How to Find Your Next Big Thing

What do you want to do next? This framework can help.

Welcome to One Thing Better. Each week, the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine (that's me) shares one way to be more successful and satisfied — and build a career or company you love.

Sponsored by LinkedIn Jobs, where you’ll find professionals you can’t find anywhere else.

Today’s one thing: Committing to a project.

That one thing, better: Committing to a direction.

Made with DALL-E

Tell me if this sounds familiar.

My friend Kate has achieved many goals. She built a great company and is proud of her accomplishments. But she’s also bored. 

“I love what I’ve built,” she told me recently, “but I’ve been doing it for 10 years and it’s time for something new.”

And yet, she’s stuck. She cannot decide what this new phase will be. Why? Because of one nagging question: “I keep thinking — what do I want to do for the next 10 years of my life?” she told me. “And I can’t find anything.”

This is such a common problem: We want to do something new, but we aren’t sure what that thing is. So we do nothing.

You’ve probably heard advice on this: Just try stuff! Experiment! Don’t worry about 10 years, and just worry about tomorrow!

But I have a different idea. I actually do think you should commit to something for the next 10 years — but it’s not exactly what you think.

Today, I’ll help you get unstuck, make a change, find your next great love... and maybe even define the next decade of your life.

The themes of life

Before I share my philosophy, let me tell you about a revelation I had 14 years ago.

It was July of 2010. I was about to turn 30, and I was reflecting upon what I’d done in my 20s. It was an eventful decade — I’d built the beginnings of my ideal career, survived a series of relationship blunders, moved cities, and ended the decade by getting my dream job at a national magazine and dating a girl I really liked.

Then it hit me: My 20s were about setting things up.

This meant my 30s would be about maximizing those things — doubling down on the career, the relationship, and the life I’d started.

A decade later, as I was about to turn 40, I returned to this thought. By then, I’d achieved my goal of “maximizing” — I was leading a national magazine, developed many other business projects, and I was married with two little kids. So what would my 40s be about?

I thought about what mattered to me. The answer was freedom and autonomy. So came up with an answer: My 40s will be about doing things on my own terms.

I’ve come to think of these as my themes of life. Every decade gets a theme — a loose goal, fulfillable in many ways, and distinct to who I am at the time. We can’t guess what life will bring us, and we don’t want to set goals too narrowly. As Malcolm Gladwell once told me, “Self-perceptions are powerfully limiting.” If we define ourselves or our goals too narrowly, we’ll miss out on all the unexpected opportunities ahead.

So, this is the first part of my advice: If you want to look ahead, don’t narrow the path. Just pick the direction. Think about the theme of your next 10 years.

And this applies to much more than just age.

It’s time to get less specific

Here’s an interesting thought experiment: Think of something ongoing in your life, and try to divide it time up into themes.

Maybe it’s your career. Your company. Your marriage. Whatever.

Ask yourself:

  1. Are there distinct periods of time when your goals or actions shifted?

  2. Can you give these periods of time a name, and think of them as distinct themes? (For example, the way my 20s were “setting things up” and my 30s were “maximizing those things.”)

  3. Once they all have a name, do you notice a new theme — something you’re maybe just at the beginning of?

I recently did this for my own work, for example. I became editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine in 2016, and my time there has broken down into three themes:

FIRST: I focused on building THAT brand (helping Entrepreneur evolve in a changing marketplace).

THEN: I also built MY OWN brand (developing my distinct voice and audience).

NOW: I’m also now building OTHER brands (launching new companies and advising others).

It’s the same job. Same title. Same original responsibilities. But it’s not exactly the same. I am not the same person who took this job in 2016. My needs and interests evolved, which meant my value and goals evolved too. And by recognizing this, I can be more clear-eyed about the new opportunities that animate me.

So, what is it for you? And now, how can you use this thinking to plan your next phase?

Your next big theme

I told all this to Kate, my friend who’s looking for her next thing. Then I asked her a question:

“Don’t think about a specific project you want to do for the next 10 years,” I said. “Instead, what’s a theme you want for the next 10 years?”

That prompted an interesting conversation. Kate thought about what frustrates and excites her these days. She’s an exhausted solopreneur; maybe she’s ready for a “decade of collaboration”? She recently discovered a love of teaching; maybe she’s ready for a “decade of guiding others”?

We were speaking in Kate’s car. I was in her city for a speaking engagement, and she was driving me back to my hotel after we’d gotten dinner. She wasn’t going to answer these questions in full that night, and that’s fine — the point isn’t to have easy answers. The point is to start recognizing patterns.

Your life is not a random series of events. It is an evolution — you strive for one thing, which inspires another, which evolves into another. You are 1, then 2, then 3. It’s OK for things to change. It’s OK to want something, and then not want it in the same way anymore. It’s OK to achieve something, and then set off to achieve something else.

Find the theme for this phase of your life. Move with curiosity towards the next.

That’s how to do one thing better.

Presented by LinkedIn Jobs

DON’T make this hiring mistake!

In a given month, over 70% of LinkedIn users don’t visit other leading job sites — so if you’re not looking for professionals on LinkedIn, you're looking in the wrong place.

LinkedIn helps you hire professionals you can’t find anywhere else, even those who aren't actively searching for a new job but might be open to the perfect role.

Because there are so many professionals on LinkedIn, 86% of small businesses get a qualified candidate within just 24 hours. Post your job for free here. Terms and conditions apply.

P.S. Are you an early-stage CPG founder? Reply to this email and say hi — I’m building something that could accelerate your business. I’ll have more to say about it later, but want to give you an early look!

P.P.S. Want to stand out in a crowded field? Maybe you’re a coach or service provider. You know you’re special, but it’s hard to communicate that quickly. Find solutions in my next One Thing Better community call, on April 30 at 5 EST — I’m bringing in an expert who helps people stand out. Come with your questions, or just to listen and learn! Join here, and then get login info here.

P.P.P.S. Best $50 I’ve ever spent. I just bought the greatest, funniest baseball card of all time — because it’s also an incredible reminder about the importance of double-checking your work. Want to see what it is? Watch this.

P.P.P.S. Did you miss last week’s newsletter? It was about how to do the thing you’re afraid of. Read!

Let's Connect!

New to the newsletter? Subscribe for free and take control of your future.

💌 What do you think? Let me know!

📕 Order my book to future-proof your career!