Create a future that’s bigger and better than your past.

Why The Best Entrepreneurs Are Always Looking Ahead

Dan Sullivan


In 1978, I went through two negative experiences on the same day — divorce and bankruptcy — that forever changed my relationship with time.

I had the distinct impression that how I responded to these two setbacks was going to establish the tone and direction for the rest of my life.

Think in terms of long periods of time.

I decided to treat the situation as if I were starting all over again fresh. There was little from my past that was worth hanging onto because clearly I had flunked in terms of both my personal relationship and my business back then.

I thought to myself, “What if you gave yourself 25 years to transform your life?”

At that time, I was 34 years old, so 25 years would take me to 2003 when I would be fifty-nine. Rather than put together a long list of things I wanted to accomplish over that time, I decided to focus on ONE particular activity that could turn everything around.

I realized that the biggest reason the divorce and bankruptcy happened was because I wasn’t telling myself the truth about what I wanted. So with this revelation, I decided that for the next 25 years, I would write down what I wanted.

The 25-year effect.

What I wrote down wasn’t as important as the actual activity of writing down what I wanted and doing it consistently for 25 years.

I had the feeling that the constant activity of specifying what I wanted in life was going to create an entirely new life in the opposite direction of the divorce and bankruptcy. It would involve a transformation in both my personal and business lives.

If I steadily focused on this new way of growing, learning, and achieving, I believed that whatever was deficient about my previous 25 years would all be transformed by the end of that 25-year period.

A worthwhile payoff.

If you looked at where I was in 1978 and where I was the end of 2003, everything in my life really did transform. It was radically changed in every way, but it was really made up of close to 10,000 specifications about what I wanted. I didn’t have to know what those were. I just had to watch my life change over that period.

There were two great things that came out of that activity:

1. I got really good at telling myself what I wanted.

2. I learned that I could stay focused on a single activity for 25 years. Given the short-term focus of most people, I knew this was an enormous advantage.

The advantage of a 25-year framework

I began to see the power of the 25-year framework — that if you’re really clear about characteristics and standards, you can make accurate predictions about what it is you’ll also want 25 years down the road. If you choose goals now that you’ll also want to be true in 25 years, you can be sure that they’re strong and timeless and that you’ll stick with them.

Now I plan everything in 25-year periods. I always expect the life ahead of me to be much bigger, more exciting, more motivating, more engaging, and more fascinating than anything I’ve achieved before.

Using your past as a tool.

This allows me to use my past as a tool to think about my future. Your past is not something to go back to — because you can’t — but, rather, something you can continually look at again for the lessons. If you can look at the things you’ve done and separate them from the specific experiences, you’ll find lessons that are applicable to your future.

Always maximize the value of your past as you move forward, and know that your past won’t become useful until you’re committed to having a future that’s even bigger.

The best entrepreneurs are always looking ahead at what’s possible.

Something I’ve noticed is that for many entrepreneurs, they have big goals when they get started, but around the age of forty-five or fifty, there’s a huge drop-off in motivation and engagement with their work. This is because they’ve gotten to the end of the one big future they’ve planned, and now they’ve run out of future. But having a bigger future and a 25-year framework is not about how much time you have left; it’s about what you do with that time.

My ambition and motivation for business growth is incomparably bigger at age seventy-five than it was at age forty-seven, and that’s because I’m always looking ahead at what’s possible.

Your future is your property. Because, by definition, it hasn’t happened yet, it only exists in your mind. To be successful and own your future, you must always make it bigger than your past.

I hope this article triggered new projects, initiatives, opportunities, and ideas for you over the next 25 years.

Thanks for reading,

Most of this article was taken from a short book I wrote on this same topic. If the ideas resonated with you, I suggest you download a copy of The 25-Year Framework for yourself today!

Make sure to check out more of my latest articles because little things keep becoming bigger and better when you think about them in new and different ways.

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Dan Sullivan

World’s foremost expert on entrepreneurship in action. Co-founder and President of The Strategic Coach Inc. Find out more: