An Important Lesson I Learned About Goal-Direction

K. Joia Houheneka
Dec 3, 2018 · 3 min read
Photo by Larisa Birta on Unsplash

Last night at a party, I was introduced to a district attorney who for the purpose of this story can remain nameless. Suffice to say, this district attorney had achieved an impressive career.

I noticed that our host Billy poured the drinks for this district attorney himself, being quite generous with the expensive alcohol. An atypical gesture, I observed.

The attorney appeared to me a vigorous man, apparently in his early fifties and now riding the crest of career success many years long…but I noticed he didn’t speak much about of his work.

Mostly he was talking about the prospect of early retirement within the next few years…

“What’s moved him?” I wondered, as I usually do.

It was when I spoke of my own first steps forging the course of my life’s work as an entrepreneur that his eyes lifted wide and his words began to reveal the question’s answer:


Goal-direction was the theme to his movement. Explicitly and repeatedly, he used that term.

He told a story about his youth, how he had traveled abroad (to Europe presumably) and saw that the people there were content to live day by day, day after day, anticipating only the next meal and the next sunset, prizing security and the preservation of what they had.

In contrast, he prided himself on “being an American,” which for him signified someone forward-thinking and forward-acting, eyes set steady on a faraway horizon, willing to do whatever it took to realize the vision.


He drove his years forward along a focused straight line: high school to college, college to law school, he passed the bar at age twenty-three and proceeded to climb the legal ladder to his desired position.

An ambition realized, yes. A deliberately set purpose that was attained through hard work. But…

“So what’s next?” I asked him.

“Now that you’re looking forward to retiring, what’s your next goal?”

He stopped, hesitated. Tense stillness permeating the space between each moment now slowly, slowly passing. Even Billy stood by awkwardly. …


Had I just made the honored guest lose his superior ease, with what to my mind was the obvious next question?

I mean, I understand, yes, he is “retiring”. But this is no longer the nineteenth or even twentieth centuries, when many people probably were truly becoming frail after age sixty-five. Human beings are living longer now, with more vitality as we age. So shouldn’t we plan our life goals accordingly?

In the 21st century, shouldn’t retirement in one’s 50' or 60’s be the opportunity to create a new venture?

Shouldn’t retiring in your 50’s after one successful career mean you have the opportunity (and the means!) to aspire to a whole new career ambition for the next several decades, into your active seventies and maybe early eighties, if not beyond?

If, as they say, it takes twenty years to master a field, someone who can retire from one field at fifty should have the life expectancy to literally become master at something they’ve never yet tried before. The horizons ought to be just beginning again to beckon….

Finally, the district attorney spoke up: “I…I think I may take up golf.”

K. Joia Houheneka

Written by

Leadership Coach for Entrepreneurs. Host of the Founders & Innovators Morning Show. Polymath. Creator. Transformational Traveler.

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