I usually try to be pretty down to earth (which is laughable, if you’ve read some of the stuff I’ve posted). I’m going to warn you right now that this post has nothing to do with being realistic, and I haven’t toned it down at all for a mainstream audience. I’m crazy and I need that documented properly for posterity. So here we go.
Here’s a quick overview:
If reading about people with big goals gives you anxiety or makes you stress out or overthink things, stop reading now.
What’s all this about?
In 2011, when I was 19, I began regularly taking account of my goals and setting new ones on a regular basis. This included financial goals like “Make $60,000 a month” and more vague value-based goals like “secure control of my time, and maintain creative control of my work”
I haven’t reached that financial goal yet (as of 2017) and it took me another 3 years to gain control of my time (it was the most frustrating thing to have to wrestle with higher education to do so). But so far, progress.
At the end of 2015 I wrote down a list of the personal achievements I hoped for my own far future. I wanted to have a record of my goals in a very concrete form, and to create it in a fashion that would be interesting to update each year. With this practice I hope to regularly be able to re-establish that my priorities are on track given what I want out of life.
For about 5 years now I’ve been laser-focused on making the most of every day while also living in a way that will build momentum as I go. I want to feel like I can die at any moment with no regrets (spend time with family NOW, etc.), but I also want to live as if I’m consciously building a life my future self will love living (should I be so lucky to get there).
The purpose of this exercise was to double check my current priorities against a standard. I hoped to establish this standard by listing my most ambitious hopes and dreams, and then imagining my current goals against the list of long term goals.
Also, I tried to keep in mind the dozen or so ways the future will likely be incredibly different from the present.
Here’s what I came up with – and after each point I’ve added a section on why each goal is important to me. I hope this is entertaining and provokes you to think a bit about your own goals the same way!
The goals were written in 2015, just before the change of the year, and the “why” sections were written a year later, in January of 2017, so that they include notes on my progress.
Here we go.
One lifetime from now – 2116
What do you want to look back on at the end of your life Steve?
1. To have access to an interested multi-planetary audience. A platform on which I can unapologetically discuss whatever I’m curious about at the moment. To explore the collective perception of what life means with a wide variety of other minds. To have the freedom to live out whatever experiences fascinate me.
2. To have founded an institution that lets people follow their curiosity, find out what they really want out of their experience in this universe, and then make that vision a reality whatever it may be.
3. To have made a significant positive impact on the happiness, health, wellbeing, and justness of any societies of conscious entities my culture interfaces with.
4. To have ensured that the opportunities, advantages, and wealth that I was born into the world privileged with is the standard – the bare minimum for any counscious entity from the time of my death on into the future.
1. Because in my view, it is better if philosophers and people who understand logic and rhetoric get to ask the questions and start the conversations. Cultural discourse has been in steep decline in quality, even as it rises dramatically in volume. And I would be honored to be one of the philosophers asking the big questions. God knows we need a little more wonder in our every day conversations.
2. Because I’m frustrated that current institutions breed mediocrity and beat the curiosity out of anyone who dares to dream.
3. Because what other long-term impact would you like to have?
4. Because this seems like it should be the low bar, not the high one. Everyone should feel powerful to make worlds they love and live in a world they love.
What do I want in 50 years – 2066
1. I want to have founded an internationally respected organization that is neither a church nor a university here in Colorado Springs that collaborates with other centers of faith and institutions of higher education to coordinate as a peaceful whole. It will be an internationally (interplanetarily?) recognized research institution, and it will function in a way that is not abusive or unpleasant to any of it’s staff or students. It will greatly benefit all who interact with it, and be a boon to humanity as a whole. I want it to feel fun, and be accessable and able-to-be-influenced by anyone who sets foot on (or otherwise contacts) campus with a unique perspective, valuable contribution, or loving piece of feedback.
2. I want to have built (or had some hand in developing) an online platform that coordinates between companies and between planets to makes us phenomenal where we are great, and helps us where we are weak – in terms of work, love, life, communication, project coordination, self-governance and more. It will institutionally turn problems into opportunities.
3. I want to have a huge, happy family who can communicate openly and honestly wherever they are in the universe, if physical location is even remotely a concern anymore. I want to be surrounded by and regularly experience loving friends and open-minded conversation. I want people that surround me to feel free to openly tell me when I’m wrong, being unfair, or am unpleasant to be around in any way.
4. I would like to have lived in the majority (at least half) of countries or nation-states on all the planets and space stations humans currently inhabit.
1. Because universities are bloodsucking monsters right now, but they’re also legitimately the best we have to offer our children for learning at the moment. That’s like a horror movie-plot-level twist. How dare we, honestly. We can do better, and this goal is my plan to do better. It all begins with my education experience, an interview project, and the abroad academy/institute.
2. I think Bridge (as I’ve called it) or any other open source platform could do radical, radical things for how businesses communicate with each other and their governments, both here on earth and throughout the solar system once we get there. Coordination is only going to get harder as technical responsibilities grow, so this is one of my favorite engineering problems in the world, and I think only an open source non-profit can solve it.
3. Because other people are what makes life worth living, so what kind of goal list would this be without that?
4. and because I think encouraging people to travel without traveling yourself is a bit hypocritical.
What do I want in 20 years – 2036
1. I want to be working collaboratively with effective leaders on and off the planet. I want to be the first name that comes to mind when anyone thinks of an effective servant and helping hand to humanity’s greatest challeneges.
2. I would like to have influenced how the planet as a whole thinks about human learning.
3. I want to have had a hand in making sure humanity can communicate in a way that is efficient enough to safely bring about artificial intelligence (assuming that hasn’t already happened). I would like to be a part of the decision making process if that would not be a hinderance to the project at hand.
4. I would like to be in close social contact with all living generations. To feel like I am a part of their story, and understand where they are coming from.
5. I don’t want to have stopped being “new” to the world. Because for the first 150 years at least, I am. I notice myself already assuming that I know how things work even at 23. This attitude is dangerous, and I will fight it with everything I can.
1. Because I’m more interested in serving effectively than fame, but I’m pretty interested in both.
2. Because, as I will say many more times, education is fucked up.
3. Because AI is super scary and I’ve read a lot about it, and this would be a fun problem to work on if I could have any tractable impact at all. And because communication is KEY. and because there’s no good reason we’re not using computers to better facilitate communication and community building already, except that very few have taken the time to try a crack at it.
4. Because I feel like different generations have gifts for each other, and I like getting gifts.
5. Because learning stops when you think you know anything. And learning is what makes almost everything worthwhile. It’s fascinating how satisfying just trying to fit your own mental model of the world to the world around you is.
What do I want in 10 years – 2026
1. I want to have build the most effective online learning and support/encouragement platform. I want to help people understand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to taking action towards goals they have set for themselves.
2. I want the Abroad Institute to continue to help people think creatively about experiencing other cultures (or planets, or space stations) as a way to become a more generous, loving, and empathetic human.
3. I want to have played a major part in the shift from “education” as something to endure to “learning” as a fun game that is to be played interactively with the universe around you. So people can finally stop saying things like “revolutionize education.”
4. I want to feel like NYC, LA, London, Hong Kong, and San Francisco (perhaps others, maybe just 3 of those) have been wonderful homes to me.
5. I would like to feel like I have unlimited power to create whatever I want in the world so long as other people also want that thing. It doesn’t matter whether this is a great deal of money, of influence, or just a finely-tuned working understanding of how to create anything I can imagine from scratch using resources that aren’t necessarily mine.
1. Because location is still a huge issue when it comes to opportunity. But so is just learning things! It’s hard right now to even know what questions you need to ask to follow your dreams, much less to get them answered.
2. Because I think diverse, difficult experiences breed the best kind of people I’ve ever met.
3. Because “education” is an inherently preachy attitude to have about a process that is essentially supposed to encourage young humans to learn!
4. Because I underestimated the value of visiting for extended periods of time and overestimated the value of living in a new place. (this view has changed as of 2017)
5. Because you don’t have to own things and have a lot of money to change the world. Often you just have to know who to ask and how to ask. Surprising, right?
What do I want in 5 years – 2021
1. I want the Abroad Institute to have played a part in sending millions of people off to learn and explore away from home.
2. I want WaitButWhy (or my blog) to have established a hub for curious explorers who are keen on learning more about the odditites of the world.
3. I want to be good friends with the majority of cultural influencers in the western world.
4. I want to be able to start conversations on an international level.
5. I want to know how to think, speak, read, and write in Mandarin and Arabic.
1. Because I’m selfish, and if there is a meaningful impact had I’d like to be a part of it.
2. Because the internet could always use more of that. As of 2017, less involved in WaitButWhy (I was applying for a job there when I wrote this point – I didn’t get it).
3. Because I want to understand why they don’t think of themselves as media or news companies, and influence the way they start discussions with audiences.
4. Because I think the questions mainstream media asks us to discuss amongst ourselves are boring, harmful, and represent a very limited point of view that only a few can engage with, and this should be an easy problem to fix.
5. And because I think most important culture will happen in Mandarin and Arabic speaking worlds by this point.
What do I want in 3 years – 2019
1. I want the Abroad Institute to be the obvious leader in the international education space. I want people to be comfortable calling it an industry. I want to have contributed meaningfully and have the confidence of other people in the world of higher education.
2. I want my blog to have a consistently growing audience, regular output, and several fun projects that I enjoy working on.
3. To regularly be sharing pictures, still.
4. To be close personal friends with at least one internationally famous person.
5. To know how to speak either Mandarin or Arabic
1. Because education sucks. More on that in any of my blog posts ever.
2. Because what’s the point of making art if no one sees it and you’re not having fun?
3. Because making beautiful images is as much a part of me as breathing.
4. Because I think the conversation between *most* internationally famous people and their audiences is vapid and dumb, and I want to ask why, and understand the answer on a personal level.
5. Because speaking the languages of the other half of the world is immediately and urgently important.
What do I want in one year – 2017
1. To have reached out to people all over the tech industry and really get the ITFEA running.
2. To have either been publishing on my blog or in some other capacity for a year. To have regularly published VlogBlogs for a year.
3. To have started living in a world city, and attending events to which I am not invited.
1. Because I believe the ITFEA is a brilliant funding opportunity for the study abroad model. Get private companies to send the people they’re going to hire abroad. Still working on this in 2017, but likely to be a 5 year goal instead, now that I know more.
2. Because I believe that regularly publishing is a way to make sure my ideas are out there even if I get unexpectedly removed from the world. Why hide your best work? (Did this! 1000 Videos actually!)
3. Because I believe that lucky people work very hard to put themselves in the places luck can find them, and I’m going to need to be VERY lucky if my long term plans are going to work out (again, view has changed as of 2017)
2017 Life Goals
The absurdity continues. This time, written Jan 2017.
At the beginning of 2016, I wrote down my goals for my entire life, in 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50, and lifetime sections.
This year I will be doing the same. I want to compare the two, and I may post both this year. Note that I wrote this one without reading the previous one. I consider these answers to work “In addition to” the answers I wrote last year. I didn’t do why/recap sections for this one yet because it hasn’t been a year.
In 2117, at the “end” of an above average but still traditional-length human life, I would like to have:
1. The opportunity to indefinitely live any kind of life I want, with any group of people I choose, doing whatever we collectively decide is worthwhile.
In 2067 (50 years) I would like to have:
1. Established a multi-planetary community of people who are emotionally and psychologically healthy. They communicate and coordinate in functional and healthy ways, and the support each other actively. They engage (if possible) with all other human communities in positive and mutually beneficial ways. Whether this is a country, company, colony, cult, or community doesn’t matter.
2. Established a baseline standard for human understanding of the scientific method and it’s use in all endeavors, not just “hard” science – if you can’t use it for personal relationships, interior design, marketing, and more, it’s not working well enough yet.
3. We’ve fixed learning. People follow their curiosity, and worlds large and small are built by the people who want to build them, and maintained by people who want to maintain them, and lived in by people who want to experience them.
4. Life is now a selection of designed experiences, chosen by the people living in them.
In 2037 (20 years) I would like to have:
1. Lived some time in a virtual world, and made meaningful relationships, businesses, and projects that way.
In 2027 (10 years) I would like to have:
1. Sorted out getting ~80% of US high school and college students to study abroad for at least 6 months out of their 20 years in school.
2. Built a company that straps cameras to the ships of the first people landing on mars. Sent the first commercial photographer/cinematographer to mars, employed by Lander.
In 2022 (5 years) I would like to have:
1. Begun construction on my home on the Mesa in Colorado Springs.
2. Be hosting events regularly where people fly from the coasts to the springs to celebrate, discuss, plan, and innovate with me.
3. Have friends I’m comfortable (or overjoyed) to be staying with friends for indefinite periods of time in LA, SF, and NYC.
In 2020 (3 years) I would like to have:
1. Tesla Model S P100D (or fastest model at that time, surely better than current one)
2. Primary multi-dimensional relationship with someone smarter, kinder, more talented than me in areas I’m unfamiliar with AND areas I am familiar with.
3. Built an active, large (millions), conversational, international audience.
4. Have ongoing, interesting collaborations with many (if not most) of the popular voices, media companies, and influencers in western and eastern online culture.
In 2018 (1 year):
1. Friends (regularly hanging out) with someone internationally famous.
2. Lander or Abroad Academy or another thing making enough to help me establish financial leverage for the future.
3. I want to be conversationally fluent in Mandarin.
4. Education Innovation interview series successfully caught the attention of the world’s educators. Daily writing on track. Daily videos ongoing.
5. Emails reliably being sent to a list, followers on all platforms growing healthily and organically. Continuing to make things people love.
6. Friends now reliably know what I’m doing in a way they enjoy being updated.
I know right? So we’ll see how it all turns out I guess, but now you know why I’m doing everything I do, okay? Okay.
In the words of our boy Roy, “People ask me what I’m gonna do like every day, but I don’t know all I know is I’m tryna start a wave. If you ain’t with it that’s okay just get outta my way.”