Forget Five Year Plans and Just Ski Down the Mountain of Life

Posted on March 7, 2017


Two weeks ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to go skiing in Park City, Utah at the Deer Valley Resort.  As always, I stayed at an Airbnb, thus temporarily moving my Airbnb residence from Atlanta to Park City for four days.  When you live at Airbnb, home can be anywhere.  Whomever you send the rent to is your landlord that week.  I was in a perpetual state of reverent awe during my time in Utah and its winter paradise.  It snowed every night, putting a fresh blanket of purity on everything.  It is a like a white frosting that makes even a mediocre cake tasty.

I am by no means an avid skier having not been on a pair of skis in eight years.  After a couple of quick runs on the bunny slop I became acclimated to the ability to steer myself by adjusting my weight and pushing on the outside skis.  I soon took the series of chairlifts to get to the top of the top peaks of the resort.  Like my new approach to life, I made my way to the summit without a map or strategy concerning how to return.  My plan was simply to navigate my way back down to the base of the mountain, hoping that I would be able to traverse my way down slopes that were challenging but not beyond my abilities.  I did not fly across the country to be comfortable.  I came here for adventure, not knowing if I would ever have the opportunity to ski again.  Life is short.  Never travel to some place assuming you will ever get back there.  As I parted from the final chairlift, I looked for the first sign I could find advertising a blue intermediate slope and pointed my skis in the direction of uncertainty.

For two days, I followed this principle.  Most times, it worked perfectly.  On one occasion, I found myself at the backside of the mountain and had to take another lift to get my back on track.  Through the serendipity of it all, I ended up skiing the loveliest part of the resort, stopping every thousand feet to take what would be some of the most gorgeous pictures of my trip.  On my final run, I ended up on the edge of a dreaded advanced black slope.  With my pulse beating, I criss crossed my way down what seemed like a cliff, wiping out in NASCAR fashion twice.  But I made it and by pushing myself, I amplified my confidence level and earned some bragging rights as a result.  Despite having no plan to speak of, I made it safely down the slopes each day.

I used to be a believer in the five-year plan thing and hung out with people of the same mindset.  We would all huddle around the living year, elaborating on our beloved five year plans.  Looking back it was as if we were always enthralled with some future life rather than our current one.  The Soviet Union would continually announce five-year economic and agricultural plans going all the way back to 1946.  None of them ever came to fruition.

Five-year plans sound great until:

  • An IT bubble bursts and there are suddenly no jobs in your field
  • A housing bust extinguishes the equity in your home that you thought was so real
  • A disruptor comes along and takes out your industry
  • An unforeseen opportunity falls in your lap that changes everything
  • You or a loved one fall ill and your priorities in life completely change
  • Robots displace millions of jobs across the world

The world is in perpetual fluctuation today.  Anyone who says they know what the future is five years from now is lying or has no idea what they are talking about. The key to life today is to be as flexible as possible.  I’m not talking about being reckless.  We need a sense of purpose and an outline of what we want life to be for us.  Rather than mapping out a rigid course, we need to master the skills of mobility and agility that will allow us to adapt to the unforeseen events, opportunities and circumstances that will eradicate whatever plan it was we valued.

Just like skiing down the mountain, we are all going to arrive at the end of life.  The experience of getting there is the choice for us.