Zig Ziglar once said, “If you aim at nothing you will hit it every time.”
I know I have spoken often of the necessity of having goals, or targets to shoot for in
life but it hasn’t always been something that I have done. For the majority of my life, and I am sure it is true for most of you as well, for the majority of my life I have just cruised along. Sure I have had dreams along the way and I have actually set short term goals and met them but for most of my life I never really set a life target to reach.
The sad thing about that is, now that I am in the later half of my 50’s I spend a lot of time looking at where I could have been at this point in my life had I just made some definite life goals in the past. I could have done and could have been so much more than I am right now.
Don’t get me wrong. Compared to most of the folks that I know I have accomplished more in my life than I ever could have imagined back when I was 18 or 22 years old. I thank God and my wife for that. Even though for the majority of my life I just kind of coasted through, there have been several points in my life where together we set some targets, some short term goals, and together we did what was necessary to hit them.
When I reflect on life now I can’t help to look at some of the folks around me and where they are and the regrets they have. Something I don’t want to be doing when I am in my 70’s, 80’s or 90’s.
One gentleman I know is now in his late 70’s. He is so beat down by a life of coasting that he spends his days now in regret. For the most part he spends his day numbing his mind watching endless game-shows and 70’s and 80’s sitcom reruns on TV. When I sit with him he is always telling me stories about when he was young and had his business and the things he did. Even though he wasn’t making a killing back then he was excited about his life.
At some point after starting a family he decided to choose the “safe life.” He began working for, what was at that time one of the most successful companies in Chicago. Now don’t get me wrong, he made a good salary during that time and he provided well for his family. They took vacations, the kids all went to private schools, he provided well for them. However by the time the last kid was out of school he found himself out of work because that big fortune 50 company was starting to go through some very hard times and began replacing their older, loyal workforce with younger folks that were willing to do the same jobs at nearly minimum wage.
Sound familiar? How many times have we heard that story in recent years?
He spent 20 or so years working on someone else’s goals. Someone else’s dreams. When he lost that job he lost the only life he had known for so long. He had coasted through life. He was a puppet with puppeteer controlling his strings. He never made any goals to create other sources of income just in case things changed on his career path along the way.
My life wasn’t much different.
When I was in high school I had no idea what I wanted to do after I got out. The world at the time was telling us to follow the 40 year plan. To go to college and get a degree. Then find a job in a fortune 500 company and put in 40 years then retire on a pension. A pension that as we know now would only pay 40 to 60 percent of what you were making while working. 40 to 60 percent of an income that you were barely making ends meet on while you were working. Anyway I digress.
For me I was fortunate enough to have a job at a fortune 50 company before I even graduated high school. I was set, so I thought. A few years into that job I lost my job during a corporate realignment and downsize.
At that time unemployment was sky high. Without a college degree no one was hiring. I still had no idea what type of “degree” path to follow so instead I decided to go into business for myself. I set a short term goal for the first time in my life and I stuck with that goal. I got my Health, Life, Property and Casualty insurance licenses so I could sell those products. I got my Series 6 and 63 securities license to sell mutual funds and variable annuities and variable insurance products. Then I went into the financial services business.
I stayed in the business for a few years but I failed miserably. I didn’t know it then but I do now, had I set additional goals and found a mentor to show me the ends and outs of that business I believe I would have succeeded but I didn’t so I didn’t succeed. Without a goal to work toward I failed.
That’s when I decided that maybe everyone was right and I needed to go back to school and pursue the 40 year plan. I researched the best paying fields and what the educational requirements were to get into those fields and decided the on field that had the biggest potential for financial success that could be achieved in the shortest amount of time possible, I had young kids after all and I didn’t want to be in school their entire young life, so I chose pharmacy. If I really worked hard and took the highest load of classes possible I could get out in 5, 6 years tops. So once again I set a goal to become a pharmacist. This time I researched it. I sought out the advice of others in the field. I set goals. I put a plan in writing and I achieved it.
Once I reached that goal and after being introduced to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, my wife and I set a second goal. To become debt free. We laid out a plan which included picking up as many extra shifts as possible to follow Dave’s Debt Snowball. As we were pursuing that goal we revised it a few times to include private education for the kids and to build a dream home. We stuck to it and we were successful. We accomplished all the goals we set out for us.
We then set one more goal, to fully fund our retirement so we would have a secure future. There was one thing wrong with that goal however just like the others. It depended too much on my pharmacy career. We never made any goals outside of me working in pharmacy. No goals to develop other sources of income just in case.
Don’t get me wrong, pharmacy has done well for my family. However, just like that other gentleman I mentioned before we never made career goals beyond becoming a pharmacist. I just coasted along in my job. And as I have mentioned in the past posts, in 2011, three weeks before Christmas, I was replaced in my pharmacy manager position with a new graduate that held a higher degree than me and was willing to work for 20 grand less than I had been making. I found myself unemployed.
I hadn’t made any career goals. I aimed at nothing and achieved it. Because my credentials were outdated it took me two years to find another job in the pharmacy field. Fortunately someone was willing to look at the year of experience that I had as being equivalent to those higher degrees and they hired me.
So what is the point to all this rambling on?
The point is, is it is not too late. Yeah I’m in the latter half of my 50’s and I have wasted a lot of my life but there are still a lot of years ahead of me. I can either sit here and lick my wounds about what woulda-coulda-shoulda happened in my life like the gentleman I was telling you about or I can set some new goals, develop a plan of action and start down that path. And that is exactly what I am doing and no matter what your age is you should do it also.