Goals aren’t all that

Netscape Navigator 2.02 LogoI’m wondering what I’ve been doing that I hadn’t come across Marc Andreesson’s blog before. A friend even recommended it to me, but it went onto the list, and I only got to it now. However, I’m going to have to read through the back issues, as what I’ve read so far is fascinating. Oh.. and if the name’s only slightly familiar, this is the guy who kicked off Web 1.0 by releasing Netscape. (Sort of ironic, as Netscape has just been discontinued.)

However, what’s prompting this post is that he is the first person I’ve read who appears to agree with my anti goal-setting philosophy. I’ve been espousing this since high school, that goal-setting as a theory only works if you’re both omniscient and omnipotent, so it’s probably not for anyone you’ve met outside of Hollywood.

What do I mean by goal-setting? Let’s get that clear. This is where someone says “I’m going to be a fireman when I grow up” or “I’m going to retire by the time I’m 40” or “I’m going to marry Nicole Kidman”. This is not where someone says “I’m going to the shops for some milk”. Goal-setting is committing yourself to some outcome in the medium to long-term future. And it’s ridiculously egotistical to think you can do it, and frankly pretty stupid to commit yourself to something that you don’t fully understand the implications of. But, as Marc puts it in his post on Career Planning:

 You can’t plan your career because you have no idea what’s going to happen in the future. … Trying to plan your career is an exercise in futility that will only serve to frustrate you, and to blind you to the really significant opportunities that life will throw your way.

Hear! Hear!

Although I don’t agree with everything that follows, it is insightful. For example, as he goes on to talk about a differing appetite for risk as you move through life, he neglects to mention the time aspect. You’ve got different amounts of time to devote to work at different phases of your life. A professional who is freshly graduated and single can typically throw more time into building their career than someone who has just had a baby, for example.

Since the best investment you’ll ever find is probably yourself, managing the time and risk aspects only makes sense. I’m thinking back to my previous post on the three aspects of money: the amount, risk, and time.

Anyway, it’s always nice to find someone who agrees with you, after spending years being stared at strangely. :)