal. And it plays out for everyone the same way. But it also means we really do have less time than we think.

No matter how many of those middle boxes you get, those will be the most productive and fruitful years of your life. But you can only spend them on so many things. You only get 3-5 of those 10-year projects. So choose carefully. Make sure you think.

You can do a lot in ten years. But you don’t have many 10-year stretches. Before you know it, another box is gone.

Let’s not waste a single one.


PS: I got this idea from Tim Urban.

About Thought Experiment Thursday: Einstein said we can’t solve our problems with the same thinking that created them. Science estimates we have about 35 thoughts per minute. That’s a lot of chances to change our thinking. So on Thursdays, that’s what we’ll practice.

A question opens the mind. A statement closes it. Let’s keep ours wide open.

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