Projects you won’t finish in your lifetime

Yesterday, I quoted about how Stewart Brand boxes his life into five year chunks, five years being the time he says it takes to complete a project, start to finish. Brand thinks this helps him focus on only doing meaningful work by highlighting his limited amount of time left.

On the flip side, though, Brand is probably best known for his emphasis on long-term thinking and planning. For example, in an effort to raise awareness about it, he’s currently in the process of building a 10,000-year clock in the hills of Texas, a clock that’s meant to last 10,000 years, ticking only once a year, donging only once a century, and cuckooing only once a millennium.

I say all this because in some interview, which I can’t find now, Brand said that one of the best ways for individuals (as opposed to communities ) to begin to adopt a long-term mindset is to take on projects that won’t finish within their lifetime.

Although this might seem to contradict the previous quote about his five-year projects, it made me pause to consider my own projects. What am I working on that won’t be finished within my lifetime? Anything?

Not surprisingly, Brand’s suggestion is consistent with his work on the 10,000-year clock, since the real benefits of that clock won’t be realized for thousands of years, if at all. In other words, he’s living it. He even writes his years with an extra zero in front, like 02011, to emphasize how early we might be in earth’s history.

What about me, though? I don’t have any 10,000-year projects. Really, I don’t even know where to start when it comes to thinking up a worthwhile project like that. Just goes to show how short-term I am.

I think part of my limitation is intentional. I try as much as possible to focus on what’s happening now, as they say, staying present. But now that I consider it, I don’t think this conflicts with Brand’s suggestion. I think it’s possible to focus on what’s happening now while still pursuing projects I won’t finish in my lifetime.

Now it’s just a matter of finding the right project.

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