The Rule of 45

I’ve spent the past several months decompressing and occasionally thinking about what to do next, or more accurately, thinking about how to think about what to do next. One of the things I keep coming back to is a conversation I had with Nigel Morris (one of the kindest, sharpest, and most affable entrepreneurs out there) last year. He shared a framework that really resonated for me: Spend the first third of your professional life/career (ie ~15 years) building a network and becoming an expert in something. Use the middle third for capitalizing on and leveraging the knowledge and skills you’ve accumulated. And the final chapter can be spent paying it forward.

I like this because it’s a simple way to think about things and also provides a framework for asking some important questions: What are you actually good at? What does a career or profession mean to you? For the middle third, to what end(s) do you wish to capitalize or leverage the foundation you’ve built? It’s a tough series of questions to answer, and they usually beget more questions than answers, but it’s been a fun and insightful journey for me to try to tackle them.

One of the things I’m grappling with is that I dislike the word career. Perhaps the concept is offensive to me because I don’t like thinking about a strong dichotomy between “work” and “personal” life. It’s also challenging to think about what else you can do with a history of entrepreneurship other than build more companies or do some form of venture to help other entrepreneurs. Regardless, this way of breaking things down into three ~15-year intervals (or The Rule of 45) is a forcing function to ask some of the right questions when reflecting on the past and evaluating the future.