Think 100 Years Ahead

Chinese Silver Grace
Flickr Photo by Autan

I just learned, from the ThinkQuest website, why we have such a difficult time appropriately funding education.  No surprises here, but it’s a Chinese proverb that I was not aware of.

“If you are thinking a year ahead – plant seeds;
If you are thinking 10 years ahead – plant a tree;
If you are thinking 100 years ahead – educate the people “

When was the last time anyone you know was thinking a hundred years ahead?  When was the last time you saw somebody do something a hundred years in mind? 

I can think of no one more in need of thinking ahead than teachers — and those who empower teachers.

10 thoughts on “Think 100 Years Ahead”

  1. I commented on this on my own blog, but the timeline issue is real.

    A kid in ninth grade now will be entering the work force in 2012, or leaving college in 2016. After a series of lower-paying jobs, she’ll find something she enjoys doing sometime around 2020. About thirty years after that, 2050, he’ll be looking more for followers than for mentors. A few years after that, say 2060 or 2070, he’ll be thinking about retirement. But the gal who replaces HIM…? The gal he trained and prepared to take over? She’s going to have the same course of action: forty years of wandering job to job, careering all over the place, building a legacy. And her legacy will come due… about 2110.

  2. It is so difficult to keep this at the forefront of our minds as we become caught up in the day to day challenges of teaching, but it is so important. All the more reason for our leaders to be thinking about our student’s futures and how we can best prepare them for it. Lets hope that a simple quote such as this can remind us all…


  3. Have you had a look at Andy Hargreaves’ “Fourth Way”? His book isn’t out yet, but he’s written articles for Educational Leadership and David Truss has written about it on his blog: and

    I mention it here because he argues that the “Fourth Way” is (at a really high level) about taking what we’re already doing in many ways and adding that big picture, “I have a dream” kind of perspective, in order to provide that unifying vision that keeps us working towards something bigger than ourselves and our immediate future. In the words of the Chinese proverb – thinking 100 years ahead.

    Here’s what he got me thinking about recently – my dream and what I’m working towards:

    Our collective “dream” needs to be big – bigger than any one of us can accomplish alone.
    Because it matters…

  4. Given my Chinese heritage, it’d be nice if the saying were actually a Chinese proverb. But having consulted several Chinese scholars, I believe it really isn’t – at least not a classic one. The closest real proverb we could find is:

    To cultivate a tree takes ten years.
    To cultivate a person takes one hundred years.

    Nevertheless, it’s interesting that the Chinese are given credit for such wisdom!

    1. I did some brief research in order to find something to cite as the source, but the only thing I came up with (beside ancient Chinese Proverb) was Kuan-Tzu. This appears not to have been a wizened old Chinese philosopher-poet, but a book or collection of proverbs. That was as much as I could find, so I decided not to cite it at all.

  5. I love and totally agree with what you are saying here. This is the work that is important and so overlooked. Hope you don’t mind if I quote you?

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