Give Up On Long-Term Dreams, and Thrive

I heard this three months ago from a 17 year old school boy diagnosed with a terrible cancer. It has nagged at me. It’s so fricking powerful. For me, anyway. For you?

My then 45 year old mate Tony said this to the lads one night over a beer. “Oh- I’ll worry about that when I’m really old…like when I’m 55.” He’s a hugely smart man, Tony. But for once I was able to say to him: “Tony- let me tell you something I know that you don’t. When you’re 52, as I am today, 55 does not seem old.”

I just turned 55. It feels older than I thought! But I am thrilled about it. Because I have the answer to looking to the future with abundant optimism, hope and enthusiasm. It was given to me by a desperately ill 17 year old boy. Here it is:

Be micro-ambitious. Focus all your energies on short-term goals.

“Forget about long term dreams,” said Jake Bailey, the 17 year old school captain of Christchurch Boys’ High School during his valedictory speech, a week after being diagnosed with a deadly and seriously advanced cancer.

Don’t get too far ahead of ourselves, encourages Jake. Be micro-ambitious. “Let’s be passionately dedicated to the pursuit of short-term goals. Work with passion and pride on what is in front of us, today.”

Sobering advice. Not all will agree with it. I do. I love it. And have used it this way.

Sure- I have my long-term plans and the strategies to get there…. 5 years away, 10 years away. I write them down. Put them in a folder. And file them away, noting in my diary to review and refresh them in a year’s time.

Then I put all my focus on this one year ahead.

What do I want to achieve in all aspects of my life? What am I aiming at? What are the milestones? What are the events I want to see unfold? What am I looking forward to? What’s my ‘reward’?

My micro-ambition for this year concludes with a ‘vision’ for the December/January school holidays….11 months away. That’s my ‘reward.’ And there’s a diary note on my birthday- just before Christmas- to double check my list: to see how I went with my micro goals.

That’s as far ahead as I am looking.

Long-term plan and strategy in place and written down. Very occasional moments of daydreaming about what could be in some distance, opaque future. And then clarity around the next 12 months. Short-term micro-goals that I am throwing myself at with passion and pride. “Don’t get too far ahead of ourselves.” Want to join me?


Bizarre coincidence and brilliant news. I was online today searching for the Jake details and quotes. The top story under his name …published 19 hours ago and three months after Jake’s speech: he is in remission! His future lies ahead of him. He achieved micro-ambitions… and is now setting some more. Good for you, Jake. A very warm hug from someone you touched across the ditch.

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28 Responses to Give Up On Long-Term Dreams, and Thrive

  1. Peter Giles February 2, 2016 at 8:32 pm #

    Thanks for the reality check. From another 55 year old, make them meaningful an celebrate them all

    • Chris Savage February 3, 2016 at 8:28 am #

      Thanks Peter!

  2. Cecelia Haddad February 3, 2016 at 10:11 am #

    Hi Chris, after reading your post I took the time to find Jake’s speech and it was very moving. His parents must be extremely proud of him right now. His line, “You never know where you might end up or when it might end up” hit home – I’m sure for a lot of people. Thanks for the post.

    • Chris Savage February 3, 2016 at 12:12 pm #

      Thanks Cecelia. Agree! Powerful stuff. Chris

  3. Catherine February 3, 2016 at 10:22 am #

    Great reminder. I’m going to sit down and think about my short-term goals today!

    • Chris Savage February 3, 2016 at 12:12 pm #

      Thanks Catherine! Good luck with it. Chris

  4. Michele Corin February 3, 2016 at 11:07 am #

    What a powerful speech. Often in adversity, there is great vision. Thanks for the reminder Chris. Thrilled Jake is in remission. Also great his speech is being recognised – he won the Massey University quote of the year. Jake’s winning quote: “Here’s the thing – none of us get out of life alive. So be gallant, be great, be gracious, and be grateful for the opportunities that you have”. It’s often the smallest things that bring the greatest joy.

    • Chris Savage February 3, 2016 at 12:11 pm #

      Thanks Michele!

  5. Jenet Depke February 3, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    Good morning Chris

    May this message find you in the finest of spirits.

    Thanks and gratitude for your deeply moving, inspirational message reminding all of us brothers and sisters on the journey of life to remain focused on our micro ambitions.

    Jakes massive health setback has touched me enormously. I am relieved he is in remission. It’s a chilling reminder to all of us to enjoy each precious second we have with each other on our journey in life, rather than focusing on the longer term dreams and goals which may or may not manifest.

    Since being introduced to mindfulness approx 6 months ago, everytime I look at the beautiful nature or share a special moment with someone I have enormous respect for or with a friend etc I treasure the time and always feel greatful I am relatively healthy and alive plus have the opportunity every day to touch someones life and make a difference. In my humble opinion, its not wealth that defines a human beings success its whether we have played nicely every day with everyone who has crossed our path.

    You always make my day after reading Wrestling with Posssums articles.

    We are forever blessed with your presence and friendship.

    Have a wonderful day.

    Warmest Wishes:)


    • Chris Savage February 3, 2016 at 12:11 pm #

      Thank you, Jenet. Appreciated! Chris

  6. Amber Phillips February 3, 2016 at 11:58 am #

    Chris, your writing is always so insightful, I love reading your posts. Thanks for the motivation to focus on the short term.

    • Chris Savage February 3, 2016 at 12:10 pm #

      Thanks Amber!

  7. Tony Walford February 3, 2016 at 8:04 pm #

    Brilliant stuff Chris, and well done to Jake for being your ‘inspirer’. It’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day without thinking that we may not be here that much longer. I have lost friends and family to cancer – some young (42), some older (my mum, last year, at 76) – and it is important to set those short term ambitions and things to do we often forget about. Thanks for this and appreciated. See you in June. Best, Tony

    • Chris Savage February 4, 2016 at 10:29 am #

      Thanks Tony. See you soon. Chris

  8. Marc Cowper February 3, 2016 at 10:06 pm #

    So much yes! Focus on the present and the future will take care of itself.

    Really nice sentiment and insightful as always.

    • Chris Savage February 4, 2016 at 10:29 am #

      Thanks Marc.

  9. Jenna Griffith February 3, 2016 at 11:21 pm #

    Always look forward to your posts, Chris. This is truly inspiring – I’m definitely for this, important to embrace our small achievements and appreciate the day to day. So pleased to hear Jake’s in remission too.

    P.S. Thanks for writing in a very human way – we need more of this.

    • Chris Savage February 4, 2016 at 10:30 am #

      Thanks Jenna. Appreciated. Chris

  10. Niall February 4, 2016 at 12:02 am #

    Thanks for sharing those inspirational words with us all Chris

    • Chris Savage February 4, 2016 at 10:30 am #

      Pleasure Niall. Chris

  11. Jayne Albiston February 4, 2016 at 10:29 am #

    Chris – are you contacting Jake? I am absolutely 100% certain he would love to know you wrote this post and he would be so inspired to meet you. Maybe you should come over to Kiwiland and have an inspirational trip. Just a thought – let me know. J 🙂

    • Chris Savage February 4, 2016 at 12:21 pm #

      Thanks Jayne. Good idea!

  12. Jayne Albiston February 4, 2016 at 10:31 am #

    Oh – am just clicking to receive updates because I do want to know if you are inspired to come over – Auckland, ChCh – many people would love to meet you.

    • Chris Savage February 4, 2016 at 12:21 pm #

      Jayne. Am in Auckland 1 March for “Powering Profits” masterclass my brother Greg and I are doing for the recruitment industry. Have a couple of hours spare early afternoon. Let’s connect in email. Chris

  13. Jayne Albiston February 4, 2016 at 10:36 am #

    Or maybe you could invite Jake to Oz? He is on a gap year and is looking to speak to audiences. Imagine the impact he could have on some of your audiences Chris, followed by a message from you. Just an idea. Here is what he said on the weekend: “The thing about facing death is that you get to rethink exactly who you are and who you want to be if you are lucky enough to get the chance. I want to make a difference more than ever before. Our lives are simply too fleeting not to.

    “So, during this gap year before I go to university, I would like to use my experiences to help young people or others who are facing challenges by telling my story in schools or other audiences if that might motivate or help others deal with their own struggles.

    “The chemotherapy has taken a huge toll on my body. It has left me with ongoing issues and it will take me time to get back to where I was previously. Sometimes I feel more like I’m 81 than 18.

    “But I’m just grateful to be alive.”

    -Jake Bailey

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    • Chris Savage February 4, 2016 at 12:22 pm #

      Brilliant! Jayne- good idea and I will look in to it. Chris

  14. Rowena Arnold February 4, 2016 at 10:52 am #

    I was very pleased to read your post today. I watched the youtube video of Jake just after his speech, as it was all over Facebookn at the time (for those who have not seen it, Not only does watching this video completely rip your heart out it, should serve to make us completely rethink all the things in our lives that frustrate and upset us, which for me anyway, quite honestly pale in comparison to what this courageous young man is going through. Thanks also for the update Chris, great to hear a positive to this story.

    • Chris Savage February 4, 2016 at 12:23 pm #

      Thanks Rowena!

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