Today is the future you thought about in the past. It probably arrived sooner than you expected—that’s the nature of time—and you probably aren’t as ready for it as you thought you’d be. Because our experience has taught us to believe there is always a tomorrow, we easily put things off, believing we have plenty of time. Until one day you wake up to find that you have allowed more time to pass than you realized, let alone planned.
The reason people have always dreamed of going back in time is because they recognize that they would have made different decisions, including not wasting so much of the small amount of time they’ve been gifted (and it is indeed a gift). Because there is no way to reclaim the time you already wasted, the best strategy is to stop wasting it and build your future now.
Believing You Are Not Ready Proves You Are Ready
Overestimating your time can discourage you from building your future now, but a more pernicious obstacle is believing that you’re not yet ready to build. If anything, recognizing that you’re not there yet proves that you’re actually ready to start moving, as you already know what outcome you want to pursue.
When you are young, you believe you have lots of time to build your future, especially when well-meaning friends and relatives tell you that you have so much potential. Few of them, however, will tell you is that everything you do is already building your future, no matter how many prerequisites (yes, including degrees) you think you need before you can “officially” start. Waiting to grow up doesn't prepare you to build your future. Instead, it leads to more waiting while the future moves closer.
Often, people will tell you that you have to wait, that you aren't ready, that it's too risky, or that you might fail. When you hear these warnings, know that the person has the best of intentions. But also recognize they are feeding you their own fears, likely because they are worried about building their own futures. You are under no obligation to share that meal! So when someone is worried that you’re moving too fast, thank them for caring about you. Then tell them “I hope I can still count on your support” and get back to building.
You Need No One's Permission
You don't need anyone's permission or approval to build your future now—not from your parents, your teachers, your preachers, your friends, or anyone who crosses your path on Twitter.
I once overheard someone ask a coach where they studied coaching and how long it took them to get certified to coach others. The coach explained that the way she learned to coach was by coaching. She started to coach and never gave a second thought to getting someone's permission. Her future was helping others make significant breakthroughs in their lives—in fact, one might say that giving herself permission to succeed was the first step toward giving her clients permission to do the same.
The only permission needed comes from inside you. How will you start building now?
The World Is a Vampire
The world is a vampire. It will steal your life force if you allow it to, no matter how much garlic you eat. Every second you spend inspecting a manicured version of someone else's life steals time from the future you should be building now. The infinite scroll built into so many social apps is designed to take you away from your future, so your attention can be sold to the highest bidder. Every click builds someone else’s future, not yours, and believe me—to them, you’re just an avatar with a credit card.
Online or off, the world will always provide a never-ending parade of distractions designed to entertain you, agitate you, and infect you with negative beliefs about the world around you. This negativity will shake your confidence and limit your actions. I hope you don't get your news from any of the mainstream channels, but if you do, count how many positive, inspiring, and empowering stories show up in a given day. I’ll be surprised if you need two hands.
Like all vampires, you have to open the door and permit these blood-suckers to enter your home. Best to lock them out—your future is, well, at stake.
Living on the (Rough) Edge
Be who you want to be in the future by doing now what you see yourself doing then. When I was fifteen, I started to play music with friends. Despite lacking any natural talent or even a good voice, I sang lead. One band I rehearsed with wanted a singer with a smooth, crisp voice. At that time I was a dead ringer for Bon Scott, the lead singer for AC/DC, a sound that was the opposite of what they wanted. So I invested in voice lessons, eventually gaining the chops to be able to sing just about anything. By seventeen, I had a legitimate band—the lessons helped, but what really made me a singer was singing with a band every single day.
Most of the time, our inaction pushes the future we want further away from our present. No one can write a novel without writing. You can't become a lawyer without going to law school. You can't be an entrepreneur without starting a business. By doing what you see yourself doing in the future, you are literally pulling that future towards you.
One more thing: don't believe that you have to be perfect to build your future now. If that’s how life worked, no one would ever do anything. The only way to smooth out your rough edges is to do the work, make new distinctions, adjust your approach, and most of all keep working on your future. The longer it takes for you to start, the further you postpone your own competency and success.