A few years back I was doing a job I loved, where I was working closely with a colleague. For a long time the working relationship was great. We were a team, and I enjoyed working with him. Then, in response to circumstances, something changed. I was still happy to work with him, but I began to suspect that he no longer wanted to work with me. He didn’t say so. Nothing ostensibly changed, but gradually, I began to get the feeling that he was trying to oust me from the area we were both working in.

There was nothing I could put my finger on. Nothing obvious was happening, but every morning, as I got ready for work and thought about the day ahead, a small dark cloud of unease would make itself known. Every day I reasoned it away and the next day it came back, a little voice which persistently repeated “Things ain’t right”. Eventually, it persisted long enough for me to pay attention and to realise that, we whether he knew it or not, my colleague was definitely trying to get rid of me.

The eventual upshot was that I moved roles voluntarily, which worked out fine in the long run, and was definitely better than a long slow death being sidelined. And it was a useful lesson for me in listening to that little inner voice, which has guided me well throughout my career.

I am not terribly enamoured of those sorts of motivational sessions which require you to set down where you want to be in, say twenty-five years’ time, and then to plan backwards getting more and more specific until you get to what you should do tomorrow to kick off your journey to that ultimate destination. (Although it must be said that this works exceptionally well with shorter term goals and is a brilliant way to project plan, especially if you do it quickly with a bunch of interested parties, some brown paper and a load of Post-its.)

The problem with using it for very specific long term goals is that it fails to take account of the Donald Rumsfeld effect, that is, the unknown unknowns. The only constant is change and nothing, including you, will be the same in twenty-five years. If you follow such a plan the chances are that you will either find yourself in an evolutionary cul-de-sac or else telling yourself, along with Talking Heads, “This is not my beautiful house…This is not my beautiful wife.” Of course they’re not; they’re the house and wife you wanted a quarter of a century ago when you were someone else.

I know this is a bit random, but I do know where I’m going. Stick with me, for there will be more tomorrow.