The other day I stumbled across an old presentation I gave to the Strategy Department at the BYU Marriott School back in 2008. As I flipped through the deck, I came across a slide that took me back to a specific moment a defining piece of advice was dispensed.
It was 1999 and I had life all figured out. I’d be graduating with a Philosophy degree and headed straight to law school where I would develop a skill I thought I could parlay nicely into working with startups- every startup needs an attorney right?
Applications had been sent and I’d been accepted to a number of great schools. AMR and I had decided to tour a few of the campuses to meet with administrators and professors in order to pin down which would be the best fit for us and my specific interests. As we walked and talked I got this nagging feeling that 3 years of torts, constitutional law and angling to get on law review was not going to scratch my particular brand itch.
As I sat in the den at my folks place that night I was visibly shaken. The path and destination that just days earlier had been so clear had vanished into a sea of drifting disillusionment. Uncertainty and it’s frequent companion, fear, had set in. What was I to do when something that had felt so right for so long, suddenly felt so wrong.
As I discussed this feeling with my dad he began to recount experiences from his own career and couched them as a series of unplanned opportunities seized. Chance encounters that lead to jobs that lead to starting his own firm that lead to clients and so on. There was always an underlying agenda and purpose, but often the specifics unfolded in ways that could never have been specifically planned beforehand.
As he wrapped up this series of stories, he offered the advice in that slide deck and the title of this post- Don’t Overplan Your Life.
Last night, by chance, I stumbled across an old notebook I’d kept at the time I was going through all of this. As I picked my way through the chicken scratch of checklists, ideas and to-dos I found the underlying purpose that fed my decision then and feeds my decisions now stated in a personal challenge to “build companies that matter”.
The specifics of achieving that stated purpose are still playing out. But to this day I still return often to that den, that night with those words hanging in the air -Don’t Overplan Your Life.
Those words gave me the courage to step off clearly defined course I had charted for myself. They introduced a tremendous amount of uncertainty at times. But when those defining opportunities have come along I’ve been open to them. And that has given me more than any life I could have planned for myself.