Counterintuitive Career Advice: Plans are Overrated

Last Updated Dec 11, 2009 6:35 AM EST

Want to achieve something? Set a goal, make a plan and then work like hell. That's the traditional advice, and what could possibly be wrong with it? A lot, according to Gen Y blogger and business guru internship ninja Charlie Hoehn who has worked with both Tim Ferriss and Seth Godin. With a resume as gold-plated (for the under-25 set) as his, you'd imagine he'd describe himself as goal orientated and ambitious. But in a long and relatively wandering post on his blog, he portrays himself instead as a slightly ADD enthusiast who pursues his passions as they arise and lets them lead him wherever they will.

The money bit of the post begins with a quote from the latest Batman movie:
My favorite part of The Dark Knight is when the Joker is talking to Harvey Dent in the hospital, and he says: "Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I'm a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught it! You know, I just DO things-- I'm not a schemer. I try to show the schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are."
And therein lies the best career advice I could possibly dispense: just DO things. Chase after the things that interest you and make you happy. Stop acting like you have a set path, because you don't. No one does.... There is no explicit path I'm following, and I'm not walking in anyone else's footsteps. I'm making it up as I go.
Obviously, there are some things, like saving for a home or studying for qualifications, that demand planning, but in my experience Hoehn makes a valid point when he says that energy spent trying to pilot your life along a narrow set course is wasted. I certainly could never have predicted where my life and career have taken me and I'd say I am far richer for it. But I imagine that only applies to those who value spontaneity and variety over stability and security, and are willing to experiment and jump in at the deep end. How does Hoehn's advice to abandon planning and focus on action strike you?

For more of Hoehn's ideas, check out his slide show arguing that free work makes grads recession-proof.

(Off the beaten path image by jenny downing, CC 2.0)
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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.

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