Apple CEO Tim Cook on Career Planning

Apple CEO Tim Cook on Career Planning

– What’s interesting is that it is now 25 years since you got your MBA and as part of your MBA experience, you were asked to write a 25 year plan. – I was.
– How did that work out for you? (audience laughing) – There was a professor, I think his name was Dr. Nailor. Does that sound right?
– Tom Nailor. – Yeah, Tom Nailor. And, he was a great professor and one of the things
that he’d ask us to do was to write a 25 year plan. Maybe some of you have had to do this. And, it was more of a personal plan. And, normally I would never remember this, but I was doing a commencement
address a few years ago and I was scrambling for some old things, and I found, in a box, this plan. And, this plan had turned
yellow because of age, but I looked at it and I would say it was reasonably accurate for all of 18 to 24 months, after it was written. And, it was nothing, there was nothing, not a single thing on it
that was accurate post that, not a single thing. (audience laughing) Zero! And, I think that the lesson there is, at least for me, maybe you
guys will be different, maybe you have much more insight into what you may be doing, but for me the journey was not predictable at all. And, it goes sort of back
to the Lincoln quote, is the only thing I believe
you can do is prepare. And, the world is going
to change many times. The environment is going
to change many times. The companies that you work
for are going to ebb and flow, you may wind up in the
same company, you may not. You may wind up in the
same career, you may not. You may wind up with the
spouse you’re married to now, you may not. There are lots of things in your life. I hope that one doesn’t change. (audience laughing). But, there’s lots of things that change, and I think that you sort of
have to have a north star. And, stay with the north star and let those things go on about you, and sort of find your, find your journey.


  1. I agree with the likely futility of a 25 year plan. Too much change happens in the world ad in your life to see that far forward (Apple barely existed when Mr Cook was in MBA school). However, there is definitely value in a shorter term plan. As for the long term, having ethical standards, a sense of what you are capable of, a willingness to stretch beyond what you think you are capable of, and a willingness to adapt is really all you can do. Yes, be prepared to take advantage of good fortune.

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