What if you’ve set the bar too low?

How to manage success and all that comes with it.

Clay Akers
Jun 27 · 6 min read
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Congratulations! You’ve made it through Life Planning 101!

By this time, you have:

• Recognized that you’ve been drifting (this one is BIG don’t forget to acknowledge it)

• Completed the funeral exercise by standing at the end of your life and looking backward, thinking about just how you want to be described by those who mean the most to you.

• Written a life plan to determine how you will live a life that will cause your loved ones to say those things about you.

• Set landmarks to help you know that you are following the proper course for your life that will ensure you stick to the plan.

That is amazing! You are meant for great things and this is how you’re going to get them.

But do you have a contingency plan?

Yes, I’ve heard it too — Planning for failure is planning to fail.

I agree with much of that, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about what happens — not if you fall flat — I’m talking about what happens if you fly higher, faster than you could have imagined.

If you’re like most of us, you’ve created your life plan using the best tools you have at your disposal. At least, I hope you did. I hope you pulled out all the stops and created a plan that will leave you amazed at what you’ve been able to accomplish. But even your best plans and your wildest imagination have the same limitations — you. They are based on your life experiences and your education to date.

And you can’t clearly see the future.

Can you? (If you really can clearly see the future, long-term, please let’s talk.)

No way! Because if you could clearly see the future, you and I wouldn’t be having this conversation. You probably would have stopped reading several thousand words ago — if you would have even been interested in this topic to begin with.

Again, I’m not talking about what you’ll do if you fail. (Because you won’t fail.)

I’m talking about what you will do if you succeed. And specifically, what you’ll do if you succeed faster than you could have imagined.

Do you have a plan for that?

You should, because you have no idea how likely it is that you WILL succeed faster than you imagined. That is unless your sole purpose in life is to die at 100 years of age. In that case, you a) can’t speed up the sands of time and b) need to add to your life plan. After all, if you’re going to live to be 100, you might as well LIVE while you're getting to 100.

Assuming you’ve got some goals that are not as time-restrained as that, you do need a plan for what happens after you reach your goals.

Let me tell you a little story.

Once upon a time, there was this guy whose life goal was to climb high on the corporate ladder. He wasn’t sure what he would do when he got there, but he knew that it would be glorious once he did. So he focused his life around that main goal while doing some other things as well. He worked hard to get the education necessary to make his resume look impressive. He built his professional network. He applied for jobs that he knew were a stretch for his level of experience.

He got hired for a senior management position before his 40th birthday.

He was thrilled!

Here he was, one of — if not THE — youngest members of the senior management team of a well-respected company with a long and solid history. This was a company with a visionary management team who wanted not only to make money for the company, but to better the communities in which it operated.

Wow! A Senior Vice President at 38, and of a desirable company, no less!

This was all he had wanted for his career for as long as he could remember. And he had it much earlier than he could have imagined.

Then he started looking around.

For a while, being the company’s youngest SVP was a point of pride. Then it became a point of concern. He realized that all of his peers were older, not only because this company had a history of retaining its employees for a long time, but also because this was a career-destination position (a “terminal position” he would often call it) for most people.

For most in his line of work, this was the pinnacle. Which is great. The pay was good. The benefits were good. The work environment was good.

But for a guy who had spent his whole career working toward a goal, it felt empty.

It felt like something was missing.

And something was missing.

A plan.

If you haven’t already figured it out, I’ll tell you that the guy in the story above is me. I had a plan to get to my “dream job”, but I didn’t realize that I’d get there before I was 40 — and I didn’t know what to do next.

So, then what did I do?

I figured out quickly that having a “great career” was not nearly as important as doing things I enjoy. You see, I’d been putting up with things I didn’t like for so long, I just kept telling myself that one day when I get “there” it will all be worth the headaches and troubles that were required along the way.

What I didn’t realize was that not all of these headaches were the kind of annoyances that are required when traveling toward any place worth going.


Many of these things were actually stuff I didn’t like about the career itself.

Wait. What?!

So, as it turns out, this career I wanted to master is full of stuff that I really hate. Parts of it I even find morally repugnant. For instance, it has become chic for banks to offer advice on personal finances — helping people learn how to do budgets, to save money, and to invest. All of which I endorse wholeheartedly. The morally repugnant part comes in where they use their positions as your newly-found financial guru to tell you how great it would be if you would get their credit card, “you know, for emergencies.” (No. That’s why you’re saving money. Cash is for emergencies.)

I digress.

Anyway, I’m passionate about helping people manage their finances better. Reach out to me if you want to talk more on that topic.

Suffice it to say that many days, I felt like I was compromising my deeply-held beliefs for this career that I had worked so hard for.

It was time I had a plan.

That’s when I realized that I already did. My life plan included more than just what I wanted for my career. You see, all along my climb up the corporate ladder, I had been neglecting not only myself but my family as well. Nicole and the girls were there supporting me all the while, and we would say things like, “Someday, Daddy will be able to stay home more. Someday Daddy won’t have to miss important things because he’s on a business trip.”

I looked at my calendar and realized that Someday wasn’t on there.

Someday doesn’t exist.

Until it does.

I realized that Someday can be today.

So I decided that I would immediately start doing all of those things that would cause my life plan as a husband and a father to become true. We planned our first trip to Europe, where I took two consecutive weeks off of work for the first time ever. To be honest, I was nervous even asking for the time off, and would never have dreamed of it before that point — even though I’d always said that Someday, I’d like to take an extended vacation.

Make sure your life plan has flexibility — don’t plan to fail. Plan to succeed. Again. And again. And again…


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Clay Akers

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Providing encouragement and insight when you're making life or debt decisions.


Discover the best up and coming writers. You'll say you knew them when.

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