Ashton Kutcher sets goals for the next 100 years because 'we're all too short-term in our thinking'

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 09: Ashton Kutcher speaks onstage during WeWork Presents Second Annual Creator Global Finals at Microsoft Theater on January 9, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for WeWork)
Michael Kovac

When it comes to making goals, actor-entrepreneur Ashton Kutcher plays the long game. In a recent interview on the podcast "Armchair Expert" with Dax Shepard, Kutcher explained his unique approach to planning ahead.

While many people know Kutcher from his acting roles on "That '70s Show," and "The Ranch," he also invests in startups and co-founded a philanthropic organization aimed at defending children from sexual abuse, called Thorn.

At the start of 2020, Kutcher said he was inspired to set a goal for the next decade rather than just a year. Within a 10-year span, "the chances of achieving that are much higher," he told Shepard. Plus, "what you could potentially accomplish in a decade is exponential to what you can accomplish in a year," he added.

Then, Kutcher took this a step further, and thought about where he wanted to be in the next 100 years.

"I read this thing about Japanese companies and how they had century missions; they had goals that were for the century," Kutcher said on the podcast. "I went, 'Whoa, hold on. That's like another level of thinking about your company.'"

While it's unclear if this is a Japanese technique, Kutcher may be onto something: Successful companies from Patagonia to Panasonic make century-long goals. In 1932, Panasonic's founder Konosuke Matsushita set out a 250-year plan for the company that was broken into 25-year periods. Yvon Chouinard, the founder of outdoor apparel brand Patagonia, said on the podcast "How I Built This" in 2017 that he makes decisions "as if we're going to be around 100 years from now."

Another similar take? Bill Gates, billionaire and Microsoft co-founder, wrote in his book "The Road Ahead" that people tend to "overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10."

Kutcher said his decade goal is to eliminate child pornography from the internet. In addition to Kutcher's nonprofit, he also has a tech investment company called Sound Ventures, and was an early investor in Twitter, Uber, Spotify and AirBnB to name a few. (He also invested in Acorns, which has a partnership with CNBC.)

Sound Ventures has invested in 66 companies, according to Crunchbase. "I spend a lot of time thinking about new and simpler ways to do things, but don't have enough time to execute on all those ideas," Kutcher told Acorns in 2016. "So I found people who were executing on them and invested in their success."

Kutcher said companies should make 100-year plans because, in a century, "you might be dead, but the company can still be alive," he said. "So, I think oftentimes we're all too short-term in our thinking."

But this strategy is also helpful in a personal sense, Kutcher said. For example, he said that whenever he gets in an argument or gets upset about something, he thinks: "Am I going to care about this in five years?"

"I just do a really quick check-in and go, 'Is this going to matter in five years?'" he said on the podcast. "Is this worth [getting] upset or stress[ed] about? And that's my pause button and the one question I ask myself."

Regardless of your personal or professional aspirations, experts say that goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based.

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