If you set out on a voyage across a new, unexplored ocean — you chart and examine your trajectory, then you plan your expedition. It doesn’t work the other way around.

I started high school nearly four years ago, and there has never been a time where I haven’t felt stressed, anxious, or depressed — except for short, fleeting moments.

It doesn’t help that the school I attend is extremely competitive, hellbent on maintaining primacy in test scores, and intensely bureaucratic. My institution is rated #1 in my state for public schools, based on test scores and grade proficiency — and was even rated highly in the country until we were disqualified for our achievement gap.

Everyone is either going to Stanford, or nowhere at all.

The only thing that has kept me sane in these years has been my extracurricular endeavors — ones that tend to keep my mind occupied and stimulated.

For me, programming, problem-solving, and entrepreneurial ventures have always been my personal focus.

Back to the primary suggestion of this article, I posit the following:

While not a perfect model, your trajectory should be shaped like this.

Life comes in the form of a trajectory, not a plan. It cannot be measured through calculus, but success is akin to escape velocity.

Create a life trajectory that exponentially rises, and for your own sake avoid a bell curve.

A concrete trajectory.

Abraham Maslow

Without going into Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs, creating a trajectory, and giving yourself something to look forward to is key.

A trajectory provides an overarching view of your direction, whereas a plan tends to obsess over trivial details.

If you set out on a voyage across a new, unexplored ocean — you chart and examine your trajectory, then you plan your expedition. It doesn’t work the other way around.

Planning day-to-day is essential to your productivity, your daily sense of direction, and your schedule in general.

However, without overarching meaning attached to each item on your Google Calendar, your life will likely drone on.

Life is not conducive to a single plan.

Your day-to-day affects your week-to-week. Your week-to-week affects your month-to-month. Your month-to-month determines the success of your years.

Your success is not linear either — a plan is linear.

In your average plan, the events are independent of each other, and although they may contribute simultaneously to the same goal, rarely are your plans compounded or directly connected to each other.

As a side note, a great product that I personally believe tries to connect plans to overarching trajectories is Airtable.

This is not sponsored, but if you are serious about planning efficiently, this is the application to use.

A trajectory is compounded.

Like compound interest, the skills you acquire, the experience you internalize, and the achievements you create all compound on one another.

Think of Warren Buffet.

He cannot accurately plan the market’s movements for the next decade, but by thinking in terms of the market’s overarching trajectory — he seriously improves his odds of succeeding.

Add a bit of compound interest into the mix.

If you had invested $10,000 in Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffet’s firm) in 1964 (808 shares @ $12.37), you would have roughly $238,918,166 as of January 7th, 2019.

Let me reiterate — $10,000 to $238,918,166 (23,891x your original investment, or 2,389,181% net growth over the course of 55 years).

Apply this principle not only to mathematics and finance, but to the skills and experiences you acquire.

Google would be nonexistent if Larry Page and Sergey Brin had not learned to program.

Facebook would have been a perverted, likely failed Winklevoss production if Mark Zuckerberg had not been there. The list goes on.

The earlier you start, the better prepared you will be when your moment arrives.

Skills and experiences are exponential.

Your skills are not linear. They open up doors exponentially. The more skills and experiences that you can intersect and combine, the better.

The ability to write means you can become a writer, an author, a content creator. The ability to program suddenly means you can decide to develop programs for a large company, or create your own. The ability to lead effectively, a skill in it’s own category, opens up the widest array of possibilities at an exponential level.

Specialization is a key feature of innovation, but as a modern citizen — you cannot afford to spend all your time on a single skill.

If you decide to be a generalist, combine multiple useful skills, and try to go into depth on a couple of them. If you decide to be a specialist, you better choose a skill that is future-proof, or else you will likely have to become a generalist later.

If you are a founder, you will likely have to be a master and a generalist at the same time, with intersecting skills, insights, and experiences to utilize.

Skills and valuable experiences are exponentially valuable, and cannot be quantified numerically (or even qualitatively examined).

Ruthless self-examination.

Coldly examine your life’s current trajectory, without any emotions attached. Where will you be in 1–3 years? In 5–10 years? In 25 years?

The first 1–3 years are likely the ones that will decide your outcome.

Your life is not going to go according to your plan. Accept it. You cannot predict the future and neither can I — and that’s okay.

Choose your trajectory, and plan accordingly.

To condense it:

  1. Examine your current life trajectory.
  2. Create your desired life trajectory.
  3. Find and analyze the discrepancies between the two.
  4. Figure out how to fix these discrepancies

If you find that you don’t have any discrepancies, you are lying to yourself. If you decide to delude yourself, your life may not get worse — but it likely will not get better.

Live the life un-examined, and stick to your choice.