That, or something like it, is a question we’ve all likely been asked at various times, be it by someone interviewing us for a new position or even just by our significant others who would like to know where their next five years of paychecks are coming from.
It’s a question I’ve never been super great at answering, though. I never really know where the balance between wanting to appear eager for this job and yet dreaming of what might be next is. And, to be honest, my career has been one that’s so heavy on “OK, now this is happening so we’ll do it” that I haven’t really looked too far ahead at what I wanted to be doing down the road.
Recently it was asked of me once again and I finally had a clearer, more honest answer: I want to be in a position to comfortably support my family while living a minimalist, non-consumer lifestyle. I don’t necessarily want to be a CMO in five years. I don’t need to be making $300,000 a year and leading a luxurious life. I just want to be…me. That’s not to say I don’t have career aspirations – I greatly enjoy running social content programs and get a kick out of the immediacy of it all – it’s just that they’re not what defines my vision of the future.
When I think about what might be five years down the road, I just strive to be leading a good life, being as good a father and husband as I can be, doing my writing and providing for my family.
That may be why I’ve never had much interest in playing political games with the companies I’ve worked for. I have no particular desire to try and outsmart or outmaneuver anyone else because I’d rather focus on doing the work, believing, as my Protestant Work Ethic upbringing ingrained in me, that a good day’s work is its own reward.
A sentiment like that might seem trite nowadays, but it’s true. I do the work because the work is where my interest is. My goal is to do my job, be paid a fair wage for that effort and then go about my life. It’s all a means to an end, anyway. For me that “end” isn’t a lavish retirement, it’s just being able to get to the finish line with my family. Retirement for me is more about being able to move on to the next phase of living simply than about accumulating as much wealth as I possibly can, regardless of how many people I have to cross along the way. There’s no reward in that.
At age 42 I figure I have a little less than 30 working years ahead of me, assuming I stay in good health. My father, who is *not* in good health, just retired last year at age 71 and I’d like to be in a position – with my finances, my mindset and my relationships – to call it a day a bit earlier than that if I can, but it’s not a deal breaker. Writers write, regardless of age, so if I can stop worrying about a daily grind and just write when and where I want to at that time, I’ll call it a win. I don’t need to die with all the toys, I just need to be in a good place, having raised my children and seen them (hopefully) prosper on their own and with my wife still beside me.
Where do I want to be in five years? A little bit further down the road, a little wiser, a little older and in a position that allows me to lead the simple, everyday, non-flashy life I aspire to. That may not sound huge, but it’s a better answer than I’ve ever had before.