Ditch the Five Year Plan / by Brock Manheim


"Where do you see yourself in 5 years?"

What a commonplace question, right? You've probably been asked this question many times throughout your life, beginning when you were in middle school or high school and you had to really start "thinking about your future". You've probably been asked this question, or a slight variation of it, in countless job interviews, performance reviews or by people who you're casually chatting with. 

You've probably also listened to everybody who always told you to have a specific plan, or to write your goals for the future down, and likely have a pretty good answer for the question when asked -- maybe a mix of personal and professional -- something that sounds a little like this: "I see myself [insert two hierarchal levels up here] in the workplace, earning [insert double the amount of money I'm currently earning here] per year, living in a great house, with a great family and really enjoying life".

Well -- that's all nice and good. But I'm here to tell you to stop planning like that, and stop immediately. 

I invested a significant part of 2014 in branding and marketing at Magna; honing in our identity both as a firm and personally and that process is set to carry right on over into the new year. When taking a step back and analyzing and defining the past, it's inevitable to look towards the future as well, for without a doubt, what you aim to strive in the future will provide valuable insight for defining the way in which you explain yourself today. 

I've been asked this question a lot in the past year, and frankly I'm sick of it. My answer is pretty simple: I have no idea where I'll be or where Magna will be in five years, and, I don't want to think too hard about it. The fact is, if five years ago I'd thought about where we were going to be today, we'd probably have made far less progress than we have. I would've vastly shortchanged myself in my self-effectuated pursuit of what I believed was entirely rational and ambitious yet still readily achievable. 

See, I believe in vision for the future, but not in planning in detail. If I had started Magna with a detailed business plan and budget and list of specific things to accomplish five years into the future, I likely would have been satisfied with accomplishing just that. My budgets and projections and details would have been "realistic" -- another word for safe and logical. But Magna's rise, and from my perspective, the rise of so many great firms; the Apple's, Google's, Facebook's and Berkshire Hathaway's of the world, have been largely illogical; incredible many would say. No MBA's 150 page business plan could have accurately demonstrated or predicted the meteoritic rise of any of these firms and should they have tried, would probably have been written off by professors and academics, even investment analysts as "overly optimistic" and "unrealistic".  

Instead of defining specific goals one would strive to achieve in five years, think bigger. Think broader. Develop a vision that is blanketed in grandeur and purpose. One that inspires you but doesn't and wouldn't ever hold you back from achieving personal and professional satisfaction but guides you in explaining to yourself why you'll accomplish whatever you may over the next five years. 

As for Magna, I have no idea whether we'll see success in real estate, technology or some other area of investing not even created yet, but that doesn't matter. What matters is my commitment to building a firm that matters, that is important and that we continually attach ourselves to and invest in the most exciting people and businesses that we can find. By pursuing that overarching ideal with unwavering passion and energy, there is no doubt that the next five years will bring something special, something largely unpredictable, but something exciting and gratifying nonetheless. 

Moral of the story: ditch the five year plan. Think bigger. Define purpose. Check in with yourself in 2020. You'll be happy you did. 

Photo: The above photograph represents Joshua's decision to purchase a MagicJack device (used to make standard phone calls through a computer) when launching Magna to avoid the price of a traditional phone line.