I work on a 5 year time frame. Anything less is a loss.
I have a rule of never starting any project that I can’t commit the next five years to. I don’t work on anything that I can’t see myself doing in 5–7 years, and I never try and gun for a short term pay off. I’m a big believer in wider time frames.
Any project that’s truly worth doing, whether it’s writing a book or starting a business, is worth putting years into. Years allow you to grow, years allow you to succeed to the best of your abilities.
It comes down to the fact that when I begin projects, I want to see them through. I want to work on them and bleed for them and put every ounce of sweat that I’ve got into them. I want to get them across the finish line.
And I have big dreams. I’ve always had big dreams. I want to put a dent in the universe, and change the world, and found a street wear brand, and I want to take on another CMO role, and I want to work for a VC firm.
That’s a lot of shit to do. I’m a realist. I know that none of those goals are ever going to be attainable if I can’t fucking focus and put a long time frame on them. And it’s the same thing with any other dream or goal.
If you set a 5 year time frame, you’re giving yourself room to win. Here’s why.
A short time frame means you want a quick pay off.
When I meet founders who are only thinking about the next year of their company, and they haven’t even started to look beyond it, I have to question why they’re building their startup. And I’m always scared that “why” is because they want to make a quick buck.
You don’t accomplish anything of value if you’re just trying to rush to the finish line, get paid and get out. When you’re only living inside of a short time frame, that means the quick pay off is the sole goal, it’s all you care about. Every other aspect of your project won’t matter.
Which means if you don’t get it quick, you’ll quit.
I’ve seen this time and again, with musicians and artists and startup founders. When they’re only focusing on the short term, they just can’t hack it when their pay off doesn’t come rolling around the corner. They give up. They quit.
They’re too easily demoralized, when they wake up and smell the coffee and start to understand that their get rich quick scheme isn’t going to happen, and they throw in the towel too early. It’s tough to see, because you know that some of these creatives and entrepreneurs have a lot to give. They’re letting themselves down.
5 years gives you time to shake the foundations.
Why 5 years? Because it’s enough time to go from zero to hero. It’s enough time to take an idea from its very conception, the earliest tiniest version, to one of the biggest ideas in the world. That time frame could be all it takes, or it could be more, but there’s a snowball’s chance in hell of it being any less.
That’s not to say you’ve got to refuse to take opportunities that could lead to success in a much smaller time frame, but you use the 5 year mark as the measure of what you’re doing and how it’s going. You use the 5 year mark as the target, and you take aim and fire.
I know that I’ve got every chance of failing. No matter how much time I give myself, no matter how focused I am on the long term, I’ve got every chance of completely fucking up and never reaching where I want to be. That’s a total possibility, and I understand that.
But I don’t want to sell myself short, or limit my chances, by trying to rush anything. I want to put the right amount of time in and work to make my goals happen the right away, accomplish everything to the best of my abilities.
I’ve tried to rush my life and my career before, and it’s always ended in bitter disappointment. I don’t do that anymore. I work on 5 year time frames, because I know that setting anything lower is setting myself up for a loss.