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Five year plan?

I played golf last week with a guy who works in the corporate world. He’s got a degree in math and an MBA, but he also has a newborn son at home and wants to find a way to spend more time with his family. He’s fed up with the corporate culture and has done well enough to make a career change without worrying about finances for a while.

Teaching, he has decided, is the way to go. Once he discovered that I was a teacher, he immediately began asking question after question about the profession, including the fastest way to earn a teaching certificate. I explained Connecticut’s ARC program to him, a three-month process by which college graduates can become teachers in specific areas of need throughout the state, including math. “You could start the program in June and be teaching in September,” I said. “One of my best friends did exactly that. He left the corporate world in June and was teaching math in Hartford in September.”

The man was enthusiastic about the process and asked a dozen follow-up questions as we walked the course together. With each step, his enthusiasm seemed to increase. As we made our final putts of the afternoon and headed back to the clubhouse, he thanked me for the information and said, “That program sounds great. It’s still a little pie in the sky for me, but I think it’ll make it part of my five-year plan.”

Five-year plan? Really? 1,825 days to achieve a goal? I don’t understand people who talk about five-year plans. Five years ago, I was single, not dating my wife, and I had yet to start writing my novel. I had never written a blog entry, never played even a single round of golf, and would have never predicted that an African-American would be President. Can you imagine me making a five-year plan, not knowing about my future wife, my future daughter, and my future success in the publishing industry?

How ridiculous. In today’s ever-changing world, five years is impossible to predict.

Instead of a five-year plan, how about a six-month plan? Or a three-month plan? In five years, this guy’s son will be entering kindergarten. He may have more children, planned or otherwise. His company could declare bankruptcy. The United States could be at war with Canada.

Five years is a lot of time. If he’s serious about wanting to make a change in his life, spend more time with his family, and find a way to make a difference in the world, why wait five years? Having an intimate and personal understanding of how short life can be, I wanted to tell this guy to ditch the stupid five-year plan, go home, and sign up for the damn program.

I didn’t. Ultimately, this guy seemed too invested in this five-year plan to deter him with my few nuggets of wisdom, but I am left wondering where he will be in five years.

Will he be the teacher that he wants to be?

Will he be spending more time with his family?

Will he have left the corporate culture he despises in his wake?

Who knows? It’s five years away, for goodness sake! But I can guarantee that none of these things will come to pass this year or the next. That’s the thing about a five-year plan. It allows you to do nothing for a long time.